Cluster munitions maim and kill Iraqis every day

Iraq – Every year hundreds of Iraqis are killed or maimed by cluster munitions and landmines, due to Iraq’s contamination of millions of explosive remnants of war (ERW). According to Iraqi figures, the contamination claimed 14,000 victims between 1991 and 2007, while in the three Kurdish governorates the estimated number of victims (both injuries and deaths) was 8,174 between 1991 and 2008.
Around one million Iraqi children are affected by mines and unexploded ordinance (UXOs), with some 2,000 children (a quarter of all victims) maimed or killed due to cluster bomblets since 1991. It is believed, according to the Landmine Impact Survey from 2006, that 1,730 square kilometres of land in Iraq are contaminated, affecting more than 1.6 million Iraqis in some 4,000 communities across the country.

According to a joint UNICEF-UNDP report, ‘Overview of Landmines and Explosive Remnants of War in Iraq’ released in July 2009, an estimated 2.66 million cluster bomblets and 20 million landmines are contaminating Iraq’s oil fields and farmlands. The contamination kills and ruins lives randomly, and significantly impedes both the economic recovery of Iraqis and their country. The landmines were planted in areas bordering Iran, a legacy of the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq War, while the millions of unexploded cluster munitions were dropped during the 1991 Gulf War and 2003 conflict.

Iraq signed the convention on Cluster Munitions on the 19th of November 2009, but has not ratified yet.

On 1 August 2010, the Convention on Cluster Munitions entered into force and became binding international law in countries around the world. Only 15 months after it opened for signature in Oslo, the 30th state ratified the Convention on 16 February 2010, triggering its entry into force six months later. Now that the Convention has taken effect, states parties are bound by all of its terms, and the clock is ticking on deadlines for clearance of contaminated land and destruction of remaining stockpiles.

The milestone First Meeting of States Parties was held in November 2010 in Lao PDR – the most cluster-bombed country in the world. A total of 121 countries attended this historic meeting and adopted a strong Vientiane Action Plan that condemns the use of cluster munitions and outlines plans to implement the treaty.

Photo essay

On the occasion of the First Meeting of States Parties to the Convention of Cluster Munitions, taking place in Vientiane (Laos) during 9-12 November,2010 a photo essay highlighting the plight of Iraqi victims of cluster munitions was exhibited at the conference venue. These are some of the photos.

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01/08

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A suspected contaminated farmland with ERW (Explosive Remnant of War) littered with burned out tracks. A reminder of a too long and bloody war. Iraq 2010

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DDG (Danish Demining Team) searches the ground for Explosive Remnant of War in Basrah governorate. The moment a deminer sees something suspicious he rases his arm in the air and shouts stop and put a flag in the ground approximately 30 cm away from the object. This particularly field is contaminated by Cluster bombs dropped by the American during the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. So far DDG has found 225 BLU 63 Cluster bombs. Iraq 2010

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Mine risk education team shows to a family of farmer a poster listing the most common Explosive Remnant of War found in Basrah governorate area. Not long ago, Danish Demining Group found a sub munitions not far from this farm. Iraq 2010

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Demolishing marker. An explosive ordnance disposal operator sets out warning flags to cordon off a demolition area. Already two accidents happened in these areas. One was a child on his way to school. He died immediately. The other one was a farmer in need to clearing his land for agriculture. He started to collect BLU 97 by hand and at one point one of the cluster bombs exploded and the only thing found of his body was one hand. Iraq 2010

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Boshra Yasen, 25 years old, photographed inside the kitchen in her house in Basrah with her daughter Roqya Guda. Boshra had problem to remember the date of the accident. She thinks it was 7 or 8 years ago. Her job was to look after the sheep, she said “I was just following them” . She was going around with the sheep when one of them set off a cluster bomb (BLU 97 ). Iraq 2010

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Dyia can be considered a very lucky man to be still alive. He had two cluster bomb accidents. One when he was 12 years old. He was on his way to school and found an object on the ground and pull it. He lost an eye and his left leg below the knee. It was a BLU 97. In 2003 he was going to look for work and again found this time a BLU 63 and touched it and lost his right hand. Dyia is desperate looking for work. He is married with 3 children and he is entirely supported by his brothers. Iraq 2010

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Nasma Motrar inside the gardens which just one year ago was fully contaminated by cluster bombs in Basrah governorate. She can grow tomatoes, watermelon, cucumbers and corns. Nasma doesn’t own the land. She works as a season labour. She says that the land belongs to a very rich person. Iraq 2010

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Group of women search through rubbish from a lorry that has just arrived in Al Shaaba dumb place. in Basrah governorate. Farmers quite often clear their land from the rubbish left over from over twenty years of war and take it to damp places like this one. A year ago DDG (Danish Demining Group) was called to come here because someone has found an UXO. The level of poverty in Iraq is so extreme that, like these women on the photos, are willing to make their life at risk in order to earn a few pennies and feed their families. Iraq 2010

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