“I asked taxi drivers and store owners near where the disposal experts were supposed to gather but they were all afraid to introduce me to these specialists because what they do is against the law,” al-Marsoumi says.
Unable to find any of them al-Marsoumi decided to educate himself. “I watched some videos on the Internet about how to remove IEDs,” he says somewhat ingenuously about how he learned the job; he was actually already working in electrical engineering, at a generator repair workshop in the central city so he had some experience in the field.
Al-Marsoumi started by removing the IEDs he found on his property and then helped out friends in their houses. Eventually he began charging for his services – and this has proven so lucrative that he quit his repair job and now IED disposal is his only work.
“There are three of us now working together and we charge some of the lowest prices in the market,” al-Marsoumi told NIQASH. “There are some who charge double what we do.”
To clear a house the team charge between US$300 and US$700. Clearing a car of IEDs costs US$200.
“We work in three stages,” al-Marsoumi explains. “First we go and inspect the site, then we find the explosives, then we defuse them. The property owner is responsible for calling the security forces to take away the components and the actual explosives and bury them. Even with our primitive equipment we have been able to defuse around 1,500 IEDs. This is a noble profession,” al-Marsoumi concludes.
It’s also a dangerous job and at the moment it is not legal either. But al-Marsoumi and others who work defusing IEDs believe that it might not be against the law for long. They are talking about founding their own companies as soon as the government does what they believe it will do, and privatizes the tasks.