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Iran, Landmine Monitor Report 2003


Key developments since May 2002: The UN Development Program signed an agreement with Iran in July 2002 to help develop a mine action strategy and provide training in various aspects of mine action.

Mine Ban Policy

Iran has not acceded to the Mine Ban Treaty. An Iranian official told Landmine Monitor that while Iran has condemned landmines as inhumane weapons, it also views them as a “necessary evil.”[1] The government believes it needs to continue to use landmines to protect its borders and to combat drug smugglers. A Ministry of Foreign Affairs official wrote that organized international drug smuggling rings, anti-government terrorist groups along Iran’s western borders, and unstable governments both east and west of Iran make it “obligatory” for Iran to “make use of landmines, as a defensive tool to prevent the concentration of smugglers, and curtail terrorist acts along its borders.” She said, “These uninhabited territories are clearly known to the non-military populace, and those who take the risk of entering the minefields are none but the military personnel.” She also said that because Iran’s neighbors have declined to participate in the Mine Ban Treaty, “in order to protect our borders, [Iran] too cannot accept a total ban on the landmines.”[2]

Iran did not attend any Mine Ban Treaty-related meetings in 2002 or the first half of 2003. Iran has abstained from voting on every pro-mine ban UN General Assembly resolution since 1996, including UNGA Resolution 57/74 on 22 November 2002.

Production, Transfer, Stockpiling, Use

Iran is a manufacturer of antipersonnel mines, including the YM-I, Mk. 4, and a Claymore-type mine, but it is not known if production is ongoing or if it commences to meet specific requirements. On 6 September 2002, the Ministry of Defense provided an official statement to Landmine Monitor that, “The Islamic Republic of Iran, since the termination of its war, has not produced anti-personnel mines.”[3] At the same time, however, Landmine Monitor received information that mine clearance organizations in Afghanistan are removing and destroying many hundreds of Iranian YM-I and YM-I-B antipersonnel mines, date stamped 1999 and 2000, from abandoned Northern Alliance front lines.[4]

Iran exported a significant number of antipersonnel mines in the past. An export moratorium was instituted in 1997, but it is not known if it is still formally in effect. Bangladesh and Gabon have declared stockpiling antipersonnel mines of Iranian origin; Gabon declared acquiring the mines in 1995.[5] Iranian antipersonnel and antivehicle mines were part of a shipment seized by Israel in January 2002 off the coast of Gaza.

The size and composition of Iran’s antipersonnel mine stockpile is not known.

Iran is believed to maintain minefields along its borders with Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

Landmine Problem

The mined areas in western and southwestern Iran, particularly the provinces of Khuzestan, Kermanshah, Ilam, and Kurdistan, are the result of the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq conflict. Government officials claim that some 12-16 million landmines were planted in Iran by Iraq during the war in an area of over four million hectares.[6] According to Colonel Amir Mahmoudi, ground forces second-in-command, “Khuzestan is the most infested area followed by Kermanshah and Ilam.”[7] The Army estimates that 1.5 to 1.8 million hectares are still infested with Iraqi landmines.[8]

According to Colonel Mahmoudi, “We have divided the regions into secure and prohibited regions. Prohibited regions lie near the border with Iraq. Despite our announcements, sometimes nomads take their cattle to the prohibited regions for grazing and in certain cases their curiosity leads to explosion of mines. Smugglers who want to transit these regions also leave casualties. Greedy people who enter these regions to collect aluminum or iron remnants of the war are also included in the casualties.”[9]

According to one report, the landmines have “severely limited” agricultural production in five provinces along the Iraqi border.[10] Landmines are also located in the oil fields. One of the largest fields, the Azadegan oil structure, must be cleared before interested Japanese companies can “start full-scale appraisals.”[11]

There are also landmines in eastern Iran, particularly in the border areas with Pakistan and Afghanistan. In 1995, Iranian Interior Minister Ali Mohammad Besharati reportedly stated, “To stop drug caravans from entering Iran, eastern borders will be mined.”[12] According to a Pakistani source, in an incident that resulted in the death of five people and injury to eleven others, “The Iranian authorities laid landmines to keep the drug traffickers away.”[13]

