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 Report date: 30.09.1998


By definition, weapons have never been a pleasant thing. They have been used for thousands of years to satisfy men's and countries' needs for power, and have created victims, the quantity of whom will never be known, and the quality of their sufferings can never be defined... Nevertheless technology, sometimes in the service of tremendous ambitions, has allowed the creation of weapons which kill the innocent people whose destinies have taken them to the very place where these weapons lie.

Like many countries having lived through the tragedy of a conflict, Azerbaijan has an unknown number of mines in its soil, planted in territories along and close to the front line. Farmers, constantly preoccupied with the success of the harvest and alimentary needs, can easily forget that the threat of a forgotten explosive could be concealed in the corner of a cultivable field. Children, in the exuberance of their games, sometimes venture into distant and unknown areas where the unexpected, pitiless and ignoble drama happens...

One of the priorities of the ICRC in Azerbaijan has been to foresee the danger, to ensure that as many as possible of those living in the districts close to the front line know that mines can always be found in unexpected places and can decide a child's fate.

Launched in October 1996, the program entitled "Mine Awareness Program" (MAP) has already showed its ability! In one year, more than 500,000 people have been warned by posters displayed in villages and IDP settlements, and through leaflets given to farmers during the distribution of seeds for the agricultural rehabilitation program.

Since last autumn the program has been bringing more specific information and knowledge to the community. In this respect, schools constitute a favorite means of spreading information. Thus, in a year, seminars have been organized in 298 schools among more than 6,450 teachers, who make the pupils aware of the existence, danger and functioning of mines. The aim is to train the teachers to teach about the danger of mines. This teaching makes the pupils conscious of the risk they run by playing on unknown fields... In turn, they will inform their parents of the danger...

This way, the whole community will be aware of mines." underlined Johan Sohlberg, Mine Awareness Delegate in Baku.

To illustrate the reality of mines, pedagogical aids have been created. More than 90,000 copybooks, with a cover illustration designed to draw the childrens attention to the danger of mines, have been distributed to the pupils. More than 30,000 posters, based on stories containing the mine awareness message, which the teachers recount to the children, are displayed in all the classrooms of schools close to the front line. Upon the request of a school a special design combining the Mine Awareness message and a timetable has been created and will be used during the school year. Moreover, wooden models have been made to illustrate how mines and unexploded ordnance look.

Raising awareness of the danger of mines is a long and difficult process, which constantly preoccupies the ICRC. Thanks to the Mine Awareness Program, nowadays many people respect the basic rules and avoid accidents. Nevertheless, the children of IDPs studying in the schools scattered all over the country still have to be warned. One day they may go back to their district of origin. To make them aware of the danger of mines is a challenge that the ICRC has set itself for the current school year.



In the past two weeks delegates have distributed 80 tones of wheat flour, spaghetti, sugar, salt and yeast to displaced persons in Kosovo. More than 8,000 blankets, 23,000 candles and other essential items have also been provided to ease the desperate plight of the thousands of people driven from their homes by the fighting in the Yugoslav province.

In addition, the ICRC has furnished 232 tones of food and non-food relief since 1 October to the Montenegrin branch of the Yugoslav Red Cross for nearly 50,000 Kosovars registered as displaced in Montenegro.

The Yugoslav Red Cross has received similar support from the ICRC for some 10,000 particularly needy people, and vehicles donated by the Italian Red Cross will soon be delivered to the National Society.

One of the most pressing challenges for the ICRC is to provide the displaced with emergency assistance as the rigour of winter begin to make themselves felt. In the coming weeks, basic items including warm clothes, boots and cooking stoves will be delivered to displaced people wherever they are to help them survive the frequently harsh winter conditions.



Twenty-six Iranian prisoners released in Kandahar by the Taliban were repatriated on 17 and 18 October. After ICRC delegates had interviewed them in private in order to ascertain that they wished to return to Iran, they

Were flown to Tehran aboard two aircraft, one made available by the ICRC and the other by the United Nations. The Iranians' release resulted from direct negotiations between United Nations special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi and the supreme leader of the Taliban, Mullah Omar.

An ICRC plane had taken ten other Iranians, also held in Kandahar, back to Tehran on 12 October. Their release had been ordered by Mullah Omar to mark a visit to Afghanistan by a Palestinian delegation.

On 11 October the mortal remains of three Iranian diplomats were flown by ICRC aircraft from Mazar-i-Sharif to Mashad in Iran. The three men had been killed when Mazar-i-Sharif fell to the Taliban last August.

These transfers, all of who were carried out at the request of the parties, began on 11 September with the repatriation of the bodies of several Iranian diplomats and a journalist from Mazar-i-Sharif to Tehran. The operations bear witness to the confidence placed in the ICRC by the various parties concerned.

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