Iskandarova Zebonisso comes from the district of Rudaki, in Western Tajikistan. A few years ago, the 31-year-old woman was working in a nursery school. Today, she locates mines and explosive remnants of war in the south of the country, along the Afghan border. As a widow with three children, she is the sole provider for her family.
Before being deployed in the field, people recruited by FSD undergo a thorough training course in humanitarian demining.
Iskandarova is a deminer in the team deployed last month by FSD to a remote and mountainous area of Tajikistan. Her colleagues include four men and three women. The latter, Majidova, Sharapova and Nabotova, are also mothers, and worked respectively as farmer, shop assistant and intensive care nurse. They have all completed FSD training in humanitarian demining, and are now helping to clear their country of dangerous remnants of war.
A deminer prepares marking sticks before operations. These are used to indicate the presence of mines and explosive remnants of war found by the deminers.
“Empowering women is not only a moral imperative but also a strategic necessity on the path to fulfilling the Country’s commitment to the Antipersonal Landmine Ban Convention. Their strength, resilience and determination are the driving forces that will help us move towards a mine-free world, where every step forward is a step towards peace and security.” explains Angela de Santis, FSD Deputy Head of Operations.
The mixed demining team practises the use of the metal detector during a mine clearance simulation.
Tajikistan’s contamination by mines and explosive remnants of war is the result of the civil war that followed the country’s independence between 1992 and 1997. Russian military forces also heavily mined the border with Afghanistan to prevent passage between the two countries. These explosive devices, laid or dropped some thirty years ago, still pose a daily threat to the civilian population and hamper agriculture.
At a safe distance from each other, the deminers meticulously examine the ground along demining “corridors”, centimetre by centimetre.
FSD’s involvement in Tajikistan dates back to 2003. In 15 years, our teams have cleared and returned to the population 11 km2 of land and destroyed 820 tonnes of weapons and ammunition. After five years focusing on weapons and ammunition destruction activities, our demining operations resumed last month.
With “only” 12 km2 of contaminated land and several demining teams in action, including FSD’s team, the prospect of a mine-free future could finally become a reality for the people of Tajikistan.