• About CIVIC

    CIVIC is a Washington-based non-profit organization that believes the civilians injured and the families of those killed should be recognized and helped by the warring parties involved.

    On this blog, you will find stories from our travels around the world as we meet with civilians and military, aid organizations and government in our quest to get war victims the help they need.

  • Countries

  • Contributors

    Sarah, Executive Director

    Marla B, Managing Director

    Kristele, Field Director

    Liz, Chief Communications Officer

    Trevor, CIVIC's fellow based in Afghanistan

    Chris, CIVIC's fellow based in Pakistan

    Jon, CIVIC's US military consultant

  • Media Content

LIBYA: Life in and outside of Sirte [Part 1]

Part 1 of 2, Part 2 is here

By Liz Lucas

From inside the school in Al-Wachka comes the sound of children’s voices. At first it seems like a regular school, albeit one where the rules are relaxed. I can hear footsteps running down the hall and squeals as they play games. But for these kids, these are the hallways of their temporary home.

There are over fifty people living in the classrooms, ten families that traveled together in a convoy to escape the war that has engulfed their hometown of Sirte.

They’ve escaped bombings and shootings and found shelter 100 km away from their homes.  The children are distracted, but the adults are worried.  CIVIC spoke with Mohammed*, a 39 year-old petroleum engineer about what life is like for him and his family.

“We didn’t have a plan when we left.  We just drove,” he said.  “We had to go.  There were explosions everywhere, smoke everywhere, death everywhere.”

There is no water at the school where he, his wife, and their four children are staying and minimal support for the families here displaced by the fighting.  The families left in a hurry, taking almost nothing, waiting for the fighting to be over.

“We have brought so little.  We came in one city car that had my family.  We didn’t have time to choose what to bring.  Medicine.  Clothes.  Some photographs,” said Mohammed.

Mohammed saw the fighting firsthand; witnessing cars full of bodies driven out and civilians dying around him.  His uncle was killed after his house was hit.  Mohammed’s mother died of medical complications as the war raged on. The hospital had no supplies to treat her: “There’s no oxygen, no doctors, no medicine. There’s nothing in the hospital.”

There was firing throughout the city and he says a NATO bomb killed his neighbors, a family of 7, while they were driving out.  The bombing also destroyed three schools, which may or may not have been legitimate military targets.  The fighting in general has ruined the infrastructure of the city.  Houses are damaged and he saw four children and woman killed by a rocket and their house destroyed. The situation overall is “horrible.”

*Name has been changed to protect his identity.

Read Part 2 here

LIBYA: Voices from Misrata [Part 3]

Part 3 of 3, Part 1 is here, Part 2 is here

Soad, wife and mother

I was in the bedroom with my husband.  It was night and we were asleep when a rocket hit.  I was unconscious and when I awoke I was widowed.

I was hurt in my back and I don’t know what happened next.  People came to the house and they put me in an ambulance.  I have seven children living here and two of my children were also injured by pieces of the rocket, though not badly.  My house was damaged

The bedroom is fixed now, but my back is still badly hurt and I have scars.  Thanks to God I am still alive, but there is nothing that can bring back my husband. My husband has died.  I don’t know how we will survive.

My neighbors have helped us get by but we do not have any income.  I wish to receive some compensation, some means to live.

Mostly, I want to tell the NTC, tell NATO to please protect us.  Protect the people.  We have children.  All of us here are civilians.

LIBYA: Voices from Misrata, [Part 2]

Part 2 of 3, Part 1 is below

Khani, 41, truckdriver

Three families in this neighborhood lost family the day the rocket killed my son.  It was April 13.

I was walking past the checkpoint and they told me there had been a rocket by my house, that my son was dead.  I started running and I could see that something had happened near my home.

MISRATA, LIBYA, October 3, 2011

My son was only seventeen and he is dead.  He was with seven of his cousins, my nephews and they are dead.  The only one who survived is Khaled [his 15 year old son] and you can see he is injured still.

My son tried to run from the rocket.  They all did.  They were just kids standing in the street.  The rocket was launched from Tawarga from Gaddafi and they were just trying to destroy neighborhoods.   They didn’t care who they hit.

Khaled took cover by a car and he survived, thanks be to God.  At first we took him to Misrata hospital where there was little to treat him.  After Misrata was liberated during Ramadan I took him to Tunisia for medical care.  Friends and neighbors helped pay for his transport.  I was a truck driver before the siege but I have not been working since the war in Misrata.

I have two sons and three daughters and my wife is okay, thanks be to God.  We didn’t receive any assistance but at that time it is the war.  Casualties happen.  But my sons were not fighters.  I am not a fighter.  My family is civilian.

[go to part 3]

LIBYA: Voices from Misrata [Part 1]

Part 1 of 3

By Liz Lucas

Driving into Misrata, my colleague Kristele remarked that it reminded her of Beirut, where she spent much of her childhood.  The skeletons of shops, hotels, and apartments line Tripoli Street and old men drink tea next to bullet-ridden structures that can scarcely be called buildings.

Misrata looks like the city it is—a place torn apart by a war that is not yet over.  Many Misrati brigades are still fighting on the front line in Sirte and the community’s wounds are still raw.  But civilians were willing to talk to us about their experiences during the six-month siege on the city.

There is no tally of the dead and wounded of Misrata at this point, though estimates are in the thousands.  The hospital is located on Tripoli Street, at the heart of much of the fighting, so even accessing it proved to be a challenge for some families.  There was indiscriminate shelling of Misrata with rockets launched from far away and landing in the middle of neighborhoods.

