Since 2015, FSD has been implementing a humanitarian demining program in Iraq focused on the disposal of improvised explosive devices and unexploded ordnance in areas previously occupied by ISIS. In certain locations, such as the village of Nasr, machines are now used to support manual demining efforts.
In 2014, ISIS disseminated improvised explosive devices in the Mosul region, pushing people to leave their homes and seek refuge elsewhere in the country or abroad. Two years later, the Iraqi forces used massive bombardments to liberate the area, causing the destruction and collapse of many infrastructures. Today, the buildings and rubble are still contaminated with improvised mines and dangerous remnants of war. FSD’s manual clearance teams in the country work at eliminating this threat to allow the safe return of refugees and internally displaced persons.
Demining conditions in Iraq are often very challenging: temperatures can reach 45 °C, and soils can get extremely dry and hard to dig, making the rendering safe procedure of explosive devices particularly difficult. In addition, clearing rubble from contaminated buildings is essential to allow access to manual clearance teams.
This is why FSD has decided to start using machines, in priority in the village of Nasr, to support the efforts of its manual clearance teams. The objectives of this project are to reduce the risks to which manual deminers are exposed during the removal of unexploded ordnance, to complete clearing and demining of destroyed buildings and to facilitate the return of villagers.
Thanks to the financial support of private donors and of the city and canton of Geneva, FSD bought two machines: a front-end loader and a tracked excavator which were adapted for demining and armored to protect their operators. These machines will help clear buildings, remove high-risk rubble and remotely search for improvised explosive devices.
FSD’s mechanical support team in Iraq consists of seven members, all Iraqi citizens, including a team leader, two machine operators, two deminers, a mechanic and a medic. In the photo above, the team poses with one of FSD’s national supervisors.
The new mechanical team, which has started operating in 2019, has so far not only helped clearing rubble but has also accelerated the previously slow and laborious demining process of agricultural land located near Nasr. This is essential as it encourages the return of the villagers, for whom agriculture is the main source of subsistence. In the long term, demining agricultural land not only contributes to peace and food security but also to boosting the country’s economy.
Since the start of the mechanical project, FSD has however faced several administrative and legal obstacles. For example, obtaining the authorization of the owners and the local authorities for each building to be cleared is not an easy task. In the village of Nasr, the owners may be staying in refugee camps and be unreachable, or may even be deceased. Moreover, the village mayor often refuses to give permission to clear specific buildings belonging to inhabitants suspected of collaborating with ISIS. Despite the efforts of FSD deminers and the efficiency enabled by the new machines, it will therefore be difficult to fully demine the village.
To this day, FSD has cleared 1,373,002 m2 and eliminated 730 improvised explosive devices and other explosive remnants of war in and around Nasr, partly thanks to the newly acquired machines.
In 2020, FSD will continue demining Nasr and will assess the impact that the elimination of dangers in buildings and agricultural land may have on the inhabitants’ decision to return, and will try to follow the number of returns to the village.