Turkey's focus has once again turned to the government's earlier promise to clear the nearly 1 million land mines believed to be buried in the eastern regions of the country after a 14-year-old boy died on Friday as a result of anexplosion triggered when he stepped on a mine in the Yüksekova district of southeastern Hakkari province.
A recent study by İstanbul Aydın University Disaster Education, Application and Research Center (AFAM) suggests that there are more than 982,000 land mines buried in Turkey. A total of 975 people, including 128 children, have been killed in land mine explosions in the past 12 years.
Associate Professor Kubilay Kaptan, the director of AFAM, stated that Turkey has very little time remaining under the Ottawa Treaty to deal with buried mines.
Turkey is signatory to the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention, also known as the Ottawa Treaty, which was opened for signature on Dec. 4, 1997. Turkey has been a signatory since Sept. 25, 2004. The treaty obliges the parties that have signed it to destroy their mine stocks within four years and to clean up buried mines within 10 years. Although it has about a year left to meet this obligation, to date Turkey has not started any work in this regard, according to Kaptan. Highlighting that no mine action authority has so far been established in Turkey, Kaptan further added that the areas from which the terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) members have been withdrawing as part of a settlement process launched by the Turkish government to end Turkey's long-standing terrorism problem should be cleansed of mines. “Otherwise, the land mines buried in these areas may be very dangerous to locals who will go and picnic in these areas, or use them for animal husbandry or agricultural activities,” said Kaptan.
The land mine issue came back under the spotlight after a 14-year-old Muğdat Çavmak died on Friday as a result of an explosion triggered when he unwittingly stepped on a mine in the rural Yüksekova district while collecting mushrooms.
AFAM's study showed startling results. According to the study there are a total of 982,777 land mines in eastern Turkey of which 818,220 are anti-personnel mines and 164,497 are anti-vehicle mines.
Stating that a mine can stay active for 75 years after it has been buried, Kaptan highlighted the cost of clearing land mines, stating: “The price of a land mine is $3, but to destroy one costs nearly $1,000. Over 100 hours are needed to find and destroy a land mine as it is very difficult. Despite signing the Ottawa Treaty, Turkey is one of three countries that have not yet destroyed their stocks of mines. There are still over 2.6 million land mines in Turkey's stockpiles, while the number of mines buried underground is 982,777.”