Afghan cluster bombs victim speaks out
Soraj Habib, pictured at the Canberra Islamic Centre yesterday. Photo: STUART WALMSLEY
09 May, 2011 08:30 AM
After a family picnic in his province of Herat in Afghanistan Soraj Habib, then 10, saw something that looked like a yellow can.
He picked it up and the cluster bomb exploded, injuring four people and killing his cousin.
Mr Habib suffered terrible injuries; his legs were obliterated and a large piece of metal lodged in his stomach.
Doctors at the public hospital believed he was dead.
''They put me in a cold place, like a refrigerator, with my cousin,'' Mr Habib, now 19, said through a translator in Canberra yesterday.
An uncle who came to examine the two boys discovered Mr Habib's skin was still warm, and he was hastily taken to surgery.
After four months and several operations Mr Habib was discharged from hospital. But he cannot forget what was taken from him.
''It means all my wishes die also,'' he said. ''It means everything die at that time.''
An analysis by Human Rights Watch and international lobby group Cluster Munition Coalition estimates that between 2001 and 2002, 1228 cluster munitions were dropped in Afghanistan, resulting in 248,056 submunitions (so-called ''bomblets'') being scattered across the country.
Australia signed the international Convention on Cluster Munitions on December 3, 2008, the day it was opened for signature.
But since then it has come under increasing scrutiny, with anti-cluster bomb campaigners accusing the Government of actively undermining efforts to eradicate the weapons to protect its relationship with the United States.
ANU law lecturer and Australian Lawyers for Human Rights board member Matthew Zagor pointed out that under international law it was not enough to simply sign a treaty; it must be ratified by each country.
The Cluster Munition Prohibition Bill, which will allow Australia to ratify the treaty, is designed to do just that.
But the Bill, which passed the House of Representatives in November and is due to come before the Senate soon, has dismayed the Cluster Munition Coalition, which brought Mr Habib on a speaking tour of Australia.