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Country Reports
Syria, Landmine Monitor Report 2003


Mine Ban Policy

Syria has not acceded to the Mine Ban Treaty. While expressing concern about landmine victims in the world, Syria considers the antipersonnel mine as a necessary defensive weapon and cites Israel's continued annexation/occupation of the Golan Heights as the main reason for not joining the treaty. Syrian Foreign Ministry officials reiterated this position in late 2002.[1]

On 22 November 2002, Syria abstained, as it has done in past years, in voting on UN General Assembly Resolution 57/74, supporting universalization and implementation of the Mine Ban Treaty. During the debate on the resolution, Syria said it supported humanitarian measures to alleviate the risks of mines, including identification and warning of affected and suspected mined areas, exchange of experience in mine clearance among countries, user responsibility for provision of information and clearance to protect the civilians and avoid damages; and the provision of humanitarian assistance for landmine and unexploded ordnance (UXO) victims.[2]

Syria attended the Fourth Meeting of States Parties in September 2002 and the intersessional Standing Committee meetings in February 2003.

On 19-20 February 2003, the Arab Network of Researchers on Landmines and Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) hosted a regional symposium conducted in Damascus, which was attended by 48 participants from government departments and NGOs working in mine-affected areas in Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Palestine, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.[3]

Syria may have produced and exported antipersonnel mines in the past, but it is not known if there has been any recent activity.[4] Syria has not enacted any unilateral measures to prohibit future production or export of antipersonnel mines. The size and origin of Syria's mine stockpile is not known. Syria is thought to have last used mines during the 1982 conflict with Israel in Lebanon.

Landmine Problem and Mine Action

Jordan deployed nearly 67,000 antipersonnel mines along its border with Syria before 1973. Turkey, as part of a bilateral agreement with Syria, began demining its border areas in 2001. It is not known if the Syrian side of the borders with Jordan or Turkey is mined.

The Golan, in southwest Syria, is divided into three areas: Syrian-controlled, Israeli-controlled, and a buffer zone monitored by the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF). Each contains mined areas.

UNDOF deploys two demining teams, with six soldiers each, to make sure that paths used by UNDOF are safe.[5] According to a December 2002 UN report, “A Minefield Security Program has led to the identification and marking of numerous known as well as previously unidentified minefields in the area of separation.”[6]

In some of the Syrian-controlled areas, minefields are not well marked or fenced. Civilians sometimes take markers and fences for their own use. The Syrian Army has had to re-fence and re-mark fields several times.

No information is available on mine clearance activities in Syria for the year 2002. On 13 February 2001, the Syrian Army started landmine clearance in Lebanon, in accordance with an agreement with the Lebanese Army, working in three areas: Nabatia al Tahta, Kfare Faloos, and Kawkaba. As of October 2002, the Syrian Army had cleared 96 areas totaling 842,152 square meters.[7]

Mine Risk Education

The UNDOF peacekeeping force and UNICEF engage in Mine Risk Education (MRE) activities in their area of operation in the Golan. A MRE component is included in the Safe Gardens project which aims to create safe and attractive places for children to play in targeted border areas like the Golan. The local communities operate and maintain eight of the “safe gardens,” in partnership with the government, that directly benefit 3,000 schoolchildren.[8]

MRE is also conducted as a part of the health education program run by the government health centers in the affected areas and in the Healthy Villages program. No external evaluations or studies have been conducted on the effectiveness of these mine risk education activities.[9]

On 15 December 2002, the Healthy Villages program of the Ministry of Health and the Arab Network of Researchers held a workshop in Quneitra for local affected village representatives to discuss the landmine problem and MRE activities.

Landmine Casualties and Survivor Assistance

In 2002, landmines killed two children and injured a youth. In January 2002, two ten-year-old boys were killed by a landmine, according to the Director of Health in the Bordering Areas (Golan). In May 2002, a 17-year-old girl lost her leg after stepping on a mine while collecting vegetables and herbs in Beir Ajam village in the Syrian-controlled Golan.[10]

Casualties continue to be reported in 2003. In February, a twelve-year-old child visiting relatives in Mashkak village was killed when a mine he had found exploded.[11]

In Jordan, on 13 April 2003, a Syrian national was injured by a landmine in Al-Mafraq.[12]

Landmine casualty data is not systematically collected in Syria. There is no centralized register and some casualties go directly to hospitals in Damascus for emergency treatment. However, new information indicates that there have been at least 216 landmine casualties since 1973 in the Syrian-controlled Golan: 108 were killed and 108 injured (33 required leg amputations, 14 required hand or finger amputations, 17 were blinded or lost one eye, four had multiple injuries, and 40 suffered other types of injuries). Forty children were among those killed.[13]

