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Defusing the Past

Lebanon's civil war, which wracked the country from 1975 until 1990, and Hezbollah's war with Israel in 2006 have left the country with a deadly legacy of unexploded munitions, especially cluster bombs, and landmines. The Mines Advisory Group (MAG), a 'neutral and impartial humanitarian organisation working to provide a safe and secure future for communities affected by armed violence and conflict' works with local people to clear mines. Sean Sutton spent time with the women of Battle Area Clearance team 3 who work in South Lebanon. The team is a mixed gender team made up of five female and two male searchers, a trauma medic, a deputy team leader and the team leader. The searchers use specialist metal detectors to comb the land, metre by painstaking metre. Once land has been cleared it is returned to its original uses and made safe for agriculture and community development. For areas strewn with rubble and earth mounds, the team use an armoured vehicle which can sift through larger areas more quickly, making them safe and mine free. Cluster bombs and other small ordinance are destroyed on site, using explosive charges.

All the female staff working with MAG in Souther Lebanon are Shia Muslims. Southern Lebanon is dominated by Hezbollah, a Shia party-cum-militia which a number of countries have proscribed as a terrorist organisation. Lebanon once again finds itself on the fault line of the Middle East with Hezbollah actively supporting the regime of Bashar Assad in neighbouring Syria.

Sean Sutton was able to spend time with the female deminers - at home and in the field - showing their devotion to their work and their hopes for a more peaceful future.

Interviews with the women are available on request.
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