Mine Action

The Ministry of the Interior decides where mine clearance will take place, based on political, economic, and social priorities, while the Iranian Armed Forces, specifically the Army’s Engineer Units, are responsible for mine clearance projects. Fifteen Army battalions are involved in demining.[14] No statistics on mine clearance achievements in 2002 or 2003 have been made publicly available. The demining process is reportedly becoming more difficult as Army units approach the Iraqi border.[15]

According to an August 2002 news report, since the end of the war with Iraq in 1998, a total of 3,217,000 antipersonnel mines, 914,000 antivehicle mines and 4,236,000 pieces of unexploded ordnance (UXO) had been cleared. [16] In the Khuzestan and Ilam provinces alone, 327,595 hectares of land were cleared, removing 970,000 antipersonnel mines and 435,000 antivehicle mines.[17]

An Iranian general has reportedly stated that in 2001, 52 army deminers were killed and another 122 were injured while clearing landmines and UXO.[18]

Norwegian People's Aid (NPA) works in western Iran as technical advisors for Norsk Hydro. NPA conducts mine and UXO clearance and survey. The area of operation is part of the former Iran-Iraq war frontline. Working with two Iranian Army Engineer Battalions, NPA provides 14-16 technical advisors on manual and mechanical mine clearance techniques. The program employs two Minecat mechanical clearance machines provided by the Norwegian Demining Consortium. In 2002, a total area of 599,115,909 square meters was surveyed. This included: 353,257,662 square meters of existing minefields; 119,959,122 square meters of previously cleared minefields; and 85,899,125 square meters of suspected areas.[19]

A new project to support mine action in Iran has been designed by the UN Development Programme (UNDP), which will focus on channeling assistance through the National Committee for Demining within the Iranian Ministry of Interior. The project includes installation of the Information Management System for Mine Action (IMSMA) and development of a mine risk education program.[20] An agreement between UNDP and Iran was signed on 25 July 2002. The project will allow UNDP to “help develop a mine action strategy in line with international mine clearance standards,” and “provide training for mine action middle managers responsible for surveying mined areas, alerting communities about the dangers of mines, ensuring treatment and rehabilitation for survivors of mine accidents as well as detection and destruction of mines.”[21] The UNDP initiative will provide $470,000 for these efforts and “$100,000 worth of equipment to increase the personal safety of demining practitioners.”[22]

The first international mine detection robot contest, “Robo deminer 2002,” was held at Amir Kabir University on 19-21 August 2002. There were 120 domestic and foreign teams, as well as 1,500 experts, researchers and international instructors.[23]

Landmine Casualties

There is no official data available on landmine casualties in Iran. Landmine Monitor recorded 11 civilians killed and 21 injured by mines and UXO in 2002, from a limited number of available media reports. However, according to several media reports, every year dozens of shepherds and local residents are killed or injured by mines in the border regions.[24]

Landmine Monitor recorded 18 civilians killed by mines in 2001.[25] In addition, as noted above, 52 army deminers were reportedly killed and another 122 were injured during mine clearance operations in 2001.[26]

In January 2002, one shepherd was killed and two other people were injured, along with seven sheep, in a landmine incident in Ilam.[27] In April, two villagers lost their legs in West Azerbaijan as a result of landmines. It was also reported that in the same town as the villagers, four people died and several were wounded in mine incidents between March 2001 and March 2002.[28] In August 2002, a 22-year-old man was killed and two teenagers injured in a mine explosion in a Kurdish province near the Iraqi border.[29] In September 2002, two people were killed and two injured in a UXO explosion in the Khuzestan province.[30] Three mine incidents were reported in December: five people were killed and 11 injured when their vehicle hit a mine near the Pakistan border;[31] two people were killed in Kurdistan, near the Iraqi border;[32] and two fishermen were injured after touching a floating object in the Caspian Sea that was later identified as a mine.[33]

Casualties continue in 2003, with two children killed and one man injured in two reported mine incidents to May 2003.[34]

