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Anti-personnel landmines : Interview with a Chechen mine victim (2)

23-07-2001

 Transcript of a video interview with a mine victim  

 Mine Awareness Officer:  What is your name, where areRTWRWERT WE you from? And tell us about the accident. What were you doing at the time?  

Khalid: My name is Khalid Khantuev. I am from the Staropromislovsky region of Grozny, in Chechnya. I was at home, it was quite late and everybody was asleep. There was no doctor to give an injection, to ease the pain ... At that time I was 14 years old.

 MAO:  And what were you doing  ?  

Khalid: I was dismantling an explosive cartridge, a boy gave it to me when I was herding cows in the field.

 MAO:  Did you know the boy? Was he a friend of yours?  

Khalid: Yes, I knew him. I brought the cartridge home and wanted to cut it. I made an incision and then went on picking at it and then it exploded.

 MAO:  What did you want to do with it?  

Khalid: I just cut the casing and moved a small ball which was inside the cartridge and it exploded ... and then there was just pain.

 MAO:  Khalid, did anybody tell you about that sort of thing, or teach you how to do     it? Had you seen anyone else doing this?  

Khalid: No, I hadn’t seen anyone do it and nobody taught me. I would never have done it if I'd heard about this kind of accident.

 MAO:  What made you do it? Curiosity? Did you want to see what     it was     made of  ?  

Khalid: Yes. I wanted to see what it was made of, its properties. I just wanted to see inside the cartridge. And I had the daft idea of putting explosives into a cigarette and then giving the cigarette to somebody. Just a stupid idea.

 MAO:  But you got to hospital in time?  

Khalid: Yes, we did. It wasn’t far. But it was after one o'clock in the morning by the time I got first aid. I lost a lot of blood on the way to the hospital.

 MAO:  What did you think about when you got to hospital? What were your feelings, your thoughts  ?  

Khalid: I was praying to Allah. I thought I would die and never see the world again. And I thought about the trouble I was causing my family.

 MAO:  Is your family large  ?  

Khalid: There are six of us: three brothers and three sisters.

 MAO:  Are you the youngest in your family  ?  

Khalid: I am the third.

 MAO:  What was your parents' reaction, how did they take it, how did they find out about the accident  ?  

Khalid: Everybody in our house was asleep and the loud explosion woke them up. My elder brother was In the same room. The explosion injured him as well. Before the explosion, when he asked me what I was doing, I said " Nothing special. " I concealed the cartridge from him. I told him I was about to read the Koran. I lied to him.

 MAO:  Did you know it wasn’t a good idea to dismantle a cartridge?  

Khalid: Of course I knew. It wasn't a good idea and moreover I knew that ... how can I put it ... I felt in my heart that it would explode, I felt the danger.

 MAO:  You couldn’t stop yourself or you didn't think about the     consequences?  

Khalid: I couldn’t stop myself really. I remember I dropped it once but I picked it up again and continued. Then came the explosion ... like a grenade ...

 MAO:  Was it a problem for your family to look after you? How long did you stay in hospital  ?  

Khalid: I had to stay in hospital for 22 days and my family had to spend a lot of money on medicines. The treatment was a big problem. I gave my parents a lot of trouble. They didn't want me to stay in the hospital for such a long time.

 MAO:  Where did you have the prosthetic appliance fitted  ?  

Khalid: In Grozny.

 MAO:  And when was   that?  

Khalid: 1997.

 MAO:  Do you remember the date of the accident?  

Khalid: Yes, it was 8 October 1996.

 MAO:  When was it possible to have the prosthetic appliance fixed  ?  How long did it take for the wound to heal  ?  

Khalid: I think it was 27 March 1997 – at the beginning of spring.

 MAO:  Six months later?  

Khalid: Yes, six months later.

 MAO:  Do you ever feel any pain  ?  

Khalid: No bad pain, just a bit. Besides the arm I had some other wounds on my body, [ pointing ] here and here. And the big problem now is that I am always missing that hand. It’s a big problem for my parents too. They’ll always have to look after me.

 MAO:  Is it difficult for you? How do you manage  ?  

Khalid: I try to do the things I can do with one hand, but it’s very difficult when there’s something to do that needs two hands. Of course, there are lots of things where you need both hands and I can't do them. It's very difficult to pick things up, move things, get dressed and so on.

 MAO:  In which way is it difficult – physically or mentally  ?  

Khalid: Mentally. It’s very difficult.

 MAO:  What would you say to children or teenagers if you saw them touching cartridges, playing with them? What you would advise them  ?  

Khalid: Oh Allah, I would tell them not to touch it and never to try to take them apart or do anything like that. Cross my heart! It brings nothing but trouble. Trouble for their parents and for themselves. Trouble that lasts forever. You can lose your hand, eye, leg, anything. So I would tell them ... don't touch it, stop it. Never pick up that sort of thing. The soldiers leave them knowing we will pick them up. They drop the cartridges with the express purpose of killing us. And the Russians talk about it, they know that children will take them. They do it so we will lose our hands, legs and so on. It’s pointless, all these shells, bullets and weapons. Children should obey their parents. It is more useful to work, to read, to get knowledge ... but not this sort of knowledge. [ Starts to cry ] . It was my own fault that I got into all this trouble.

 MAO:  Khalid, where would people find the most unexploded ammunition and so forth? You know there are a lot of children in the part of Chechnya where you used to live.  

Khalid: Of course I know.

 MAO:  Tell us where they are  .  

Khalid: Near the Hkankala in the fields, there are six fields and they are full of mines. I saw four men killed when they went to cut the grass. And we children and teenagers didn’t do as we were told, even though the adults showed us the flesh of those men. They could only gather up three kilos of flesh after they were blown up by the mine. But we didn't obey, we didn't take any notice. We said we were going to look for weapons, but not to cut the grass. And that day we collected a lot of weapons, shells, cartridges and so on.

My father took away the nose detonator from a shell that I'd brought home and the accident happened that night. My father told me he would punish me if I exploded as much as a percussion cap. I promised him I would never do such things. And when my mother took away the cartridge, I lied to her, saying it was an empty, safe cartridge, it would do no harm ...

Only fifteen minutes later, I started to dismantle the cartridge and I was injured. I did not obey my parents. But now I know it was pointless. It brings nothing good, only grief to a whole family, to parents.

As it is said in the Koran: " And parents will be responsible for the sins of their children for their deeds, in the next world."  

What I would like to say is, learn useful things, reading, sports and so on. Forget about shells, cartridges and weapons. You’ve got to think about the consequences, about what will happen. Forget about weapons.