Combating Subterranean Terror
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Queen Noor makes a plea to rid the world of landmines and the
destruction they inflict on civilians and their communities.
by Her Majesty Queen Noor of Jordan
Over the past 25 years, driving past
Jordan Valley mine fields fenced off by barbed wire, visiting with
landmine victims, or tallying the grim statistics, I have grieved for
the children and adults in the Middle East routinely maimed or killed by
these weapons of mass destruction in slow motion. Our region has been
called the landmine heartland of the world, with an estimated 50 million
mines scarring the earth from Morocco to Afghanistan. Beyond the
physical and psychological torture of those who have been injured, or
lost loved ones, is the further punishment of land made desolate, lost
to productive use, held hostage by the menace of landmines. About 10
Jordan’s population lives in areas unable to be worked or planted or
traversed because of this subterranean terror.
HM Queen Noor makes an historic visit to Bethany,
the recently demined baptismal site of Jesus on the Jordan
HM Queen Noor consoles a landmine survivor at the
First Middle East Conference on Landmine Injury and
Rehabilitation, Amman, July 1998.
Landmines impact a range of issues,
including peace and conflict resolution, the environment, arms control,
economic development, human rights and health. Those of us who campaign
to ban landmines are waging a battle not to win a war but to win an
enduring peace. War-torn societies can never be rebuilt if people
continue to fear for their lives with every step they take. I believe
our cause is just and right, and that the tide of history and world
opinion is on our side.
Landmines are increasingly seen as a
moral issue for religious communities in the Middle East. In 1998, my
late husband His Majesty King Hussein and I convened a conference in
Amman to offer an opportunity for religious leaders, landmine survivors,
doctors and rehabilitation specialists alike to consider how to stem the
mass suffering inflicted by landmines. At this the First Middle East
Conference on Landmine Injury and Rehabilitation, sponsored by the
Landmine Survivors Network and governments of Norway and Canada,
religious leaders raised their voices to condemn the manufacture and use
of mines as being contrary to the teachings of the Bible and the Koran.
Among others, Shiite leader Abdel Majid Al-Khoi said that "the use
of landmines is a crime and an evil" and that the clauses of the
Mine Ban Treaty should be viewed as "religious rights." Sunni
leader Sheikh Eiz Aldin Al Khatib Al Timemi concurred, "Landmines
are against Islam, and therefore must be prohibited, and their
production ceased." From a Christian perspective, Monsignor Ra’uf
Najjar said, "Man has been attacking the lives of his brethren by
planting landmines, thus committing evils against them."
Unfortunately, these higher ideals do
not seem to reach those who wage war. Because they are cheap and easily
obtained, landmines are frequently used by informal militias and
guerillas in local conflicts. These groups are more likely to turn mines
against civilians and less likely to keep records of where they have
been planted. Mines are often placed in rural areas explicitly to
shatter the morale and integrity of family, clan, tribe and village.
Land shifts, rain falls, winds blow the sand, and the mines shift and
move and roll as well. There is no tracking them. Maybe cruelest of all,
even in areas where people crave peace, these insidious leftovers make
rebuilding communities and trust nearly impossible. They are reminders
of the past conflict and a threat to future progress.
|HM Queen Noor with deminers from the Jordanian
Royal Corps of Engineers.
The skirmishes and battles may end,
but the mines remain. How ironic, that with brand new, billion-dollar
weapons on every arms dealer’s wish list, there is still no high-tech
solution for safely removing a $3.00 mine from the ground. The most
reliable technique remains a courageous deminer lying on his stomach,
prodding the earth with a stick.
More and more military leaders are
admitting that landmines are simply not militarily decisive. In 1995,
the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Red Crescent
commissioned a military study of the effectiveness of landmines.
Examining 26 conflicts since 1940, the study found that anti-personnel mines played no significant role in the outcome of any of them. More
than 50 high-ranking military figures from 20 countries have endorsed
the study’s conclusion: that the appalling suffering and waste caused
by landmines far outweighs their military utility. I too am convinced.
