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Kyrgyzstan Review, 10 years ago

[18.10.23] Batken - a Zone of Landmines and Danger

The Batken region is the poorest region in Kyrgyzstan. There are several reasons for this situation. One of them is the border condition and the controversial areas between Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. Uzbekistan started mining the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border in 1999 to prevent incursions by the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. Uzbek minefields are situated inside Kyrgyzstan, around Sokh and Shakhi-Mardan enclaves, and along the border areas. The location of Uzbek landmines are a point of contention between the Uzbek and Kyrgyz governments.
In January 2003 the National Society of Red Crescent of the Kyrgyz Republic initiated the work in Batken to raise population awareness of the threat from mines. According to the program, its staff started to inform and warn the population of the mine threat, as well as to conduct training for adults and schoolchildren, arrange and establish warning stands and billboards, prepare and distribute informational booklets, posters and bulletins.
The photo-exhibition "Batken 2003. The People and the Problems", that was held in the House of Kyrgyz Parliament last week, was organized in order to draw attention to the problems of the Batken oblast, particularly, to the zones containing landmines and their danger. This event was initiated by the NGO, "International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War" (IPPNW-Kyrgyz Committee), the Red Cross Organization and the Bishkek Rotary Club.
The villages located in landmines zones of Batken region are struggling for survival. There is no possibility to maintain their agriculture due to the danger of explosions. It is also dangerous to pasture, to cultivate, to collect firewood, to walk on the paths and roads. Inhabitants of these villages are experiencing great difficulties.
According to Cholpon Galiyeva, coordinator of the program Landmine Monitor, the aim of this photo- exhibition was to show to our government that there is not only one aspect of joining the Ottawa Treaty. This treaty covers the convention on the prohibition of the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of anti-personnel mines and their destruction. "The problem is that the Kyrgyz government does not want to sign the Ottawa Treaty because they see only one aspect - to ban the use of landmines. But there are lots of other problems, and the main focus of our photo exhibition to draw attention to socio-humanitarian issues. Thanks to this photo- exhibition people receive more information about the landmine situation in our country".
People who have already suffered from this problem need assistance. According to the Governor of the Batken region, Mamat Aiybalyev, relatives of those in mine incidents should receive the equivalent of 5 million som (USD120,000) compensation, while 25 million som (USD610,000) should be paid to compensate people who have been deprived of houses, cattle, or harvest due to the presence of uncleared landmines.
The first photo-exhibition was organized at the Kyrgyz-Russian Slavic University in May 2003. The second one was held in June at the Ganci Airbase, where coalition forces are located. The Dutch Air Force donated four tons of clothes for the people who live in the landmine areas of Batken. The clothes were distributed among the residents of mine-affected villages, such as Chon-Kara, Sai, Tayan, by the local authorities and a representative of the National Red Crescent Society in Batken.
On November 3-6, the conference "Antipersonnel landmines in Central Asia and CIS countries. The state of the problem and ways to solve it" will be held in Bishkek. The organizers of this event hope to urge governments of participating states to sign the Ottawa Treaty.
By Olesya Chernogubova,
The Time of Central Asia, October 18, 2003

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