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The female de-miners of Nagorno-Karabakh
Svetlana, one of HALO's female de-miners at Marzili. [Eva Clifford/Al Jazeera]
By Eva Clifford
7 Mar 2018
Perched on the ridges of a valley in Berdzor (Lachin), we sit in the sparse living area of a three-storey base camp.
Here, Narine Asatryan tells me that finding a landmine is a feeling like no other. She is one of The HALO Trust’s de-miners, and has found two anti-personnel mines so far.
For her, working as a de-miner offers a chance to make a positive effect in her community. 
Amid heavy snow, the electricity is out across the entire region, and heat is provided by a gas stove in the centre of the room. Beneath the house, a steep hillside descends into the wintry valley below.
One of the toughest parts of the job is working in such extreme weather, says Inga Avanesyan, another HALO de-miner.
Today, the team has had to stand down because the snow prevents them from working. But the snow is nothing compared with the other challenges they face. 
The inhabitants of Nagorno-Karabakh have suffered from the dangerous legacy of war for over two decades.
The Nagorno-Karabakh War (1988-1994) took place between the former Soviet republics of Armenia and Azerbaijan, over the landlocked mountainous region.
Today, landmines and unexploded ordnance continue to contaminate the land, putting lives at risk and crippling the region’s economy. 
Dedicated to clearing landmines across the world, The HALO Trust has been operating in Nagorno- Karabakh since 2000.
In 2015, HALO employed its first, female de-mining team; there are now 11 women, with more undergoing training this year.
Defying traditional gender roles, they are able to provide for their families as well as making a tangible difference in their communities.
A map showing Marzili minefield during a safety briefing. [Eva Clifford/Al Jazeera]
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Alvina, one of HALO's female de-miners at Marzili. [Eva Clifford/Al Jazeera]
Alvina searches for PMN-2 mines at Marzili. These anti-personnel mines were used heavily during the Nagorno-Karabakh War (1988-1994). Manufactured in the Soviet Union, these small circular devices can be triggered by any form of pressure. Originally designed to disable an adult, a PMN-2 can kill a child. [Eva Clifford/Al Jazeera]
Anti-aircraft cables hang between the mountains in the Lachin region of Nagorno-Karabakh. Despite the ceasefire of 1994, tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan remain high over the contested region. [Eva Clifford/Al Jazeera]
Lucine's uncle was killed by an OZM-72 mine. These mines are activated by a tripwire; in the case of Lucine's uncle, it was triggered by someone else. Lucine first found out about HALO because a relative of hers was working with them. She's now been a de-miner since 2017. [Eva Clifford/Al Jazeera]
The hardest part of the job, says Varditer, is being away from her kids. From Monday to Friday she is based at the minefield, but dedicates the whole weekend to her kids, who are aged 16 and 9. [Eva Clifford/Al Jazeera]
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Inga is one of The HALO Trust’s female de-miners. Here, she is pictured at the base near the Karegah minefield in Berdzor (Lachin). [Eva Clifford/Al Jazeera]
Narine is one of the female de-miners working in the Lachin region. She has seven kids and as she lives nearby, she is able to return home each night after working in the field.
Each de-mining team typically contains two paramedics, just in case an accident occurs. [Eva Clifford/Al Jazeera]
Christine, a female de-miner at the Aghavnatun minefield. [Eva Clifford/Al Jazeera]
Military positions once lined the tops of these hills during the Nagorno-Karabakh War (1988-1994). When the residents of a nearby village noticed a landmine they alerted The HALO Trust, who dispatched a team to survey and clear the area. The village, being just 1.2km away, means children regularly come to play here. The team carries out a full excavation so that they can ensure the land is mine-free before handing it back to the local community. [Eva Clifford/Al Jazeera]
Each de-miner clears on average 10-11sq metres a day. Here, red posts mark the boundary between cleared and un-cleared land. [Eva Clifford/Al Jazeera]
Looking across the valley from the Aghavnatun minefield. [Eva Clifford/Al Jazeera]
A HALO de-mining team at the Aghavnatun minefield. Once they have finished their work here, the land can be used safely again for multiple purposes - from grazing livestock to being a place where local kids can play and wander without fear. [Eva Clifford/Al Jazeera]
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