There is no systematic nationwide reporting of landmine survivors in Iran; a survey done in Ilam province in 2000 is the most in-depth study to date. Between 1989 and 1999, the survey recorded 1,082 mine casualties, of which 394 were killed.[35] No comprehensive information is available on landmine casualties in other provinces. However, it was reported that 52 people have been killed and 100 injured by landmines while searching in the former war zones for those missing in action since the end of the war in 1988.[36]

Survivor Assistance and Disability Policy and Practice

Little is known about survivor assistance programs in Iran. Military personnel injured by mines receive medical care, rehabilitation, prosthetics, and a pension, from the army. Civilians injured by mines are referred to the relevant governor general department who then assigns them to a public or private department.

The Norwegian NGO Trauma Care Foundation (TCF) has two training centers, in Tehran and in Ilam. At the request of the Ministry of Health in Tehran, TCF trains instructors who in turn train health personnel and villagers in both basic and advanced emergency medical care for mine casualties and other injury victims. In 2002, Iranian instructors provided training for more than 400 trauma care providers working at village level, in district clinics, and in regional trauma centers. Both healthcare/emergency officials and the local population have viewed the training positively.[37]

The Iranian Red Crescent Society (IRCS) supports facilities for persons with disability across the country providing services such as physiotherapy and prosthetics. The IRCS has physical rehabilitation centers in thirteen provinces, physiotherapy centers in 26 provinces, and medical centers in four provinces. The IRCS also provides training in prosthetics and orthotics to Iranian students and others from Africa and Asia.[38]

The “Mostazafan and Janbazan Foundation” provides a variety of services to soldiers disabled during the Islamic Revolution and war with Iraq, including mine survivors. The Janbazan section provides many services for its members, including medical care, housing, employment opportunities, and advocacy on nondiscrimination laws and legislation.[39]

All mine survivors, or the families of those killed, are entitled to monetary support from the government once the incident has been registered and confirmed. To qualify for benefits, incidents must be reported to the Province Governor’s Office for Social Welfare.[40]

In Iran, the State High Council for Coordination of Disabled Persons Affairs (HCCDPA), which was established as part of the Agenda for Action for the Asian and Pacific Decade of Disabled Persons, coordinates issues relating to persons with disabilities.[41] The State Welfare Organization and the Iranian Handicapped Society, which deals specifically with people who require walking devices and wheelchairs, provides assistance to persons with disabilities in Iran. Assistance includes financial subsidies, assistive devices, promotion of cultural and educational equality, vocational training, employment opportunities, and recreational facilities for persons with disabilities.[42]

