KULOB, September 23, 2011, Asia-Plus  -- A seminar entitled “Watch Out, Mine!” opened in Kulob today.

Organized by Tajikistan’s Red Crescent Society (RCS), the meeting is dedicated to raise population’s awareness of mines and unexploded ordnances.  Activists and volunteers from RCS’s branches in Katlon’s districts bordering Afghanistan are participating in the seminar.

Zanjirbek Karamov, the coordinator of the RCS Raising Awareness of Mines and Unexploded Ordnance program, says 831 people have become victims of mine explosions in Tajikistan over the past nineteen years; 364 of them have died.

According to him, their program targets Farkhor, Shouroobod, Hamadoni, Panj, Jilikul, Qumsangir and Shahritus districts in Khatlon province as well as six districts in Sughd province and the Rasht Valley.

The Red Crescent Society of Tajikistan also launched a special program, entitled Raising Awareness of Mines and Unexploded Ordnance, in January 2002. The goal was to cut the number of casualties by teaching local people in affected areas some rules of safe conduct.  Specialists say fewer people have stepped on mines since the project was launched.

Most land mines in Tajikistan were laid during the devastating five-year civil war, which ended in 1997.  In some areas the mines still pose a deadly threat as well as a major impediment to effective land use.

Additional mines were laid along the Tajik-Uzbek border by the authorities in Tashkent.  The action was reportedly taken to stave off incursions by the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU).  To date, no one Uzbek militant has been blown up by these mines, while casualties among the civilian Tajik population have increased.  Most of the victims were women and children who were gathering firewood along the border as well as shepherds pasturing cattle in the areas.  Almost all who have survived have become disabled for life.