Landmines in the fields--an ever present danger
by Kathy Moorhead Thiessen
As the recent CPT delegation climbed the road into the Quandil mountains in Iraqi Kurdistan we felt the coolness of snowfields still present at the end of May. The tips of the rocky range marked the border with Iran. We emerged from our minibus in the idyllic mountain village, Kani Spi, to spy the blue tractor moving below us on the field. It made its way up to the yard and stopped. Fifteen-year-old Halgurd (named for the highest mountain in Iraq) climbed out. He greeted us and we all introduced ourselves.
As he spoke to Mohammed, our translator, he quietly and matter-of-factly told us that the day before a mine had exploded under his tractor. “I was very scared. But not even the tractor was harmed. The mine made a big hole deep into the ground. I was OK too.” Halgurd’s father lost a leg to a mine and he knows people who have lost their lives to the same destructive weapons.
Later, his father, Mahmoud, told us again about their situation. The shelling from Iran has stopped for now, and he hopes it will end forever. However, the mines remain an ever-present danger.
CPT Iraqi Kurdistan has visited with this family many times and written releases about life in Kani Spi. The incident of four days ago impressed on the team again that their situation with the mines has not changed. Mahmoud said, “We must keep a careful eye on our children, especially those who visit us. Sometimes even the adults get absent-minded and may walk into the area of mines.”
He requested that we go to the office of the authorities who are in charge of mine clearing in the region to ask them if they would come again to Kani Spi. He said, “The mines that are far away on the mountains do not bother us. We can avoid them. But there are mines close to our house and we have asked them many times to clear them. They still have not come back.” He also asked that they come to look again at the field,although it was cleared again last year. The mines have been there since the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s when the mountains were littered with these tiny, inexpensive, and volatile weapons. The weather and seasons sometimes bury them deep or bring them to the surface. Then an incident can happen like the recent explosion.
That evening, we spoke with his wife, Maryam, and expressed our gratitude that the detonated mine had not harmed Halgurd. “Thanks be to Allah,” she said.
The next day the delegation stopped at the mine clearing office in the nearby city. We presented the director with a letter asking him to consider working again in Kani Spi. We have not yet heard his reply.