Remnants of a war. Part I
The war never ended for the Lebanese Cluster Bomb Removal Team. They tirelessly hunt for the hundreds of thousands of unexploded cluster munitions that rained down in the 2006 war.
“They planted death in Lebanon. We’re cleaning this death and we’re not afraid of it”. In a tranquil, sun-drenched orange grove in South Lebanon, a determined group of men and women painstakingly search for bombs. Even after months clearing one village inch by inch, a young boy found a bomblet in his garden and was killed. “I saw the boy earlier, playing”, says one of the team with tears in his eyes, “you start to ask yourself, ‘what if we had worked faster.’”
“I won’t let them search the same territory,” says the Team Leader, reflecting upon the death that morning, “emotions can lead people to make mistakes.” Nearly 30 per cent of the poorly-made cluster munitions failed to detonate during the war, so any mistake could be fatal. For Neamat, a pretty young woman, “this job is like an adventure.” Yet many question why a woman would do such work. “Don’t think you’re pretty,” sings one man to a female de-miner as they distract themselves from work, “your clothes are all smelly.”
For most, this is the only work they can find: “we’ve been saving to get married for three years,” laugh Mariam and Ali. Yet before the war, they had a thriving aluminium business. And there’s a greater incentive at work here than money alone. “When I find one, I feel like I saved a person, a child,” says one man, beaming. It’s this spirit of solidarity that unites the team.
“The Lebanese people are one. We have many religions but our name is Lebanon.” Muslims and Christians, Sunni and Shiaa, women and men: all work together in tranquil fields, shady orchards and ruined villages, telling jokes, laughing about the likeliness of their own deaths and putting a brave face on an incredibly unstable situation. Many, like Neamat, hope to do this work permanently, but once the work is over, the future is uncertain. “I don’t know what I’ll do when it’s over…if I’m still alive,” laughs one woman, before rejoining her team. As the sun sets, they carry on searching in the twilight.
Produced and directed by Jawad Metni