ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan24) – Jaafar Ismael Sleman is a Kurdish citizen in Erbil who lost his sight and one of his arms 20 years ago due to landmines on the Kurdistan Region border with Iran planted by the former Iraqi government.
During the eight-year Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, the Iraqi government planted millions of mines, particularly on Kurdistan border with Iran.
Since then, thousands of people have been killed and wounded, mostly Kurds.
Nearly 30 years later, the landmines continue to pose a threat to villagers and residents in the towns near the border.
“Many people like me stepped on those mines by accident and became a victim,” Sleman told Kurdistan24.
“Some lost their arms, sight, legs or other parts of the body,” he continued. “Many even died immediately after the mine explosions.”
He is one of the thousands of victims of the Iran-Iraq war who haven’t seen their children for 20 years due to losing his sight after stepping on a mine in the 1990s near the border of Iran.
“Life becomes useless when you lose sight. Of course, you continue to live, but you don’t enjoy it,” Sleman said.
He mentioned Kurds in Iraq have either been victims or deliberately targeted by the Iraqi government throughout history.
Sleman called on the people in the Kurdistan Region to vote in favor of a better future in the independence referendum scheduled for Sep. 25, 2017.
“My life and thousands of people like me are ruined now,” he said. “We can’t do much about it now, but at least we can make the life of the coming generations better, so they are not victims.”
According to the Iraqi Kurdistan Mine Action Agency (IKMAA), 896 square-kilometers of territory in the Kurdistan Region is contaminated, 662 sq. km is cleared, and 234 sq. km remains uncleaned.
The IKMAA statistics also show there are seven million mines in the Region where 99,240 have so far been defused as well as 776 tank mines and 85,327 left over explosives.
Omed Ahmed, the General Director of Technic at IKMAA, told Kurdistan24 2,669 people had been killed in Kurdistan due to the mines, and 10,808 more have been injured.
The IKMAA has been clearing the Region from landmines for 20 years.
Ahmed explained the minefields in Kurdistan would be entirely cleared or close to being cleared by the end of 2027.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany
(Nawras Abdullah contributed to this report)