Journalist and Minesweeper are in the same field
Take a wild guess what the most dangerous profession in Iraqi Kurdistan is. We’re not going to prolong the game and make it fun for you because these intros are supposed to be short--according to a report issued yesterday, the answer is journalist. It’s no secret the government’s into controlling their image as the safe, sensible region of Iraq; if ever there was proof why you shouldn't use Wikipedia as a source for your book report, it's the Iraqi Kurdistan page, where this description smells rotten as a dog fart: “It is the most stable and secure region of Iraq where not a single coalition soldier or foreigner has been killed, wounded or kidnapped since the 2003 invasion of Iraq.”
So it makes sense that those who're supposed to be talking about what's actually going on are getting beaten, killed, or simply disappear. Our our friend Karlos is a Basque journalist who’s been in Iraq and Afghanistan for the last four years. He just sent us this interview he did with someone doing what's got to be Kurdistan's second most dangerous job: minesweeping. We'll let Karlos take it from here...
The Kurdish central government estimates that there could be up to two million mines in the area. To cope with this situation, they've kept nearly six thousand fields open and undeveloped, the equivalent to an area of 700 square kilometers. Over the past 15 years, there have been more than 14,000 accidents, half of them resulting in fatalities, not to mention at least 18,000 animals. (It’s not that funny when you make your living from livestock.) For the last five years Haji Kuban has been treading very fucking carefully at work. But he’s not quitting yet.
Vice: This is crazy. Why do you do this?
Haji Kuban: I was born in a village five kilometers away from here. This is my land. If I don’t clean it up no one is going to do it for me.
Aren’t you afraid?
Every morning when I leave my house I know I may never return. However, it’s no good not to be afraid doing this work. Fear keeps you alert. Most accidents occur due to over-confidence.
What skills do you need to work as a minesweeper and still be alive five years later?
Some manual skill and a great deal of patience. A lot of patience. It’s important to carry out the defusing protocol right from the start to the very end, no matter how absurd it may sometimes seem.
Where do the mines you find over here come from?
In this area most of them are Italian, but we also find mines made in Iraq, and a Russian one every now and then. In all of Iraqi Kurdistan they’re French, German, American, Swedish--
Yeah. Some time ago a Swedish journalist came to do the same thing you’re doing and he couldn’t believe it. He said it was impossible, that his country had signed some kind of treaty. We had to show him a couple of them.
How many mines can you guys defuse in a day?
It depends on the field. In the most "contaminated" fields it could be up to a hundred in a single day. There are sites where the number of mines is so high that we have to dig up the entire field.
Is this a well-paid job?
Last April we called a strike because we were earning the same as a traffic policeman: $300 a month. Thanks to this, the Kurdish government came around and doubled our salary. Now there’s nothing to complain about.
Fringes: Stories from the Edge: Cowboy Capitalists
For maverick entrepreneur Ian Cox, Africa is the last frontier of free enterprise.
Has a South American Spring Come to Brazil?
The protests there don't show any sign of slowing down.
Molly Crabapple Sent Us Sketches from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s Pretrial Hearings at Gitmo
Drawings from the secretive and odd military commission trial of the alleged mastermind of 9/11.
Costa Rican Drug Addicts Are Killing Turtles and Conservationists for Crack
Jairo Mora Sandoval was found beaten to death with sand stuffed in his mouth.
Talking to Besiktas' Bulldozer Joyriding Fans About Their Role In the Turkish Uprising
Çarşı have united people from all different backgrounds to fight against Erdogan's government.