A team of women fans out across the rugged fields of Basra province, Iraq. They are wrapped in thick, light-blue body armor, heavy helmets, and clear protective face shields. They sweep heavy metal detectors over rocky soil. Then, kneeling, they carefully and precisely scrape sharp tools through the dirt. These women are ridding their province of dangerous explosives—landmines. They are the first all-female demining team in Basra.
A local mine-clearing company formed the team of 14 Iraqi women. Over a period of 40 days, the women learned how to find and safely clear different types of mines.
Iraq is the world’s most land mine-contaminated country. Many of the explosives are left over from the 1980-1998 Iraq-Iran war and the 1991 Gulf War with the United States. And since those wars, the Islamic State planted many additional land mines to defend its territory.
Since the 1980s, mines and other exploding weapons have killed and injured thousands of Iraqis. Many people have lost arms or legs. These victims include children. Unaware of the danger, some played with mines or other weapons they found. In Basra, there are thousands of miles of land area still peppered with mines.
The difficult task of demining explosives was not the women’s only obstacle. Facing their community’s disapproval of women taking up such tasks is also difficult. Families worried.
Motives for being on the team vary. Some women are looking for job opportunities. Some want to help bring safety to the region. Still others took the mission as a personal challenge, Walid al-Fares says. He is CEO of AlBarq, the demining company.
Huda Khalid says learning about the mines was like learning a new language. She felt she should know how to deal with mines because she faces their danger in her everyday life.
“The main reason why I joined the team is a humanitarian one. The province of Basra has a lot of mines within vast areas of land. People have been deprived from living in these lands,” another team member, Hind Ali, says.
The work of removing mines is perilous. But it saves lives. People who do dangerous work to help others can remind us of Jesus giving up His life for His soul-saving work.
Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. — John 15:13