Landmines are the legacy of ISIS in Aleppo, with hundreds suffering the consequences.
Despite having been forced to flee their homes during ISIS rule, many Syrians refuse to let adversity at home get the better of them, and continue to hold out hope for a better future. This is true for Issa al-Issa, who has returned to his village in the northern countryside of Aleppo after being displaced for almost two years, knowing that the group continues to pose a threat despite liberation.
Issa told reporters that he was working in the area until he, his wife and five children were forced to flee due to ISIS rule. Upon return, the family were shocked to discover that mines had been planted in the area by ISIS in order to terrorise civilians even in the aftermath of the militant group’s defeat. This has been a tactic used by ISIS across the region when retreating from an area during battle.
According to Issa, thousands of mines have been found in the farmland thus far, as he has taken up the role of helping locals to de-mine units. One day, he was told that there was a mine near his home, and his efforts to remove it resulted in him losing both of his hands as it exploded before he could safely dismantle it.
Despite this handicap, Issa is determined to build a new life at home, where he has now opened a new store to help him provide for his family. After he returned from Turkey, where he was treated for six months for his injuries, locals helped him re-build his heavily damaged home. Issa now hopes that his awareness of what he went through can stop others in a similar situation from despairing, as he remains his family’s hero despite all that has happened to him.
Aleppo is not the only area in Syria where ISIS have been known to leave mines behind to target returning civilians. In Homs, Hama, and Deir ez-Zour, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported 74 deaths between February and April this year due to exploding mines.
In Raqqa, a special de-mining unit led by the Raqqa Civilian Council has also attempted to remove mines from homes and even toys that were planted by militants during their rule. At the start of 2018 when people returned to their homes after the defeat of ISIS in Raqqa, the group’s latent mines claimed several lives daily.