There are a lot of people getting into this business, adds al-Marsoumi, and some of them are motivated by greed. They don’t have any experience with explosives, they just want to make money, he says. “And many have died because they don’t know how to deal with explosives,” al-Marsoumi notes. “We have also lost many brothers who did not learn from the experiences of others, which could have saved their lives and allowed them to avoid problems – most importantly, tribal problems.”
Having the support of their own tribes is very important to those who work defusing IEDs. Society in Anbar is dominated by tribal customs, clan connections and tribal justice. This means that if, for example, a member of one tribe hurts or kills, or damages the property of, the member of another tribe, then there must be some sort of retribution, often financial. Tribal connections are an important safety net for the men doing this work, in case they make a mistake or fail to defuse an IED properly.
Another of the men working in the defusing trade is moonlighting from his regular job with the local police. The man, who wished to be known only as Abu Haffar (in English, the master of digging), said he enjoyed his part-time work a lot because he didn’t have to take orders and there were no set routines.
“I am running my own business and it’s a lucrative one,” he admits. “I never dreamed I’d be doing this for a living but I do know a lot about explosives and I also have a data base that guides me, showing how to deal with different kinds of explosives.”
It takes a toll; Abu Haffar points out he knows that some of the other people working in this sector have to take drugs to steady their nerves. Without them they wouldn’t be able to work, he adds.
“It’s a dangerous adventure, this job,” he concludes.