Living in Danger: Iraq’s cluster bomb legacy

Iraq is one of most the most heavily contaminated countries in the world as a result of cluster bomb strikes in the 1991 Gulf War and during the 2003 invasion. In 2013, the year of the 10th anniversary of the devastating cluster munition strikes, Iraq ratified the Convention on Cluster Munitions banning the use, stockpiling and transfer of the weapon and mandating assistance for victims. Following Iraq’s ratification, a majority of known cluster munition survivors now reside in States Parties to the Convention. These states are legally obliged to ensure that these victims are provided with adequate assistance, including those killed or injured as well as their families and affected communities

Through photographing and interviewing cluster munition survivors, affected community members, clearance experts, and mine risk awareness educators in northern Iraq, this exhibition highlights the devastating impact of cluster munition use. The photos also show how, with support, this terrible legacy is being overcome.

The exhibition is a powerful reminder of the urgency for ALL countries to join this life-saving treaty to end the global threat from cluster munitions.

The below photos are from an exhibition by photographer Sean Sutton, commissioned by the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC) in collaboration with Mines Advisory Group (MAG). The full gallery of photos from Iraq can be viewed on CMC Flickr.

Nomadic Sheep Herders Learn About The Dangers Of Cluster Munitions And Landmines 599X400
Baravan Sadiq Yassan, a community liaison officer, communicates safety messages to nomadic sheep herders. The area where the individuals are currently living has been made safe but shepherding is particularly dangerous as they often travel across large areas. © Sean Sutton/CMC/MAG


The Abdulhameed Family 599X400
The Abdulhameed family. Nine year-old Myasar and his eight year-old brother Abdulkarim were killed by an unexploded BLU97 submunition while shepherding sheep at 1pm on 28th February 2012. Their accompanying brother Issa (right) survived the accident but was hit by more than 50 fragments.

One quarter of cluster bomb casualties in Iraq are children. © Sean Sutton/CMC/MAG


Kurdish Semi Nomadic Sheep Herders Living In An Area That Was Contaminated With Cluster Munitions 599X398
Sise Mohammed Ibrahim (left) and Halwa Ramadan Ali are Kurdish semi-nomadic sheep herders living in an area that was contaminated with cluster munitions, but which has since been cleared by MAG. Cluster bomb remnants pose not only a risk to life and limb, but also render productive land useless, creating barriers to economic development. © Sean Sutton/CMC/MAG


A MAG Deminer Clearing Cluster Munitions 599X398
A MAG deminer places an explosive charge next to an unexploded BLU97 cluster munition. © Sean Sutton/CMC/MAG


A Lady Holds Up A New Born Lamb 599 X 400
A lady holds up a new-born lamb. Shepherds are at high risk from cluster munition remnants which often fail to explode on impact and leave a deadly legacy with the potential to kill and maim long after a conflict has ended.© Sean Sutton/CMC/MAG


Children Learn About The Dangers Of Cluster Munitions And Landmines 599X400
Children learn about the dangers of cluster munitions and landmines at Avrekshino village. This area was hit with cluster bomb strikes by US forces leaving a legacy of deadly contamination. These risk education lessons can help save children’s lives.© Sean Sutton/CMC/MAG


Picknicking 599X400
Picnicking is extremely popular in northern Iraq. During the weekend and holidays vast numbers of people head for the countryside. Unfortunately scores of people die every year during picnics in the region. MAG has carried out a lot of clearance of BLU63 submunitions close to this spot in Bamara.© Sean Sutton/CMC/MAG


Khaled Hussein Mohammed A Cluster Munition Survivor 599X897
Khaled Hussein Mohammed, a cluster munition survivor who lost both legs, one of his fingers, use of an eye and sustained other injuries when he detonated a cluster bomb remnant while farming in Dohuk, northern Iraq.

Two soldiers and two shepherds were also killed on the same land, as well as a boy who was killed picking up a cluster munition while collecting plants with his grandmother.

Khaled is now a successful businessman and is happily married with six kids. He also works the land where his accident happened as it has been cleared and made safe by MAG demining teams.© Sean Sutton/CMC/MAG


A Boy Runs Past Tents 599X897
 A boy runs past tents in Kawergosk Refugee Camp near Erbil in northern Iraq. More than 13,000 Syrian refugees are staying in this camp.

Refugees have fled attacks from government forces in Syria, including on-going cluster bomb strikes since July 2012.© Sean Sutton/CMC/MAG


Village Chief Shaman Baldo Mansor 599X897
Village chief Shaman Baldo Mansor. The Christian village of Avzrekshino had been destroyed and occupied by Arabs during the Anfal campaign. Later it was hit with US cluster bomb strikes.

"We constantly felt like we were living in danger. We knew there were bombs in the area” said Mansor. © Sean Sutton/CMC/MAG


A Child Plays In Kawergosh Refugee Camp 599X907
A child plays in Kawergosh refugee camp, which is one of the smaller camps with 13,000 inhabitants. Risk education lessons delivered at the camp are extremely important as children are particularly vulnerable to picking up or playing with unexploded cluster munitions due to their natural curiosity. © Sean Sutton/CMC/MAG