Me and the Mine story

8th August 2012

My name is Naser I used to live in Zinda Jan district of Heart. I have been for a German NGO Help since 2002. I have worked in western provinces of Afghanistan in difficult security situation. I was thinking that Herat province might be safer than the other provinces of Afghanistan that came to be only a dream.

In Oct 2007 for 6 months I had a job with ISAF but I realized that working for military was even more difficult. Due to the tight rules and security concerns I left the army and returned back to HELP NGO where I felt I was back home.

On the first day of my re-assignment with HELP I was sent down to a project in Sang Bast (a village laying 40km away in the south of Herat province) as a project officer. I had spent my childhood in the neighbouring village of Sang Bast and Taqi Naqi called Shakiban, the area which was effected so much by war. Finally the civil war came to an end not only in my village but to most places in Afghanistan.

Although the international community and the Afghan government claim that they have cleaned up mines and explosive devices from Sang Bast this is not very true.

I thought this area is safe and I can let my men easily work in it. But very soon I realized that my country is still dangerous even in Sang Bast which is close to my own village. I understood that the oppositions, criminals, rubbers, suicide attackers are not the only enemies of Afghans but in addition there are some secret and calm enemies which kill and disable people. They are the explosive devices and the mines left over from the war. Most of the villagers keep the explosive devices in their houses without thinking that they might put their own lives in danger.

My job practically started in Sang Bast (the location where HELP runs a vocational training center for minors and destitute families who returned from Iran and live in Taqi Naqi town).

Soon after the second day of work I was informed by a man called Wakil Ahmad that there is an old Russian chain tank in a distance of 1km from our vocational training center which was left over from the war. The cannon of the tank has got one active bullet inside and it could explode easily because children were playing around it every day. Immediately I went down to the old tank and I saw the active bullet almost going to be exploded with a small shaking or knocking on it.

I took some pictures and collected more details to inform HELP main office in Herat for a solution, but before I finish taking photos from the old tank another child, hardly 10 years old came to me and said: “Hey Mr. Engineer, I know another house. The owner lives in Iran and there are some old explosive device in his house.” (In Afghanistan when you go to a village from a city with an official vehicle the villagers call you “the engineer”.)

I followed the boy and went to the respective house. It was unbelievable the man made a snaffle with mortars for his animals. I took some more photos from the house and locked the gate of the house that the children do not find the chain to enter the house. When I passed the information to country director of HELP Mr. Alfred Horn, we immediately contacted the mine clearing organization UNAMAC that was very close to our office. They sent a Land Impact Assessment Team (LIAT)  the next day at 06:00am.

While I was explaining the explosive devices issues to the LIAT team, another young man called Gul Ahmad came to us and explained that he had buried around 15 mortars in the yard of his house. The LIAT marked the points with the GPS and made their plan. Gul Ahmad was using this house as a stable for his cows and these cows were the only mean of income for Gul Ahmad’s family.

The LIAT team was busy with assessment of the area when another middle age man called Jan Ahmad came with a big bullet on his hands and explained that he also had interred another one at his home with a prospect to sell it one day but he has lost it now! The LIAT team managed to find all the explosive devices marked out by the people of the village and collected them in a safe place for the next day to explode them.

Then the EOD started to dig in Gul Ahmad’s house and they found 14 mortars from his yard, all together they could collect 21 explosive devices.

On the 5th day the EOD team came and took all the explosive devices out of the village. They informed all villagers about it, blocked the accessible roads to Sang Bast and exploded all of these devices.

After all this now I feel that the village is much safer compare to the past, happiness was in the face of every resident of the village. Immediately after the big explosion again children gathered to collect the small metal particles left over from explosion to sell it as second hand metals. To earn some money this is the situation that most of Afghan children suffering and trying to stay alive.

The Regional director of HELP Mr. Alfred Horn appreciated the UNAMAC and OMAR organizations by an appreciation letter personally.

And in addition to all this I feel safer when I see a child walking on the road!!! For now…

Naser Mohammadi