Syrien: Freiwillige Minenräumer riskieren jeden Tag ihr Leben
„Wir tragen T-Shirts“, sagt Colonel Adeeb Ateeq mit Anspielung auf die notdürftige Ausrüstung seines freiwilligen Minenräum-Teams. Die Vereinten Nationen schätzen, dass in Syrien bis zu 5 Millionen Menschen mit explosiven Kriegsresten in ihrer direkten Umgebung leben müssen. Nachdem es wegen der prekären Situation im Land so gut wie keine internationalen Minenräumprogramme gibt, nehmen viele Bewohner die Entminung selbst in die Hand (auf Englisch).
Reyhanli, Turkey - His team was wrapping up. They had finished for the day.
For hours, the volunteers had combed a strip of land near Idlib almost 25 metres long, in search of landmines. Proceeding centimetre by centimetre, they had removed 42 unexploded mines.
But Colonel Adeeb Ateeq, who defected from the Syrian army in 2012 amid concerns over heavy civilian casualties, knew from experience that there must be another mine in the area. As he contemplated where it might be, a sudden explosion threw him three metres through the air.
As he crashed to the ground on his back, Ateeq looked down. Where his left leg had been, he saw only blood.
"Anyone who moves may step on an unexploded device," Ateeq told Al Jazeera in an interview from his rented apartment in the Turkish border town of Reyhanli, where he has been living since the accident in August 2015. "Children, women, old people - many of them don't even know what a mine is. They don't see it until it explodes."
Ateeq is one of many victims of mine-clearing operations in Syria, where millions of people live with the daily risk of running into unexploded devices. Amid the country's precarious security situation, international organisations have been reluctant to launch large-scale clearance operations, leaving residents in some areas to take matters into their own hands.
Explosives planted in agricultural fields, next to roads, inside villages and around schools and hospitals can emerge years after the battle ends. The United Nations estimates that it will take decades to clear Syria of all unexploded devices.
According to recent estimates, more than five million Syrians live in areas that are heavily contaminated by unexploded devices, including more than two million children who are at risk of falling prey to explosive remnants of war, such as landmines, cluster munitions and other devices.