My own two sons serve in the Jordanian Army. I would not speak out
against landmines if I thought banning them would put them in greater
danger. I want them, as well as all Jordanians, kept safe from this
142 countries, including Jordan, have
joined the historic 1997 Mine Ban Treaty. This remarkable arms control
agreement also provides a detailed humanitarian framework that pledges
governments to ban the weapon, destroy stockpiles, demine infected land
and provide relief to victims. Our goal is to raise awareness about the
cruel and senseless devastation wrought by landmines in every corner of
the globe. If more people become aware more governments will join the
Treaty. Universal acceptance is my objective.
And so, our challenge remains: What to
do? How do we address the subterranean cancer eating our land and
picking off our citizens, one by one? How do we reach out to the 51
non-ban countries and convince them to destroy their stockpiles of anti-personnel
First, we must build awareness and
support for the Mine Ban Treaty. Jordan was one of the first Middle
Eastern States to join the Treaty in 1998. King Hussein despised the
landmine scourge on our country and in 1993 set a goal to demine the
Jordan Valley by the year 2000. Sadly, he did not live to see this goal
realized. The Valley is still not completely cleared, but heroic
Jordanian deminers from the Royal Corps of Engineers are making fast
progress. We will soon clear the Jordan Valley of some 220,000 anti-personnel
and anti-tank mines. Our most holy ground will no longer
be desecrated by mines, and pilgrims who wish to walk in the paths of
the prophets can do so in safety near the Baptism site of Jesus and
other landscapes sacred to the world’s major religions. It is my hope
that one day we will have a holy land entirely free of landmines and
conflict. We are proud to say that Jordan has led the way for the rest
of our region, and currently, we are in full compliance with all the
terms of, and the timetable set by, the Mine Ban Treaty.
Secondly, we must give aid to the
victims; or rather, the survivors, of landmines. The Ban Treaty is the
first international treaty with a provision urging states to provide
meaningful assistance to the victims, including rehabilitation and
opportunities for social and economic reintegration. This will help
rebuild our wounded communities. In Jordan, we have established the
first amputee support network in the Middle East—a model of survivors
helping survivors reclaim their lives. In my travels to mined countries,
I have witnessed the courage of survivors, whether African, American,
Arab, European or Asian, who have refused to be bowed by this weapon. I
have met disabled mothers who work incessantly to care for their
families. I’ve seen amputees who have been trained in computers,
agriculture, motor repair, chicken-raising or carpentry, who can
continue to make a living and support their families. We owe it to them
to do all we can to make their lives whole in a way their broken bodies
can no longer be.
I cannot sit with every survivor and
try to ease their suffering. But I can remember them, and I can refuse
to look away from their reality. Together, civil society and governments
can help improve the conditions to help survivors reclaim lives and
"We must create peace. We need a
sense of security in our private and national lives. We need hope for
our children; we need trust with our neighbors; we need opportunities
for our development and faith in the moral conscience of the world and
in our own destiny." -King Hussein
And so we pursue those countries in
our region and in the world that have not joined the global movement to
ban landmines. We provide aid to the victims, and we vow to remember
those who have died. No one deserves to suffer for conflicts long past.
We strive for peace, for community, and for a firm commitment to ensure
security and well-being among all our citizens. I can think of no
greater gift to the future than to make a giant step toward peace by
rendering safe the steps of everyone on the planet. Now is the time to
end the curse of landmines, forever.
Her Majesty Queen Noor
is Patron and Honorary Chair of Landmine Survivors Network, Advisor to
the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, a member of the Advisory
Boards of Adopt a Minefield and Marshall Legacy Institute, and a Patron
of the Mineseeker Foundation. To learn more about Her Majesty’s
landmine-related work and read past statements on the issue, please
visit the Internet at: www.landminesurvivors.org/heritage/queennoor.php
*All photos courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Noor.