By Issa Bazyar, a specialist in mine clearance and unexploded ordnances.
The Islamic Republic of Iran has been trying to clear itself from responsibility of the increase of deadly mine explosions that keeps claiming lives of innocent civilians in the country’s Kurdistan region.
In the latest of such incidents a mine blast stolen the life of an innocent child in the Kurdish region, which exposed the meaningless empty words of the Iranian authorities and its National Mine Clearance Agency that claims the Kurdish region is “safe” and “cleared” of all kinds of landmines.
Eight-year-old Mohamad Elyaci lived in the village of Chek.
He was busy playing near the village river that became the last place of his last day in his life ended by a sudden landmine explosion.
The landmine was one of those that remained hidden in the soil of Iranian Kurdish region 28 years after the end of the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988), during which the army first planted those landmines that to this day continue to kill and injure local civilians.
An eight-year-old child, who was yet to understand the ugly word of “War”, lost his life due to a landmine manufactured by an international company that had exported it along with thousands of its kinds to the Iranian army that planted them in the area.
Mohhamad Elyaci and thousands of other children have fell victim each year to these explosive devices in the Kurdish region, which is why local activists are desperately trying to raise international on the deadly happenings caused by mine blasts in this region.
Behzad Karimi killed a year ago in a neighbourhood of Mariwan when he stepped on a landmine was only 11 years of age.
It is easy to find evidence on these never-ending tragedies, particularly those impacting the children, by a simple “Google search”, which clearly shows how children make up the most of the victims of the war remnants in Ira’s Kurdish region.
Activists have endlessly tried to draw the attention of the international community and international human rights organizations to the failures of the Iranian government in regard to this deadly phenomenon that threatens the lives of the Kurdish region’s children on a daily basis.
Simple actions such as mine-awareness education and marking operations can do a lot to prevent these tragedies from repeating themselves on a regular basis.
But not only the Iranian authorities do not do anything to avoid such incidents, they have even repeatedly declared in official statements in the past years that the Kurdish region is “free of landmines”.
This is precisely why local Kurds are not cautious in the landmine danger zones because the Kurdish region is supposed to be “safe” of such dangers.
At least 60 000 hectares of the land of the Kurdish region is covered by landmines.
Piranshahr and Sardasht are the most dangerous Kurdish cities troubled by regular deadly landmine explosions.
The only way to decrease the death toll is to render the mine clearance operations and make the operations compatible with international standards and rules on clearing areas from landmines.
But neither the Mine Clearance Agency nor the Red Crescent have been able to provide a reasonable response to the problem in Iran’s Kurdish region as of yet.
Kurds can only rely on non-official organizations and individual initiatives of local activists to clear their areas of landmines.
Locals and activists have urged the Iranian authorities to wake up from their endless sleep and do something about this deadly problem that puts the lives of the country’s civilian Kurds at serious risks on a daily basis.
The International Mine Action Standards (IMAS) published a guideline for the application of its standards in 2013, and according to its paragraph 7011, the polluted landmine zones must be divided in two categories:
– Zones where the danger is obvious (CHA), concerning areas where mine incidents take place regularly.
-Zones where the danger is probable (SHA).
Each zone must be marked with appropriate billboards marking the level of danger for the local public.
Once the mine clearances operations are completed, organisations undertaking mine-clearance activities (both state-run and private firms) must present a document attesting to the completion of the operations.
Meanwhile, the demined zones must stay under the control of the authorities that would monitor the early months after the date of the announcement of the clearance operations.
But it is more than obvious that the Iranian authorities have respected none of the international guidelines.
Iran’s National Mine Clearance Agency under the authority of the General Ahmad Ahmadi has never bothered to provide any explanation on regular mine explosions and deadly incidents that have claimed the lives of thousands of local civilians in the country’s Kurdish region.
It was on the 28th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva in March 2015, when the Islamic Republic of Iran accepted a recommendation issued by the Republic of Bosnia (a country itself a victims of landmines after the devastating war of former Yugoslavia) to do the necessary works to neutralize all mines planted in its soil, especially in areas populated by civilians.
This recommendation was one of the “291 Recommendations to improve the situation of human rights in Iran”.
Despite the Iranian authorities having approved the recommendation, no action has yet been taken to minimize the risks.
The Mine Clearance Agency must fundamentally change its approach to the issue, it must collect information (technical surveys, mapping the danger zones and document areas that have been cleared), promote awareness through educational activities and ensure that local communities are encouraged to behave in ways that reduce the risks.
A documentation and information centre must be established to cover all aspects of this issue (from locations of the explosive devices to the risks on public health), in order to allow professional and dedicated teams to do their job properly and they must be trained to the international standards of working in this field.
The Mine Risk Education MRE (MRE), a UN programme, must try to reduce the risks of explosive devices through creating awareness about the risks, and the education awareness programmes must be placed under the authority of international organizations such as the Geneva International Centre Humanitarian Demining (GICHD), which has proven its efficiency.
Creating awareness is an effective strategy to lessen the risks of explosive devices.
Iran’s National Mine Clearance Centre under the authority of the Minister of Defence has been held responsible of the lives of thousands of citizens living in landmine danger zones.
The Islamic Republic of Iran has demonstrated incompetency, negligence and ineffectiveness when it comes to efforts to solve this problem.
And, this is the reason why the Iranian government is being held directly responsible for the increase in deadly mine incidents that regularly claims the lives of local civilian Kurds in the country’s Kurdish region.