Islamic Republic of Iran

by Matthew Voegel [ Mine Action Information Center ]

The area of the world once home to the Persian Empire has seen its fair share of social and political turbulence. In 1979, the western-supported ruler Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was overthrown during the Iranian Revolution, and a conservative Islamic cleric named Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini came to power and formed an Islamic republic. This system of government still remains even after Khomeini's passing in 1989, with Ali Khamenei succeeding him as supreme leader of the country.

From 1980–1988, the Islamic republic fought a bloody war against Iraq and its leader, Saddam Hussein. This is the reason for the majority of the landmine problems that Iran faces, with the western and southwestern parts of the county being contaminated since the conflict.1 Iran has not acceded to the Anti-personnel Mine Ban Convention2 and is also not a party to the Convention on Conventional Weapons.3 The country's officials say that if landmines from their borders were completely removed, then terrorists and narcotics traffickers would have no problem getting into the country.1

The Landmine Problem

Landmines are most abundant in the western and southwestern parts of the country, stretching from Abadan on the Persian Gulf to the Turkish border some 600 kilometers (373 miles) north. Mine and unexploded ordnance contamination particularly affects the provinces of Kurdistan, western Azerbaijan, Khuzestan, Kermanshah and Ilam. According to Iranian officials, during the 1980–88 conflict, Iraq laid approximately12 to 16 million landmines in Iran, which contaminated an area of over 42,000 square kilometers (16,216 square miles).1 These mines, which reside close to the border, are a hazard to refugees, pilgrims and nomads, and also block access to agricultural land for farmers and their families.

According to data from the Ministry of the Interior, from 1988 to 2002 there were 6,765 mine casualties in Iran, including 2,840 people killed and 3,925 injured. In 2005, at least 109 new casualties were reported.1

Mine Action in Iran

National Mine Action Council. NMAC was created in 2003 by the Iranian government and encompasses the interior, foreign affairs, health and medical training ministries, provincial governors-general of the five mine-affected border provinces, joint chief of command for the armed forces, Islamic Republic of Iran Mine Action Center, national mine-action nongovernmental organizations, and demining units from the Iranian military. NMAC is completely government-run and chaired by the Minister of Defense. Its main responsibilities include formulating policies on mine action, instituting protocol for operational demining units and securing equipment and resources.1

Mine Action Center. The Islamic Republic of Iran Mine Action Center was created by NMAC in 2003 and stands as the executor of NMAC's policies and protocols. IRMAC plans and coordinates all mine action in Iran and all demining organizations must clear any actions with IRMAC before proceeding.1

UNDP. In 2002 the Iranian government signed an agreement with the United Nations Development Programme in order to help support Iran in its endeavor to establish a beneficial mine-action program. Not much progress has been made however, considering funds for projects that were submitted by Iran, with help from the UNDP, have not been made accessible yet.1

Demining and the Future

For 2006, the Iranian military reported the clearance of 104.42 square kilometers (40.32 square miles), which included the elimination of 53,632 anti-personnel mines, 16,918 anti-vehicle mines and 43,444 items of UXO.2 IRMAC reported that each hectare of land they encountered was contaminated with about 50 to 120 landmines and 20 to 60 pieces of UXO, all of which were destroyed when found.2

IRMAC reported that between 2004 and 2005 around 528 square kilometers (203 square miles) were cleared with 52,383 anti-personnel mines, 37,522 anti-vehicle mines and 1,478,508 pieces of UXO destroyed.1 Iran's Defense Ministry has reportedly cleared 27,000 hectares (104 square miles) of land bordering Iraq, which was heavily contaminated due to the Iraq-Iran conflict. Regions like the western Ilam province are covered with landmines with about 250,000 hectares (965 square miles) of land still contaminated.4 More demining has taken place around oil development projects with commercial companies like MAI doing a fair amount of demining around oil, water and gas pipelines.1

In 2006, IRMAC reported that the new government had made mine action a top priority on the agenda and prepared a Comprehensive Plan for Clearance, which was submitted to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for approval.1

In 2005 a large step was undertaken as the governments of Iran and Iraq both signed a Memorandum of Understanding to remove landmines from both sides of the Iran-Iraq border remaining from the 1980–1988 conflict. The memorandum included the following provisions:

By cooperating with Iraq, there seems to be a good chance that Iran's large quantity of mines, UXO and ERW on the border between the two countries may one day be neutralized. Bullet

Biography

VoegelHeadshotMatthew Voegel has been working as an Editorial Assistant for the Journal of Mine Action since October 2006. He is currently pursuing an undergraduate degree in print journalism at James Madison University.

Endnotes

  1. "Iran." Landmine Monitor Report 2006. International Campaign to Ban Landmines. http://www.icbl.org/lm/2006/iran.html. Accessed 10 July 2007.
  2. "Iran." Landmine Monitor Report 2007. International Campaign to Ban Landmines. http://www.icbl.org/lm/2007/iran.html. Accessed 19 February 2008.
  3. Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-personnel Mines and on Their Destruction, Oslo, Norway. 18 September 1997. http://www.icbl.org/treaty/text/english. Accessed 19 February, 2008. The document was opened for signature in Ottawa, Canada, 3 December 1997, and thus is commonly known as the Ottawa Convention
  4. Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May Be Deemed to Be Excessively Injurious or to Have Indiscriminate Effects, Geneva, Switzerland, 10 October 1980. http://www.ccwtreaty.com/KeyDocs/ccwtreatytext.htm. Accessed 10 July 2007. This Convention is also referred to as the CCW or CCCW.
  5. "Iran's Minefield Clearing Continues." Press TV. 2 August 2007. http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=18212§ionid=351020101. Accessed 9 August 2007.