“Thank you, now we are playing safely.” Nana Sarasyan, aged 6, Myurishen village.
The village of Myurishen in Nagorno Karabakh, is free of all known mined areas. Following the first ever crowdfunding campaign to clear a minefield, 228 individual donations and the generous match funding of an anonymous donor, clearance was completed in September and the now safe, 1.8-acre site was handed back to the mayor, Borik Mejlumyan.
For the Merjumian family and others who live in Myurishen and the neighbouring village of Vazgenashen, the impact of the clearance is life changing. Mine clearance opened up a previously unsafe route between the two settlements, benefitting over 500 people. The land is a fundamental source of survival and income for the people of Karabakh; Mikhail Merjumian lost his leg on an anti-personnel mine 22 years ago, but every day sees him take his crutches and donkey and head off to the steep hillside above his home to cut firewood. The newly cleared area is accessible to vehicles and is an excellent place for collecting wood. It will also open up fresh grazing and foraging areas for local families.
“When you’re clearing mines, I know you’re not clearing it just for people like me but for the whole community. It’s a powerful mission that you’re carrying out here, and it means safety for my kids, for their kids, for all of Karabakh.” Mikhail Merjumian
Making the land safe for the people of Myurishen means they can live a life without fear. There have been at least 5 people in the village injured by landmines since 1995. Mikhail and Zabella Merjumian love to have their two granddaughters, Ani, 10, and Ana, 8, to come and stay in the summer months but of course they always had to warn them to stay away from the minefield. Now, like the children from the local school, they are able to play with freedom and in safety.
As the major of Myurishen explains: “The people of Myurishen are hardworking and independent and can support themselves – all we need to improve our lives is peace and security.”
Thanks to your generous support for the Myurishen crowdfunding campaign, The HALO Trust and its staff of locally recruited deminers have been able to prevent future landmine related casualties and release the village from the conflict of the early 1990s. However, there remains work to be done to secure 'Safe Steps' for the people of Karabakh. Please visit the village of Harar, our new crowdfunding site, to find out how you can make the next step towards a mine free Nagorno Karabakh.