My dad disarmed landmines with his bare hands


Written by: Abdullah Fakher Ibrahim, 19

My dad, Fakhir Berwari, was a true hero.

He worked in the Kurdish army as a ‘deminer’ – meaning that he spent his days manually disarming thousands of bombs against a backdrop of war and turmoil in our country. He started his unusual career during the Iraq War of 2003 to 2011, and was drawn back into it after the rise of the so-called ‘Islamic State’ (IS).

Landmines have been used in Iraq for decades. In fact, the British charity Mines Advisory Group (MAG), has called Iraq ‘one of the world’s most landmine-affected countries,’ after the weapons were widely used in the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, the first and second Gulf Wars, and the persecution of the Kurdish people under Saddam Hussein’s government.

Most recently, they were deployed to devastating effect by fleeing IS soldiers. They are a particularly brutal form of weaponry: filled with explosives and sometimes shrapnel, they have the power to wound, maim and kill anyone who comes into contact with them. They are generally activated by someone stepping on or even just coming near to them, though they can be detonated remotely.

In 2017, research suggested that there has been almost 40,000 casualties in Iraq from landmines and other deadly remnants of war – unexploded shells, grenades and bombs.

My dad joined the army in 1991 when he was 16 – before I, the eldest of his eight children, was born. Following in the footsteps of his dad and his elder brother, he enlisted with the Peshmerga forces, which protect the self-governing area of Iraqi Kurdistan, where our family are from. After his death, three years ago, he was given the title of ‘General’ in recognition of his bravery.

Life was tough for our people under the regime of Saddam Hussein, who persecuted the Kurdish people during his two decades in power. In 2006, an Iraqi court charged Saddam with committing genocide and killing at least 50,000 of our people in the late 1980s.

My family and I were happy when the Americans came to occupy Iraq in 2003 because it meant we would be free of Saddam. We just wanted peace after decades of bloodshed.

Read more about Abdullah’s father and the work that he has done in Iraq here.