In one area I visited, civilians told me stories about lost loved ones.  “Was this neighborhood particularly hard hit?” I asked.   No more than others they told me.  This was just an average neighborhood in Misrata.  Above are the stories of two families from there, in their own words.

[go to next post]

LIBYA: “Where are our Human Rights?” [Part II]

Part 2 of 2, Part 1 is below.

By Liz Lucas

“Where are the human rights?” asked Ali Ali Mustafah. He has filled one of the few remaining rooms in his house with photos of the dead, including children.

As I count the photos, a young man draws my attention to a smaller photo I missed.  It is his brother, killed in the strike—another civilian, he says. There are 28 photos on the wall of Ali’s house, though he says not everyone who was killed has their photo up yet.  The dead included one pregnant woman and many other women and children.

Many of the dead in Zlitan—women, children—were reportedly civilians.  But verifying who and what was hit is tricky business in locations that were virtually obliterated and when the dead are quickly buried according to Muslim tradition.  So far NATO has admitted very few casualties from its strikes in Libya.

In Zlitan the families of the dead mostly want to know why. Other than the removal of bodies the scene has been left virtually untouched, a memoriam. Cars are twisted heaps of metal.  Bits and pieces of the families’ lives can be seen through the rubble.  Still, there has been no investigation of the incident.  There has been no compensation or outreach to the injured.

While there is no damage estimate, survivors say that compensation would be appreciated particularly to help the injured. Mostly, however, they want answers on why they were targeted.

At CIVIC we believe that NATO should immediately investigate these instances.  Even if these houses prove to have been legitimate military targets, NATO should provide support to the families of any civilians found to be harmed.  While no one can bring back the families lost, material support, along with an explanation and apology, can be given to help survivors start again.

“Children, families, what crime did they commit?” asked Ali.  “Imagine this was your house and your family.”

LIBYA: What happened in Zlitan? [Part I]

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Photo slideshow by Liz Lucas.  Photos taken in Zlitan, Libya on October 2, 2011, show the damage to the buildings and memorials to those killed.

Part 1 of 2

By Liz Lucas

Amidst the rubble some items nudged out: A bassinette, a teapot, cracked frames and ripped photographs.  By my foot was a piece of cracked plastic and pages of Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea” fluttered by.  I was standing on what once was a family’s home.

In a country that has seen substantial devastation by the war, the house in Zlitan stood out for being virtually obliterated.  This wasn’t hit with an RPG, or machine gunned.  It had been flattened by NATO bombs in August, air support reserved for strategic Gaddafi military targets.  But there were clear indications that something had gone terribly wrong in this instance. A woman’s high-heeled shoe. Shards of cracked china. A wall splattered by blood.

People in the area told us there is no military target nearby and that Zlitan is composed primarily of civilians, despite the fierce fighting there this summer.  It’s a town divided by loyalties to the rebels and to Muammer Gaddafi’s regime, but its inhabitants are mostly civilians. People we spoke to stressed that they had the right to have their own opinions without being harmed, that they were civilians in a war.

“We want to know why,” said Ali Ali Mustafah Gamez, the owner of another destroyed house, who had family come to Zlitan to escape the war.  Ali lost thirteen members of his family to the rockets and wants answers from NATO.  “We get by with patience,” he added.

In total, three houses in the neighborhood were destroyed on August 8th and emotions run high when talking about the destruction and casualties, which locals put as around 35 people dead and 85 admitted to the hospital.  The wounded are receiving medical treatment in Tunisia.

Losses are especially great due to a second rocket hitting those who came to help.  Neighbors finishing Ramadan prayers came to see what the problem was.  Many more were killed in the second strike.

LIBYA: The remnants of war

By Liz Lucas

“Happy shooting” seems to be the new normal here.  It’s been over a month since Tripoli fell and from my hotel I can still hear the bullets that soldiers shoot into the air each night.  In other towns throughout the country it is the same.

The celebratory shooting is new to Libya.  “There really isn’t much of a history of this here in Libya,” said a woman in the town of Zintan.  “But now there are so many weapons, so much excitement, and many soldiers are bored.  It is a problem.”

It’s more than an annoyance.  Media reports indicate that others have been harmed by stray bullets from the victory shootings, some in their own backyard. Civilians have told us they are worried about the situation.  “Bullets that go up also come down,” one resident told me, a sentiment that has been repeated by many.

There are so many guns in Libya, many in the hands of people who had never handled a weapon before this year.  Office workers, students, construction workers are carrying AKs in the street.  Medical workers in different areas of the country have told our team about accidents—in one place there were nine injuries reported this week from accidental shootings.  A girl playing with a gun shot her father, a boy of twelve shot his thumb off, a man shot himself in the foot.  Stories like this are becoming too common.

But it looks like the military councils are beginning to listen.  In Tripoli, I heard they’ve started to charge a fee of 300 Libyan dinars to soldiers caught “happy shooting.”  Residents are also taking it into their own hands with groups lobbying for a safer city. In other areas, guns are turned into police stations and registration has begun.  These are huge steps, especially in a country that is still in the midst of war.

But even tonight, despite the outrage and laws, I am still being rocked to sleep by the sounds of bullets shooting the sky.

Read more about our work in Libya here: TELL ME MORE

Donate to support our work in Libya here: DONATE NOW

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.