Clearing landmines from Azerbaijan, trauma expert insights part 2

Expert Panels | Republic Underground, Timberwolf-Phoenix LLC 

April 24, 2021 

On April 23, Republic Underground, Timberwolf-Phoenix LLC hosted a roundtable of esteemed experts to discuss the dangers and complex humanitarian issues of the landmines left behind in Karabakh after the most recent episode of the conflict resulted in Azerbaijan liberating territories captured in the late 80s-early 90s.

Tsukerman followed up the opening speaker’s comments after Benjamin Minick spoke. See Minick’s comments, and those statements made by the previous speakers, at the link below.

After Minick spoke, Tsukerman turned the floor over to Azerbaijani trauma expert Ilkana Goja.

“Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak on this subject which is actually very painful. I am Ilkana and I come from Aghdam, from the Nagorno-Karabakh. I have been working for international organizations since after the first war on many different projects. At the moment, I live in the Netherlands, and I have been providing online sessions from a distance to the war victims of the second Karabakh war.

Get also the full transcript of a survivor’s landmine testimony translated here into English. 

Karabakh survivor statement, landmines panel

Ilkana Goja, trauma expert opening remarks 

Goja then explained her personal experience with the subject of landmine destruction.

“Unfortunately, my family member was a victim of the first Karabakh war in a mine explosion. My uncle’s best friend was exploded right before his eyes in a landmine blast. So, he has been dealing already for the last 20 years with complex PTSD. As it’s not a known subject in Azerbaijan, he didn’t get good treatment,” said Goja, and then went on to explain the impact that landmine death or injury has not only on the victim but also their loved ones.

“What I see at the moment with the veterans I am treating is that it’s not only having an impact on their current life but also on their family life,” said Goja.

She noted that there is not yet enough help in Azerbaijan to address the full scope of the need.

“There is also not much awareness about the danger of the mines. As far as I remember, when we were moving one of the IDP camps in beginnings of the 2000s, to one of the settlements in the Fizuli region, it was a lot of work for us to raise awareness of the mines, and despite that work, there were explosions and there were a couple of families who were victims of the mines,” said Goja.

Begin watching after 30 minute mark for Goja’s statements


“Therefore, I find it very difficult at the moment, from a distance, to help with that awareness. However, I think more awareness should come about the PTSD symptoms in Azerbaijan but also related to the mines. Because people would really like to go and see the houses with their families because they have been wanting to for 27 years. I know, for myself, if I was there I would probably want to go. However, I am aware of the fact of how dangerous it is. For my side of it, I just use my energy to create awareness of the danger of the mine but also the complex problems it would create.”

Goja noted that one of the greatest challenges of survivors is the fact that they have to deal with a new reality without necessarily possessing new tools for it. She stated that from the survivor who loses the limb, to the loved one who witnesses the explosion, PTSD among survivors of landmines must be taken more seriously to advance progress.

Goja had further remarks for the Q&A segment. Stay tuned for more updates on this major event.