Iraq: MAG aids village reconstruction in Dohuk

- MAG's work an essential part of conflict recovery in Dasht Mir Sari village.

- Three minefields prioritised for clearance, enabling the construction of new houses, a water project, mosque and primary school.

- We will be able to start a new life, thanks to MAG," says the village leader.

In 2007, Dohuk Governorate developed a rehabilitation plan for Dasht Mir Sari, a village contaminated by landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) from past military operations in the area.

Key to the project is MAG's role in clearing the hazardous land, to allow the construction of 160 houses, along with a water project, mosque and primary school, which together will enable displaced villagers to return home.

More than 500 people were forced to leave the village in 1975 by the Iraqi regime; once they'd been evacuated, the Iraqi military burned down the houses and the farms in the village, and a huge military base was built.

During the conflict between the Iraqi regime and the Peshmerga (Kurdish forces), Dasht Mir Sari was a strategic location and as a result the military mined the area surrounding the base.

After the Kurdish uprising in 1991 the Iraqi military was forced to leave, but the villagers couldn't return to Dasht Mir Sari due to the contamination of the land. Some of the villagers did decide to return in 2003, to collect wood and graze their sheep; more than 25 accidents were reported.

Following the request for assistance by the mayor of Rizgary sub-district, MAG Iraq deployed a Community Liaison (CL) team to the area to gather information about the contamination and dangerous areas from local people, visiting in the process 76 families who planned to return to Dasht Mir Sari.

The community prioritised for clearance three minefields in the village that blocked infrastructure development, water sources and agricultural land.

Irish Aid-funded Mine Action Teams started their operation in Dasht Mir Sari in November 2007, completing the clearance of one minefield in March 2008 and a second in October. Clearance of the third minefield is ongoing.

More than 35,954 square metres of contaminated land was cleared during September, with over 186 anti-personnel landmines and 31 different types of UXO safely removed and destroyed.

The cleared area was handed over to the villagers through the village leader and the mayor of Rizgary sub-district. The governorate office started to implement the rehabilitation plan straight after the handover ceremony.

In an interview with Kurdistan Satellite Channel the mayor of Rizgary stated that MAG's work was essential part of conflict recovery in Dohuk, particularly in Rizgary sub-district. He also thanked MAG for the Mine Risk Education (MRE) work that protected communities.

"We will be able to start a new life, thanks to MAG," said the village leader.