09 September 2012

Several landmine survivors took part in the inspirational London Paralympic Games in the last two weeks, proving alongside hundreds of fellow competitors that what the rest of the world might think is impossible is actually quite the opposite. All the survivors who took part were from heavily mine-infested countries: Afghanistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Turkey, where millions of people still live with the daily threat of landmines and other explosive remnants of war.

“Those fellow survivors at the Paralympic Games in London are the true heroes of our times,” said Firoz Alizada, Campaign Manager at the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) and a landmine survivor himself. “I know how hard they must have worked to overcome barriers on their long journey to London. I wish to see all landmine survivors across the world empowered and enjoying full human rights, such as being able to do sports like others. I also hope their nations are proud of them today and will do more to ensure all survivors and people with disabilities live in dignity,” he added. Meet the landmine survivors who competed in London: Bosnia and Herzegovina: Ermin JusufovicErmin is 31, a landmine survivor and Olympic gold medalist. On Saturday 8 September he and his 11 teammates - including other landmine survivors – beat the defending world and Paralympic champions Iran to win the gold medal in London. He last helped his country to gold at the 2004 Paralympics in Greece, and won silver in Beijing.He was injured and lost his leg at the age of four by a landmine close to his family house. A few years after the injury, Ermin - together with his twin brother - joined a local sitting volleyball club. He soon became one of the best players on the team. Another of the world’s most landmine-affected countries, Bosnia is home to nearly 8,000 survivors like Ermin. Almost one third of the small country’s population – around 1 million people – remain directly at risk from landmines or other explosive remnants of war, weapons which sadly continue to claim lives in Bosnia and Herzegovina on a regular basis. Just last month a six-year-old boy was killed and his father seriously injured by a landmine while gathering wood north of Sarajevo. Ermin has become an advocate for the rights of persons with disabilities in his country. When not training for his sport, he coaches young athletes with disabilities in the local sitting volleyball club and provides peer-to-peer support. Afghanistan: Mohammed Fahim RahimiFahim, 32, is a weightlifter. He lost his right leg in a landmine incident 18 years ago in Kabul. He spends half of every day working as a mini-cab driver and half of every day training, by powerlifting on his own, without a coach. In 2008, Fahim became the first Afghan Paralympian ever to compete in powerlifting at the Paralympics in Beijing, China. He still uses a basic artificial limb given to him by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Fahim comes from one of the most landmine-affected countries in the world, where there are nearly one million people living with disabilities, including some 60,000 survivors of landmines and other explosive remnants of war. The Afghan Landmine Survivors Organization (ALSO), ICBL member in Kabul, looks forward to welcoming Fahim upon his return home, and campaigning together against landmines and for rights of landmine survivors in Afghanistan. The Democratic Republic of the Congo: Dedeline Mibamba KimbataKimbata is 30. At the age of 18 she stepped on a landmine whilst crossing the border between her country and Angola. As a result, she lost her legs and had to stay in hospital for two years before being provided with prosthetic limbs by the Red Cross.“When I regained consciousness, I realized my legs had been blown off. I was in terrible pain. I thought my life was over,” she said in a recent interview with the Independent newspaper in London. Kimbata had played basketball as a teenager and in 2011 decided to take up sports again. In London Dedeline competed in the 100 metres –T54 race and the discus. Turkey: Mehmet Nesim ÖnerNesim is 17. He lost his arm, fingers and eyesight to a landmine when he was 10 years old. He is in London to compete in the men's 800 metres and 400 metres athletics. “I had no purpose before I started doing sports. I viewed myself as a completely useless [person] when the mine exploded. After I started doing sports, I always looked to the future,” he is quoted as saying in an interview with Hurriyet daily news.Nasim, along with other survivors, has established a landmine survivors network in Diyarbakir, a mine-infested region of Turkey, to improve the lives of more than 5,000 landmine survivors in the region. For the past several years, with the help of the Initiative for a Mine-Free Turkey, ICBL member, he has been advocating for rights and needs of landmine survivors in his country.