This morning I sat down to work on my next novel, a fantasy set during Mexican California’s Bear Flag Rebellion. Then a report from Human Rights Watch (HRW) jolted me out of my 1846 mindset. I landed in 2012.
Farewell funky flintlocks. Good-bye Mexican lancers. Hello Syrian landmines.
For months, Syria has sowed landmines along its borders with Turkey and Lebanon. No new news there. But now, according to HRW, civilian casualties have started. In February 2012, for example, a 15-year-old boy from Tal Kalakh in Syria lost his right leg to a landmine while trying to help a wounded friend reach the Lebanese border and medical help. The blast killed the previously-injured friend.
This incident was not isolated, according to information from the BBC’s Jonathan Head.
“Any use of antipersonnel landmines is unconscionable,” said Stephen Goose, Arms Division director at HRW . "There is absolutely no justification for the use of these indiscriminate weapons by any country, anywhere, for any purpose."
Antipersonnel mines are militarily ineffective weapons that mostly kill and injure civilians, HRW indicated. A total of 159 countries have joined the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, which comprehensively prohibits the use, production, trade, and stockpiling of antipersonnel mines. (That is, landmines which can be triggered by the weight of a child or an adult person.) The size and origin of Syria’s stockpile of landmines is not clear, but is thought to consist mostly of Russian-made weapons. Russia, like China, Syria and the USA, has not signed the international Mine Ban Treaty.
Speaking of Syria, the BBC reported the following United Nations (UN) claim: 230,000 Syrians fled their homes in the past year. Of those, 30,000 fled abroad while 200,000 remain displaced within Syria. The UN also claimed more than 8,000 people – many of them women and children – have been killed since the anti-government protests erupted.
That adds up to one heck of a lot of human tragedy.
According to BBC, Kofi Annan (the former UN chief who the UN and Arab League have appointed to find a peaceful solution to the crisis in Syria), had what he called a “useful meeting” with the opposition Syrian National Council (SNC). The SNC wants democracy established in Syria. Mr. Annan next plans to meet with Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad. Meanwhile, in the UN Security Council, Russia and China have blocked resolutions condemning the actions of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad against the people of Syria. Alas, diplomacy in complex situations takes time.
During that time, the unrest claims more lives. And because of landmines: more legs, arms and eyes.
The International Campaign to Ban Landmines, the United Nations, and others recently launched the “Lend your leg for a mine-free world” campaign. Campaigners — including U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon — are asking people around the world to join them in a demonstration against the use of landmines. The action is simple. Roll up one of your pant legs on April 4, 2012, the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action.
When people ask you what on earth you’re doing, tell them!
For more information, visit the Minds Clearing Land Mines blog which I moderate.
Laurel Anne Hill (Author of “Heroes Arise”)
Causes Laurel Hill Supports
Winter Nights Shelter and Shelter, Inc.