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Tajikistan Struggles With Landmine Legacy

Conflict in Tajikistan may have ended a dozen years ago, but residents continue to be killed and injured when they step on landmines, Khurshed Durakhsh reports.
By IWPR Central Asia
The Tajikistan Mine Action Centre says over 350 people have died and around 450 have been injured by mines or uncleared munitions since 1992. The landmines date from three different periods, which also determine their locations – the oldest were laid along the Afghan border by the Soviets in the Eighties; more were laid in the eastern Rasht valley during the 1992-97 civil war; and neighbouring Uzbekistan’s military created minefields to secure the frontier with Tajikistan following incursions by Islamic militants in 1999-2000.

As a signatory to the Ottawa convention banning landmines, Tajikistan is supposed to have dealt with the remaining munitions in the ground by April this year. As the government is unlikely to meet that deadline, an international landmine conference last month approved its request for more time.

Officially, Uzbekistan says it has cleared the minefields it laid close to Tajik territory.

However, Parviz Mavlonkulov, deputy head of the Mine Action Group, says uncleared anti-personnel mines in these areas cause more casualties than anwhere else. In December, a husband and wife in Isfara district of northern Tajikistan were killed by one of these mines.

“People get blown up by mines while cutting hay, pasturing their animals and doing other kinds of farmwork,” he said. “Mostly it’s children, as it is very difficult to explain the danger to them.”

Those who work on demining also take huge risks, and casualties are frequent.

(For more on the enduring risks posed by landmines in Tajikistan, see Tajik Soldiers Fight for Mine Injury Payouts, Central Asian Human Rights Reporting, 14 Sep 09.)