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Deminers tell their story

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PERSONAL ACCOUNT | Ghulam Mohammad: A Deminer

Ghulam Mohammad, father of five sons and two daughters, was injured by a mine on 23 February 1994. This testimony was sent to us by the Mine Action Centre for Afghanistan.

Born in a very happy farmer family in the evergreen Kandahar province of south Afghanistan, Ghulam Mohammad was brought up as an educated child of his small village where very few had the chance to go to school. Soon after his graduation, Ghulam was appointed as headmaster in his once peaceful and calm Kandahar province.

He married and started his small family life with many hopes for the future of his family. In 1979, his country was invaded by over one hundred thousand foreign troops. The subsequent war left Ghulam, like other Afghans, with permanent wounds. Ten million landmines, the legacy of war, even today pose a serious life threat in about 2000 Afghan villages. Ghulam's native village has been one of those.

Meeting the costs of living is a daily challenge faced by all Afghans. This problem is particularly pronounced in mine affected villages such as Ghulam's. As the only breadwinner of his small family, Ghulam joined the country's demining program and was employed with the Mine Clearance Planning Agency (MCPA) in early 1992. Working on the front-line of mine-field survey operation, Ghulam has been an unlucky witness of the death of many young colleagues during dangerous mine clearance operations. Ghulam was fully aware that, some day, he might face the same fate. But as he could not find other alternatives for feeding his children, he was forced to face this expected life threat..

As the team leader, Ghulam had to enter the minefield first. Two factors made Ghulam brave enough to face the daily challenge of landmines: he had to save his oppressed people from the devastation of mines and he had to earn a living for himself and his kids who waited for him in a tent in refugee camp in neighboring Pakistan..

It was the early morning of 23 February 1994, the beginning of the spring season. Ghulam and his team were working on minefield No-24/2404/019/004 in Chashma Mohammad Khan village of Maywand district of Kandahar province. Ghulam himself narrates the tragic story of the incident:

As usual, that morning I again dreamed about going to visit my children very soon after the end of the mission. I even had ideas for lovely gifts for my children, because when I left them last I promised them some. Soon after the start of the minefield boundary marking, I stepped on a Russian PMN anti-personnel pressure mine. All I can recall from that moment is a flash of light and a thunder-like sound which marked the end of my real and, I would say, beautiful life.

When I first gained consciousness again I was shocked to see my right leg cut; I can't say more about that scene because I can't make it fit the shape of words. Seeing my leg cut, I thought who would look after my family who are waiting for me, not knowing they lost their only hope and supporter. It was here that I broke into tears and suddenly felt the first but the most severe pain.

I was lucky that after the incident they airlifted me to the ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) hospital in the city of Quetta, in neighbouring Pakistan.

It was a long and miserable life in hospital and afterward in my tent in the camp. Pains and amputation on the one hand, unemployment and family survival on the other. In 1996, I was provided with prostheses and took tough exercises to recover my mobility. Then I was given the chance of reemployment in the MCPA survey teams.

I have a message for mine producers:

Would you be kind enough to find another way of making money? I think now you would better off producing prostheses for hundreds of thousands of mine victims and mine detectors for the 110 million mines of yours that have been used. Be aware that your mines have already targeted you and your children as well. Because you made them do so.

Before they attack you, stop them, ban them!


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