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Tony Haser

Landmines Cambodia

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When photographer Tony Hauser met a group of children in Cambodia who had been affected by landmines, he knew he had to show them to the world.

"I was so amazed that these kids, they had such dignity, such pride," said Hauser. "When I arrived they were playing soccer with one leg and crutches and no hands and I thought, 'these kids are amazing. This is like my own kids only they have missing body parts' and I was really struck by that."

Hauser explained he wanted his show his pictures so both his own children and young people in the country would know what it means to live in a world where three people a day step on a landmine.

"I was being very naive, in a way," he said. "Of course the world knew about it, I probably knew about it, I just never paid any attention to it."

The University of Calgary hosted a photo exhibit by Hauser Nov. 5-9. The photo exhibit had been travelling around universities across Canada in commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the landmine ban treaty that was signed in Ottawa in 1997.

Then Government of Canada minister of external affairs Lloyd Axworthy invited world leaders to come to Ottawa to discuss, and hopefully ban the use of landmines. One hundred twenty-two countries signed the treating, excluding the U.S., Russia and China.

"They didn't sign on to the treaty so they are not being responsible in that respect to reducing the production and use of landmines," said Consortium for peace studies program director Kelly Dowdell. "It's still something that they use in the conflicts they are involved in."

Hauser noted that although there is no real estimate, experts say there are anywhere from 1-10 million landmines still in Cambodia alone.

"The dilemma with landmines is that if they were only supposed to protect an army of soldiers from the so-called enemy. That would be fine, but if they are not being dug out afterwards--and most of them are not--then they remain in the landscape for endless decades," said Hauser.

Hauser explained that regions from Africa to Eastern Europe have been influenced by the use of landmines.

"There are countries around the world that are affected by landmines, many of which were placed long before the people who are now affected by them are born," said Dowdell. "There isn't a continent that isn't touched by the landmines issue."

Hauser explained that he was talking to someone from the Canadian Landmines Association that said landmines would be removed by 2020, but noted he had talked to others who disagreed.

"It's going to take maybe 50 years, other people say maybe a 100 more years to just get rid of all the landmines that are being made, not to speak of what's being possibly produced and sold and traded now," he said. "It's not a perfect situation and therefore I think you cannot say this is going to be done in 15 years and so we don't have to worry about it so much, I think we have to worry about it a lot because people get injured all the time."

Dowdell explained the photos had an impact on her because of the subjects' similarity to ourselves.

"They are obviously shocking, that's part of the intent, they are very stark," said Dowdell. "Removing them from their environment and putting them in front of this big white sheet and photographing them alone obviously is a very powerful visual statement and then each of the photos is accompanied by a short description of each of the young people, there lives, how they were injured by landmines, how the effects of this decades long war affected their families and also it talks a bit about their dreams for the future."

Hauser noted his hope for the exhibit is that students will take the time and write a letter to their member of parliament to ask for landmines not to be forgotten.

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Comments

i have looked at these pitcures and they look realy shocking. i find it hard to look at them as i couldnt see or even feel how they are coping to day. many people see that we have it good compered to othier people in the world. at the moment as i am at scool i have been studing landmines and the changes they have on the community and the enviroment. i realy care and now belive how much landmines are a part of there life to day. and i realy could of never of emagend it knw until now.