Afghanistan: Movies Explain the Dangers of Landmines and Unexploded Ordnance

Afghanistan: One of the Most Heavily Mined Countries in the World

According to the Mine Action Coordination Center of Afghanistan (MACCA), approximately 40 people in Afghanistan are wounded by landmines or unexploded ordnance (UXOs) every month. To familiarize people with ways to protect themselves from landmines and UXOs, various forms of mine risk education are carried out by the Afghan staff of Association for Aid and Relief, Japan (AAR Japan). One such program we call our “Mobile Cinema”.

Spreading Knowledge through Movies

The Mobile Cinema shows a short movie focusing on the dangers of landmines and UXOs, as well as the forms of aid available to their victims. Since August 2005, we have presented our movie several times a year in approximately 100 villages, mainly in Kabul, Parwan, and Panjshir Povinces, reaching 380,000 people in schools, mosques, village meeting places, and other venues. As roughly half the victims of landmines in Afghanistan are children, children are the main target of these events.

Children intently watch a movie about landmines and UXOs. For many, this is their first time to see a movie.

Brochures used as teaching materials to supplement the movie. Illustrations and pictures make the content clear for children to understand. Information about landmines and UXOs is on the front and back, while children can use the inside as a notebook.

A Day with the Mobile Cinema Team

The Mobile Cinema team currently comprises 3 staff members from the Kabul Office. The following is a description of a typical day.

8:00 a.m.

Arrive at the Kabul Office. In Afghanistan, work usually starts at 8:00 in the morning and finishes at 4:00 in the afternoon.

8:20 a.m.

Load equipment and baggage and depart by car for the destination village. The team brings a portable power generator, a cinema projector, a bed sheet for a movie screen, black curtains, and other necessities. Not all villages have sufficient electricity or equipment to show the movie.

10:00 a.m.

March 28, 2012 – Arriving at the village. Children have already begun to gather, looking forward to the Mobile Theater presentation. (Bagram, Parwan Province)
Arrive at the village in Bagram, Parwan Province. The team is shown to the venue, where they set up their equipment. The movie begins.

10:10 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

Not just a place to learn the dangers of landmines, but a place to think about helping persons with disabilities

The team first shows a 20-minute-movie about support for landmine victims. The story centers around a boy named Qudrat, who stepped on a mine while playing outside and lost his both legs. Qudrat loved soccer, but after the accident he shut himself up in his house. However, thanks to the support of his family, friends and teachers, he improved over time, and he finally played an active part in a wheelchair basketball team.

The children in the village watch the movie intently. The message delivered is that even after a landmine accident, you can still study, play with your friends and enjoy sports—but this requires motivation on the part of the victim, as well as understanding and cooperation from the people surrounding him or her.

March 28, 2012 – After the movie, Ezatullah NASIRI, one of the staff members at AAR Japan’s Kabul Office, uses a poster to explain the dangers of landmines and UXOs. Mr. NASIRI has been teaching with the Mobile Theater for 7 years. (Bagram, Parwan Province)

After the movie, the team uses teaching materials such as brochures and posters to explain details regarding the shapes of landmines and UXOs, and to illustrate what children should do when they find them. There are various kinds of landmines and UXOs, and many children get injured by approaching them without realizing what they are.

When children find landmines and UXOs, they must not approach them, and should tell adults about them quickly. Just as importantly, if they find red stones on a path, it means that landmine clearance has not yet been performed beyond that point, and they must follow the path outlined in white stones.

During the presentation, the team poses various questions to the children to ensure that they understand the material. Afterwards, the children receive notebooks and brochures, and are asked to pass on what they have learned to any family and friends who were unable to attend the movie.

1:00 p.m.

Pack up and leave the village. Have a one-hour lunch before going back to the office.

2:30 p.m.

Arrive at the Kabul Office. Write a daily report and prepare for the next day. Finish work around 4:00 and go home.

A boy and his elder brother discuss their impressions of the movie

March 28, 2012 – We asked Mushtaq 12 years old (right), and his elder brother (center) about their impressions of the presentation. Mushtaq’s elder brother lost both his legs in a landmine accident. At right is M Sadeq ARIANFAR, Kabul Office staff. (Bagram, Parwan Province)

Mushtaq, 12 years old, came to the movie with his elder brother. His elder brother lost both his legs in a landmine accident. “I realized that I must not touch or approach landmines and UXOs,” Mushtaq told us. “If I find them, I will tell the police or adults immediately.”

Mushtaq’s elder brother told us, "I had Mushtaq watch the movie because I wanted him to learn that he must not go near dangerous places or dangerous things. This movie has great educational value, and I want not only children but all people to watch it."

Emphasizing Education for Women

In addition to the Mobile Cinema, AAR Japan’s Kabul Office is implementing educational efforts through self-produced radio programs and short television dramas. In some villages in Afghanistan, landmines are often still buried along paths used by women to get firewood or drinking water. In the future we plan to put more emphasis on mine risk education for women, and will increase the number of female staff in our Kabul Office, as we also hope that mothers will pass what they learn on to their children.

We will continue our mine risk education and aid for victims of landmines in all parts of Afghanistan.

This project was made possible thanks to a grant provided by Japan Platform in addition to generous individual donations.

AAR Japan Kabul Office: Bashir BASSER
Has been working at AAR Japan’s Kabul Office since August 2005. In charge of administration of the Mobile Theater and coordination with related organizations.