“I used to be afraid of entering the land, and I have been extra careful with my children, because one step in the wrong spot could kill them.” – Syamanad, farmer near Kirkuk.
Poverty-stricken inhabitants of a village in northern Iraq have hopes of a better future after MAG cleared the area of landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO).
For more than 25 years, many people in Chimany Saro, north-east of Kirkuk, have been left in poverty as a result of mine/UXO contamination.
Land once used for farming crops was heavily mined by the Iraqi army in 1985 to protect the nearby military position from attacks by the Peshmerga forces.
More than 1,700 people benefited from MAG's clearance operations in the Kirkuk area during 2011.
[Photos: MAG Iraq]
And the village was completely destroyed in the same year, at the start of the Saddam Hussein regime’s Anfal Campaign (Kurdish genocide), forcing residents to move to collective towns in different areas of Kirkuk and Sulimaniyah.
Following the Allied invasion of Iraq, more than 400 people returned to Chimany Saro in 2003 to rebuild the village, but the presence of landmines blocked access to vital agricultural land.
“When I returned to the village after the 2003 war, I started to use my land for farming, but a big part of the land was mined and I couldn’t plough it,” said Syamanad Razha, a farmer from Chimany Saro.
“I used to be afraid of entering the land, and I have been extra careful with my children, because one step in the wrong spot could kill them.”
In 2011, a MAG Mine Action Team funded by the Belgian Government conducted clearance operations on more than 21,000m2 of contaminated land in Chimany Saro.
“The whole village was relieved and very happy when MAG cleared the minefield,” said Syamanad. “I cannot express my appreciation to MAG for giving us our land back and giving us a better future”.
The village of Chimany Saro.
Syamanad and his family are now using their cleared land for growing wheat and barley, which they sell at the market, generating about US$1,300-1,500 a year – enough to buy a year’s supply of food for their farm animals.
The Belgian Government-funded Mine Action Team cleared five different minefields in Kirkuk governorate during 2011, removing and destroying 793 hazardous items, including anti-personnel landmines and different types of unexploded ordnance.
A total of 110,209m2 of land has been given back to communities, benefiting more than 1,700 people.
MAG's "Humanitarian Mine Action in Northern and Central Iraq" project is funded by the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
23 April 2012