• 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 2]

Part 2 of 2.  Part 1 is here.

By Liz Lucas

Eventually Mohammed and his family had to leave.  The school they currently call home is a welcome relief from living in fear in Sirte.  They sleep in peace, without the sounds of bullets whizzing past or planes flying overhead.

“My children get crazy when they hear the airplanes,” he explained, referring to NATO.  “It’s horrible when you hear the explosions.”

But leaving the city was not easy.  He needed to get scarce fuel for the car, which cost 400 dinars  (about $325) for 20 liters in Sirte.  There were rumors that civilians would be harmed on the way out.  And with indiscriminate fire throughout the city, there was a risk that he and his family could be killed anywhere outside their home.  But he felt there was no choice, conditions had become “miserable.”

He continued, “In Sirte we don’t have petrol, we don’t have food.  We don’t have any necessary things for life.”

The lack of supplies is a big problem for civilians remaining in the city, as is the lack of information on what’s happening.  Houses are without electricity and most information heard is propaganda.  It’s difficult to make out what is real and what is not, to have all the information available to make an informed decision.  And many of the civilians left are those that are stuck without the means or connections to get out.  In Sirte civilians are unnecessarily bearing the brunt of the conflict.

“Let me tell you something.  We don’t have anything there.  [The rebels/NATO] could wait on us to leave.  We would come out, we would need food.  So why the bombing?”  he asks us.  When we asked if he feels it’s in retaliation for being Gaddafi’s hometown (and a loyalist stronghold) he answered, “Yes, of course.”

Mohammed considers himself not to be political and feels that many in the city were like him, just ordinary civilians.  He was surprised by how well he was treated by the rebels when he left the city.  They gave his family fuel and food.  His daughter was sick and was met by a doctor at the gate and taken to a clinic.

But he doesn’t yet trust them or anyone yet.  He worries about his family’s safety.  “I just want to live in peace.  I don’t care about politics,” he said.  But he cannot return until the fighting stops, until it is safe to go home.

“I want to go back to my city.  But I don’t think I’ll find a city when I return,” he said.

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

AFGHANISTAN: A family’s story, but who will listen

Posted By:  Erica G.

WASHINGTON, DC – I received an email recently from a friend in Afghanistan who helps develop local girls’ schools. She got a call from the family of a community elder who had assisted her in establishing a school for 200 girls in Taliban-heavy Logar province. The family said a week before Special Forces had raided their home and detained several of the men from their family. A week later they were still holding the community elder and the family did not know what they could do. The only reason they had been given was suspected Taliban involvement. No specific allegations were made to rebut, and they had no idea where their relative was being held, and whether he would be released. They were terrified, worried, and outraged. Some of their property had also been taken and they had no way to get it back.

It’s impossible to tell from the details whether the detention was valid or not – given the community leader’s involvement with the international community in building girls schools (not exactly the hallmark of Taliban) it seems unlikely that he was affiliated with the Taliban. But given the lack of transparency y over these actions, it’s impossible for the family or any international partners working with them to find out who was involved, or why they were targeted, much less whether it was justified. The odds of them receiving any compensation or redress for their losses, much less an apology for what happened if they are deemed innocent, are even slimmer.

We at CIVIC have seen examples of international military forces being more responsive to civilian losses in recent months – statements by Secretary Gates saying that we have to get better on this, and several incidents in November, January, and February, where we saw immediate recognition of civilian loss and attempts to provide payment or support to affected communities afterwards. But when complaints like this one come in, it makes me question whether the changes have been made at a PR level, and not at the deep, institutional level that they need to happen on.  After all the progress we’ve made in getting recognition to this issue, I still have nowhere to tell this family to go, and little hope that anyone will listen if the family tries to raise the issue.

Disabled children in Afghanistan

Posted By: Erica

I spoke to a woman from UNESCO yesterday working on inclusive education for children with disabilities. Thirty years of warfare have left a significant number of disabled children, most due to poor health care access during 30 years of war but an estimated 25% due to the direct consequences of conflict. For example, those injured from explosive remnants of war (ERWs), including cluster bomb duds or other unexploded ordnance, are frequently children who inadvertently pick up or hit the ERWs while collecting wood, water or other materials for their family.  Children who lose a leg or an arm, suffer deafness, or have other disabilities are usually not allowed to go to school, not allowed to learn a trade, nor given other development tools that would allow them to become normally functioning adults.

The woman I spoke to in UNESCO has been working for the past twenty years to persuade Afghan government entities and school authorities to allow some of these children to go to school.  It’s a sad legacy that sometimes the most effective redress for those injured in conflict would be a return to normalcy – something that these children’s injuries and the ongoing conflict do not allow.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.