[1] Interviews with Hamid Baeidi-Nejad, Counselor, Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the UN, New York, 24 July 2001 and 1 March 2002.
[2] Zahra Noparast, “Iran and the Dilemma of Antipersonnel Mines,” Siasate Khareji (Foreign Policy), Fall 2000, No. 4, pp. 785-799. This is the official journal of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
[3] Letter to Mary Wareham, Landmine Monitor Global Coordinator, from the Permanent Mission of Iran to the UN in New York, 6 September 2002.
[4] Information provided to Landmine Monitor and ICBL by HALO Trust and Danish Demining Group, July 2002.
[5] Bangladesh Mine Ban Treaty Article 7 Report, Form B, 28 August 2002; Gabon Article 7 Report, Form B, 25 September 2002. The antipersonnel mines declared by Bangladesh are M18A1 Claymore mines.
[6] This is the equivalent of 40,000,000,000 square meters. “7,000 Hectares of Land Cleared from Iraqi Mines,” Islamic Republic News Agency (Khorramshahr), 25 March 2002. For a list of the mine types used by Iran and Iraq, see Landmine Monitor Report 2001, p. 1005.
[7] Ahmadian-Rad Hamideh, “80 Million Landmines Laid in Iran,” Persian Morning Daily, 17 April 2002.
[8] Ibid.
[9] Ibid.
[10] “UNDP to Support Mine Action Awareness Program in Iran,” Tehran Times, 25 July 2002.
[11] “International Oil Firms Eye Iran’s Azadegan,” Energy Compass, 31 October 2002; “Azadegan Holds Huge Oil Potential,” Petroleum Intelligence Weekly, 31 October 2002.
[12] “Iran to Mine Borders to Deter Drug Traffickers,” Reuters, 25 June 1995.
[13] “Five Suspected Drug Smugglers Killed by Mines at Pakistan-Iran Border,” Agence France Presse (Quetta), 20 December 2002.
[14] “80 Million Landmines Laid in Iran,” Persian Morning Daily, 17 April 2002.
[15] Ibid.
[16] “One Iranian Killed, Two Others Injured in Landmine Blast: Press,” Payvand’s Iran News, 16 August 2002.
[17] “52 Killed, 122 Injured While Defusing Iraqi Mines: Official,” Tehran Times, 17 April 2002.
[18] “One Iranian Killed, Two Others Injured in Landmine Blast: Press,” Payvand’s Iran News, 16 August 2002. The fatalities were related to activities primarily in the Khuzestan and Ilam provinces. “52 Killed, 122 Injured While Defusing Iraqi Mines: Official,” Tehran Times, 17 April 2002.
[19] Email from Chris Olausson, Field Manager, NPA Iran, 26 March 2003.
[20] Mine Action Support Group, “MASG Newsletter,” June 2003, Annex 5, pp. 21-22.
[21] “UNDP to Support Mine Action Awareness Program in Iran,” Tehran Times, 25 July 2002.
[22] Ibid.
[23] “Iran to Host the First International Robo Deminer Contest.” Payvand, 14 August 2002.
[24] “One killed, five wounded in mine explosion in Ilam,” IRNA, 6 March 2002; “One Iranian Killed, Two Others Injured in Landmine Blast,” IRNA, 17 August 2002; “Landmines Kills Young Man, Wounds Two Teenagers in Iran,” Agence France Presse 15 August 2002.
[25] See Landmine Monitor Report 2002, p. 670.
[26] “52 Killed, 122 Injured While Defusing Iraqi Mines: Official,” Tehran Times, 17 April 2002.
[27] “One Killed, Two Injured by Landmine in Ilam.” Tehran Times, 30 January 2002.
[28] “Mine Blast Severs Feet of Two People in Western Iran,” Tehran Times, 24 April 2002.
[29]“Landmines Kills Young Man, Wounds Two Teenagers in Iran,” Agence France Presse, 15 August 2002.
[30] “Two Killed as Abandoned Shell Explodes in Western Iran,” Agence France Presse, 26 September 2002.
[31] “Five Suspected Drug Smugglers Killed by Mines at Pakistan-Iran Border,” Agence France Presse, 20 December 2002.
[32] “Two People Killed in Mine Blast in Western Iran,” Xinhua, 2 December 2002.
[33] “Two Itanian fishermen wounded by drifting Caspian mines,” Agence France Presse, 25 December 2002.
[34] “Two children killed in mine explosion in Marivan, Iran,” IRNA, 16 April 2003; “Teenager loses foot to landmine explosion in western Iran,” IRNA, 11 May 2003.
[35] For details on the Ilam survey, see Landmine Monitor Report 2000, p. 930.
[36] Meisam Rashidi Merhabadi, “Searching for 10,000 Martyrs Killed in Iraq,” Persian Morning Daily, 6 August 2002.
[37] Email from Odd Edvardsen, Tromsoe Mine Victim Resource Center, 15 January 2003.
[38] Iranian Red Crescent Society website, www.rcs.ir/english/; ICRC, “Annual Report 2001,” p. 319.
[39] See Landmine Monitor Report 2002, p. 671.
[40] Hameed Reza Jahanlu, MD, Hans Husum, MD, and Torben Wisborg, MD, “Mortality in Land-Mine Accidents in Iran,” Journal of Prehospital and Disaster Medicine, Vol. 17, No. 2, April-June 2002, p. 108.
[41] UN, “Asian and Pacific Decade of Disabled Persons: mid-point – country perspectives,” New York, 1999, p. 114.
[42] UN, “Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, Promotion of Non-Handicapping Physical Environments for Disabled Persons: Case Studies,” New York, 1995, available at www.unescap.org (accessed 4 June 2002).