Preventing further family tragedies in Martuni

For Luda Sarkissian, her husband's death bore a terribly irony. 

Before a landmines killed him, he used to say: even though the war is over, it isn't over because of the mines and ammunition left behind.

Amirbar and Luda had been married for 18 years before he stepped on a landmines in 2001. He had crossed a disused irrigation canal in order to reach the plot of land the family cultivated to supplement their low salaries from teaching at the local school. he didn't see the PMN-2 Anti-Personnel mine in his path. He died alone, bleeding from his injuries and was only discovered later in the day when his wife and friends came out looking for him. Luda was left alone with two daughters and a son to provide for. 

The Martuni region had seen heavy fighting in the 1992 conflict, as both Armenian and Azeri forces fought for access to the interior and capital, Stepanakert. Dozens of PMN-2 Anti-Personnel mines were laid by Armenian soldiers along the canal to protect their position located a few hundred metres away on higher ground. The mines continued to stop the community using the canal to irrigate the land long after the 1994 ceasefire. There were three further human casualties during the 1990s prior to Amirbar's death in 2001. 

HALO began clearance of three hectares in the area in 2004, but clearance was slow and arduous. Manual deminers began clearing the area surrounding the canal, while armoured excavators (pictured above) cleared the canal itself. This was because some of the mines had sunk even deeper due to the canal being swamped with annual floods. The wet climate caused further delays, with clearance having to be suspended up to seven months a year due to rain. 

In September 2010 the total cleared area was handed over to three farmers who will expand their wheat fields up to the canal. These farmers and many others in the surrounding area will also benefit from being able to use the canal to irrigate their crops for the first time in 16 years. And Luda Sarkissian knows that when her son ventures out to tend the family plot he does not have to fear the same fate as his father. 

Luda with a photo of her late husband Amirbar.