Death Hidden in the Dirt: Old Land Mines in Maysan

There are oil fields in the area that are being developed and oil workers are also at risk from land mines – the Maysan Oil Company is trying to clear the area of mines and had been working with the Iraqi military to do this. However this attempt is now on hold thanks to the military being needed in the fight against the extremist Islamic State group.

Removing land mines is a very expensive process, says Khaled Wahem, the spokesperson for the Maysan Oil Company. The cost of clearing a square meter of land is US$4 and the cost of surveying the land afterwards, to ensure that all mines have been removed, is US$1,900 per team of surveyors.

“Our volunteers are trying to spread awareness among the people here about the dangers of land mines – especially during spring when farmers and shepherds become more active on the land,” says the director of Iraq’s Red Crescent, Haider al-Jawadi. Al-Jawadi also says that the government doesn’t really help the victims of mines at all.

Abdul-Ridha Mahood runs a society for the disabled in Maysan and he criticises the Iraqi government for not helping them. “No Iraqi government has ever been serious about passing laws that guarantee disabled people rights, nor have they ever helped with health care,” Mahood says. “They offer them nothing. It’s a nightmare.”

In fact, Mahood says that disabled people in Maysan have become so dispirited about the situation – they feel nobody will ever help them – that membership in the society he heads has dropped significantly.

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