Mine issue: Deep wound in long-lasting conflict
Headlines about the war in Ukraine tend to focus on tragic casualty numbers and the most recent Russian attacks on Ukrainian cities, but that's not the whole story, of course.
Azerbaijan is still among the list of countries suffering from the deadliest mines hiding underground since the outbreak of the Karabakh conflict in the 1990s. This comment aims not to praise the war as in some cases war is rather honorable than that piece of explosive that steals many innocent lives. That is the landmine sleeping for long years and waiting for its prey.
Landmines end our dreams
The worst scenarios that ANAMA’s demining groups frequently experience are the mines that have densely been buried in order to maximize the fatality. According to ANAMA’s reports of operation, there are places where 10 anti-personnel or dozens around one anti-tank mine have been buried in just 1 sq. m. area. The sad story of a family came from Agdam District. As a result of the enemy’s cruel trap, a child steps on a minefield and then a mother faces the worst consequence when trying to pull her child out of the mined area. The investigation came out with the facts that the exploded mines contained super-extra doze of charge, and as a result of the explosion no pieces of victims had left except flip-flops and ripped clothes.
Currently, landmines, randomly buried in Karabakh’s liberated territories, are estimated to be over thousands, and the areas with unexploded ordnance and ammunition left from the war keep the risk of hazard high. According to the latest report of the Azerbaijani National Agency for Mine Action, over 64,000 hectares of territories in Karabakh have been cleared from mines and other suspicious explosive items left from the war.
However, the problem with mine clearance requires more effort and most importantly extra cost.
Azerbaijan is better economically placed than most to fund activities and still struggles to accelerate the processes of mine action. In general, the countries that need demining the most are those least able to afford it, as conflicts that contaminate territories with landmines also shatter economies.
Necessary steps towards UN SDG
To ensure funding, a landmine-free world should be made a United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG), alongside the 17 interlinked global goals to be achieved by 2030.
This idea was put forward and discussed at the Humanitarian Conference on Mine Action, organized by the Azerbaijan Mine Action Agency (ANAMA), and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Baku earlier in 2022. Current international treaties are not enough, nor are national programs.
Furthermore, this may sound impressive, but the 11,270sq km area in Karabakh still remains uninhabitable. Especially while the infrastructure-building work is underway, the processes of the return of IDPs delay as well as peacebuilding comes to a halt.
Azerbaijan’s mine problem at PACE
Back in January 2023, the mining issue and its impact on human life, the development of infrastructure, and many other aspects were brought to the discussion at the winter plenary session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in Strasbourg.
The event related to humanitarian demining, paving the way for peace and sustainable development, was in fact, in connection with the landmine problem faced by Azerbaijan.
Having the PACE members, representatives of the diplomatic corps in Strasbourg, members of the Secretariat of the Council of Europe, and other relevant persons attended the event, the importance of humanitarian demining activities to ensure the rights and security of internally displaced persons, as well as the need for international efforts to support the ongoing demining process in Azerbaijan, was highlighted.
The remarks from the head of the Azerbaijani delegation to PACE Samad Seyidov concerning the mine threat focused on the current serious humanitarian problems in Azerbaijan’s territories suffering from mines.
The side event at the PACE in the active involvement of the Azerbaijani delegation representing ANAMA also underlined the impact of the post-conflict period. The attention was especially brought to the fact that since November 2020, 282 people have been killed or injured as a result of mine explosions in the territories liberated from the occupation.
Unfortunately, the landmine problem remains the most important and priority issue in our modern world. In this regard, although the First Committee on Disarmament and International Security has imposed bans on the production of mines, today more than 60 million mines are hidden underground in the world. To stop this, a global initiative should be at the forefront. The problem of landmines is not only a problem of states but also of humanity.
Elnur Enveroglu is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow him on @ElnurMammadli1
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