When a woman deminer talks…

Aytan Ismayilova: This is a glorious work, and I am proud to do it

March 4, 2024

“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 located in north-western part of Azerbaijan.

Aytan is one of the eighteen newly trained women deminers that were accredited in November 2023 during a ceremony in Baku with participation of high-level officials from ANAMA, the European Union (EU), UNDP, and other officials. Thanks to theoretical and practical trainings conducted by the international experts of the Mine Advisory Group (MAG), the first teams of women deminers acquired the foundational knowledge, skills and required code of conduct to recognize, detect and mark mines and unexploded ordnance, and to provide first aid.

“In the mornings, I clean my boots while everyone gets yourself 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.”

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

“My family has always been working 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 first heard that ANAMA was hiring women deminers, I told my family I wanted to apply for the job. My father supported me in this decision, others disagreed, and my mother did not want me to become a deminer because of the incident with my cousin. They thought I will quit it. When I was certified my mother shared that picture to express pride in me.”

Thus, being an ecologist, Aytan started her trainings to become a deminer, she always tended to join the military as her family members. 

“At the beginning it was very difficult. 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.” 

To the question about the relationship with her family now, Aytan replies: “They know I always look for new things to challenge myself, new projects to do. They understood my choice and they support me.”

Aytan has a parasailing experience, as well. She is the second in the group who discovered an anti-personnel mine. 

Aytan is aware of the importance of this initiative, the first one in Azerbaijan. “I am thankful for this opportunity”, she says, “this is a glorious work, and I am proud to do it.” 

The two demining teams of 24 people, including 18 women deminers, 2 healthcare workers, 2 team leaders and 2 deputy team leaders 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.

Jeyhun Alakbarov, UNDP Azerbaijan