The Syrian government continues to provide basic health and social services free of charge. The Quneitra Health Directorate has 17 health centers and one-health point in the mine-affected area of Syrian-controlled Golan, serving about 60,000 people.[14] In March 2002, the government opened a physiotherapy center in the town of Khan Arnaba.[15] The 120-bed Abaza Hospital in Khan Arnaba established an outpatient clinic, but not all sections are operational.[16] On 27 February 2003, a community rehabilitation center opened in Khan Arnaba to provide basic rehabilitation services for people with physical and mental disabilities. The building was donated by the Syrian Women’s Union, with the renovation costs covered by the governorate of Quneitra (about $10,000), and equipment worth $50,000 donated by Swedish organizations.[17] The completion of these projects will promote emergency and rehabilitation services in mine-affected areas.[18] Before these facilities opened, survivors had to travel to Damascus to receive specialized medical care and surgery, physical rehabilitation, prosthetics, wheelchairs, and special education.

The Syrian Society for the Physically Disabled, founded in November 1998, and the Syrian Society for the Blind, founded in July 1997, are working in mine-affected areas. Both are very small NGOs based in Quneitra. They focus on charity work to help disadvantaged people, and mine survivors have reported receiving assistance from these organizations in the past.[19]

There are no laws to assist landmine survivors or other persons with disabilities in Syria. On 16 December 2002, the Landmine Survivors Network and the Arab Network of Researchers gave lectures to the Al-Raga’a Society for the Disabled and the Faculty of Education at Damascus University on the ongoing effort to establish a global agreement on disability rights.[20]

[1] Interview with the Director of International Organizations and Conferences Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 16 December 2002.
[2] Statement of Milad Atia, representative of the Syrian Permanent Mission, to the UNGA First Committee, New York, 3 October 2002.
[3] Media coverage on 20 February 2003 included stories by the Syrian News Agency and articles in the Al-Baath, Thawra, and Tichreen newspapers.
[4] Jordan declared an antipersonnel mine of Syrian origin in its stockpile in its Mine Ban Treaty transparency measures report in August 1999. See Landmine Monitor Report 2000, p. 958.
[5] Interview with Major General Bo Wranker, Force Commander, UNDOF, Damascus, 28 May 2003.
[6] UN Secretary-General, “Report of the Secretary-General on the Untied Nations Disengagement Observer Force for the Period from 18 May 2002 to 5 December 2002,” S/2002/1328, 4 December 2002, p. 1.
[7] Syrian Ministry of Defense, "Report on mine clearance in Lebanon by the Syrian Army," presentation to the Arab Network of Researchers on Landmines and ERW, Damascus, 9 October 2002.
[8] Interview with Dr. Hossam Doghoz and Dr. Rabee Othman, Project Directors, Safe Garden Project, Damascus, 4 February 1999.
[9] Interview with Dr. Khaldoun Al-Asaad, Assistant Director, Qunaitra Health Directorate, Damascus, 7 February 2002.
[10] Presentation by Dr. Rabee Othman, Medical Officer, Beir Ajam, to the regional symposium organized by the Arab Network of Researchers on Landmines and ERW, Damascus, 19-20 February 2003.
[11] Presentation by Dr. Husam Doghos, Coordinator of the Khan Arnaba Community Rehabilitation Center to the regional symposium, Damascus, 19-20 February 2003.
[12] Email to Landmine Monitor (HRW) from Mona Abdeljawad, Landmine Survivors Network (Jordan), 5 June 2003.
[13] Presentation by Ahmad Alsaeed, Director of Social Affairs, Qunaitra, to the regional symposium, Damascus, 19-20 February 2003.
[14] Interview with Dr. Khaldoun Al-Asaad, Assistant Director, Quneitra Health Directorate, Damascus, 15 May 2002.
[15] Interview with Dr. Husam Doughoz, Coordinator, Community Rehabilitation Center, Khan Arnaba, 27 February 2003.
[16] Interview with Dr. Khaldoun Al-Asaad, Quneitra Health Directorate, 15 May 2002.
[17] Presentation by Dr. Husam Doughoz, Coordinator, Community Rehabilitation Center, Khan Arnaba, to the regional symposium, Damascus, 19-20 February 2003; interview with Major General Bo Wranker, UNDOF, 28 May 2003.
[18] Presentation by Ahmad Said, Director, Quneitra Social Services, to the regional symposium, Damascus, 19-20 February 2003.
[19] Ibid.
[20] The meetings and lectures were coordinated by Dr. Ghassan Shahrour, Supervisor of Yarmouk and Coordinator of The Arab Network of Researchers on Landmines and ERW.