I have no regrets: the Azerbaijani women trained to clear mines
March 18, 2024

I have no regrets: the Azerbaijani women trained to clear mines

“My name is Aytan, and I am one of the first women deminers in Azerbaijan,” says Aytan Ismayilova, a young woman originally from the Gazakh Region in north-western Azerbaijan.

Aytan is one of 18 newly-trained women deminers who were accredited in November 2023 during a ceremony in Baku, attended by senior officials from the Mine Action Agency of the Republic of Azerbaijan (ANAMA), the European Union, UNDP, and other officials.

Thanks to theoretical and practical trainings conducted by international experts from the Mine Advisory Group (MAG) as part of a project funded by the EU, the first teams of women deminers acquired the knowledge, skills and required code of conduct to recognise, detect and mark mines and unexploded ordnance, and to provide first aid.

“In the mornings, I clean my boots while everyone gets themselves in order. I have never had regrets; I am stubborn, and I love to go all the way. It means I overcome every difficulty, because I love my job.”

Aytan is visibly proud of her work and the contribution she is providing to her country. 

“My family has always been in the army. I wanted to follow in their footsteps, my father, and my brother, and even my grandparents. I lost my uncle during the war, my cousin sustained injuries in a mine explosion in Lachin.  When I heard that ANAMA was hiring women deminers, I told my family that I wanted to apply. My father supported me, others disagreed, and my mother did not want me to become a deminer because of the incident with my cousin.”

Like Aytan, fellow graduate Samaya always had an interest in the military. Her brother is a soldier who fought in the war. “My family did not agree at first, but my father supported me in this decision. My mother was not used to seeing me in special clothes, now she accepts it easily. She is still a bit worried, they regularly contact me.”

“I started work with great enthusiasm. You must be cool-headed, I have no fear,” said Samaya, who before learning to be a deminer had worked as a geography teacher for six years.

Samaya had difficulties at first: with her fair skin, it was not easy for her to work under the sun, mainly in hot weather, but she got used to it: “I have always had white and sensitive skin, so I avoided the sun, but I got tanned here,” she jokes.

Today, Samaya is proud of being a part of this initiative, the first one in Azerbaijan. 

Aytan admits the training was hard: “I was excited but the work was hard. Thanks to the continuous trainings we receive, I feel more and more confident to do my job in the best way possible.” 

And how do her family feel now she has graduated in the job? “They know I always look for new things to challenge myself, new projects to do. They understood my choice and they support me.”

The two demining teams of 24 people, including 18 women deminers, were established within the framework of the “Supporting safe return of Internally Displaced People through capacity building of the Mine Action Agency of the Republic of Azerbaijan (ANAMA)” initiative funded by the EU and implemented by UNDP in partnership with ANAMA, the International Eurasian Press Fund (IEPF) and the MAG.


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