Unsung Hero: Elnur Gasimov

by Kateland Shane [Mine Action Information Center]

As a young man in a war-torn area of Azerbaijan, Elnur Gasimov experienced the shock of being severely injured by a piece of unexploded ordnance. Today, Gasimov's personal experience has inspired him to work as the Team Leader of the Training and Quality Assurance Team at the Azerbaijan National Agency for Mine Action to ensure what happened to him will not happen to other citizens of his country. Gasimov's resilience and dedication to his work make him a hero in the demining community.

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Photo courtesy of MAIC

Elnur Gasimov is all too familiar with the physical pain of being involved in a UXO incident. In 1993, his family was living in an area of military conflict in the Republic of Azerbaijan. When he was 15, a shiny metal object along the road caught his attention. Unknown to Gasimov at the time, it was the fuze of an unexploded hand grenade.

"Some areas were occupied by Armenian forces and there were a lot of military munitions spread around. At that time, there was no mine-risk education in Azerbaijan," Gasimov recalls.1 This lack of MRE proved to be very dangerous for the young Gasimov. When he tried to touch the unknown object, it exploded, causing him to lose three fingers on his right hand. After receiving treatment in a local military hospital for about one month, Gasimov was able to return to school and finish his education.

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A mine victim is shown with an injury similar to Gasimov's. Photo courtesy of Clear Path International

Seven years after the incident, Gasimov made the decision to pursue a career in mine action. "One day I got an encouraging opportunity to join the humanitarian mine action movement. I started working with a national NGO [nongovernmental organization] and eventually with ANAMA."1

In 2000 after graduating from university, Gasimov began working as a surveyor for the International Eurasia Press Fund—an NGO working under the ANAMA umbrella. Gasimov briefly explains his work at the IEPF: "One year after training, I worked as a surveyor around the border collecting information from villages about contaminated land and mine victims." After a year with the IEPF, Gasimov went to work with ANAMA as an instructor in humanitarian demining with the monitoring and training team. As a part of his work as an instructor, Gasimov taught mine-risk education to schoolchildren in affected areas of Azerbaijan. "I used to go to schools conducting mine-risk education in order to prevent incidents such as my own,"1 he remembers.

Gasimov's commitment to his work in mine action helped him receive the promotion to Team Leader of the Training and Quality Assurance Team at ANAMA, an important component of the mine-action program in Azerbaijan. The T&QA Team at ANAMA was created specifically to oversee the clearance operations of the demining companies and to identify and address any problems that arise during the demining process.

As part of his training for the T&QA Team at ANAMA, Gasimov attended a number of courses in mine action. He provides the following description of the main functions of his team: "We conduct trainings, work on capacity building, conduct monitoring evaluations as a part of QA, and also ensure that the land clearance by the demining agencies has been done in accordance with the National and International Mine Action Standards." He adds, "We make sure that nothing remains and there was no ordnance missed."1

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Despite their disabilities, mine victims can still go about their daily activites, do what they love, and lead successful, fulfilling lives. Photo courtesy of Clear Path International

Gasimov recognizes mine clearance is at times an overwhelming undertaking, sometimes marked by unexpected barriers. "All of my achievements in this field have been an ongoing process. We work and we learn. Sometimes we learn [by making] mistakes, but our first goal is to make the land free from mines using the approved standards." Gasimov is happy to dedicate his life's work to the destruction of devices that are so harmful. "Each destroyed mine and each neutralized [piece of] ordnance means someone's rescued life or protected health."1

In spite of the difficulties that accompany working in minefields, Gasimov feels his work in mine action has been rewarding. He hopes one day all countries, including his own, will be free from the complications inflicted by mines and UXO. The young T&QA Team Leader would also like to see the injury and death caused by mines and UXO absent from the world. "Some of our people will try and reach water or herd their animals and they are injured by landmines," Gasimov laments. "It is very hard."1

When asked about his suggestions for the mine-action community, Gasimov believes communication is essential to solving the mine problem. "My suggestion is to work closer, to share the experience with other countries and to work as one force against the problem. We can share lessons we have learned so that others do not have to learn from their own mistakes,"1 he concludes.

It is Gasimov's sense of hope, compassion and unity that makes him a valuable member of the demining community. He not only contributes his knowledge and dedication to the field, but he also has taught mine victims that recovery from tragic situations is well within reach.

Biography

HeadshotKateland Shane has worked as an Editorial Assistant for the Journal of Mine Action since May 2006. She is currently an undergraduate pursing a degree in technical communication at James Madison University. After graduating in 2007, she plans to return to JMU for graduate school.

Endnotes

  1. Personal interview with Elnur Gasimov, Team Leader of Training and Quality Assurance, Azerbaijan National Agency for Mine Action. May 17, 2006.

Contact Information

Kateland Shane
Editorial Assistant
Journal of Mine Action
Mine Action Information Center
E-mail: maic@jmu.edu

Elnur Gasimov
Team Leader, Training and Quality Assurance
ANAMA
Fizuli Street 69, 4th floor
Az1014 Baku / Azerbaijan
Tel: +99 412 495 8401
Fax: +99 450 367 8342
E-mail: mttanama@box.az
Web site: http://www.anama.baku.az