• 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

  • Advertisements

GUEST BLOGGER: “Are you able to understand my pain?”

Posted By: Ana, working on human rights issues in Afghanistan

“Are you able to understand my pain?”

I hid my eyes for a second, and then looked up at the woman I was talking to. I think she is in her fifties; her face burned by the sun, full of wrinkles; her eyes were searching every corner of my soul. “I am not a mother, and I would never understand the pain of losing two sons.” She gave me another penetrating look: “Can a person on a horse understand what it means to walk on foot? Who really cares what happened to my life?” She came to visit a program one of my colleagues is running. But I hijacked her attention because I was curious about the life in Kabul during the wars.

She lost several people to so called “collateral damage” during the time of factional violence in Kabul. The entire city was divided. To go to work, or get supplies the people had to sneak around like thieves from house to house, from an alley to an alley. She says that sometimes it looked like a rain of bullets falling from the sky, and nothing could stop it. One morning two of her four sons went out to fetch some flour for the house. Noon came and went, the evening came, the sons never came back. On a random day her brother was passing by a checkpoint when a rocket landed there. Another night of fighting another rocket hit near by their compound. Shrapnel took her son-in-law while he was reading along with two little girls from their compound.

The family decided to flee, leaving everything behind. They stayed in Pakistan for ten years. The children had a chance to go to school while she and her husband worked. They’ve built a house. Then the Transitional Government called all the Afghans to comeback; they were promised their houses, their livelihoods, and their homeland back. She is living in Kabul now, but she says Pakistan was better. They never got what they were promised – no jobs, no place to live, and no chances to educate their children. Her husband passed away a year ago, but they are hanging on. Her two other sons are working.

I catch myself irritated, thinking, “what’s the big deal, everyone in this country lost a family member, at least she has two other sons to help her.” And then mentally slap myself: “how dare me to think this?” She looked at me as if reading my thoughts; pondered for a moment; then said: “Are you able to understand my pain?” I wished I could do something other than listen.

Advertisements

Marla B in Jordan: Stories from a country away…

Posted By: Marla B.

Every day we interview Iraqis now living here in Jordan, so many of whom escaped violence back in Iraq or came here looking for medical care. All were ready to just leave the violence behind them.

Yesterday I heard a story that is of particular interest to CIVIC’s work. I sat with Saad (name changed here), his wife and their four children here in their small apartment. They took turns excitedly telling us of the house they had built with their own hands just outside of Baghdad. It was a new suburb so they worked with their neighbors to pay for and build a water pipeline to their homes. One day a US military patrol drove by and severely damaged the pipe. The patrol stopped. Saad was upset and explained that the pipeline was the only way they had to get water and that the families had built it with their own money. The soldier offered an apology and handed Saad a document saying he could file a claim for compensation at a nearby military base. Saad told me he understood and appreciated the apology from the soldier, but when I asked him what happened when he filed the claim, he said he never did. To him and his neighbors… filling a claim wasn’t worth putting his family in danger by visiting the military base.

Several months later, militia members killed his neighbors in an unrelated incident and threatened Saad and his family. They were forced to flee to Jordan where they now sit and wait.

Q and A: America and the Cluster Ban Treaty

Over half the world’s governments agreed last week to a ban on cluster munitions. But not the United States. Our government not only skipped the deliberations, but continues to defend its policy of keeping and using these deadly weapons.

Why won’t America join the movement to ban cluster munitions? Our executive director Sarah Holewinski sat down with a premier expert to find out.Sarah Holewinski Marc Garlasco is senior military analyst at Human Rights Watch and a board member of CIVIC. He was instrumental in getting the ban passed and was there at its signing.

Sarah: The US says it can’t support the Convention on Cluster Munitions because its military then couldn’t help countries devastated by tsunamis and earthquakes. Is this true?

Marc Garlasco of Human Rights WatchMarc: This is circular reasoning at its best. First of all, what humanitarian operation uses cluster munitions? The real issue is US ships have cluster munitions on them, and the US was worried their allies who did sign the Convention could no longer work with it because of that. But this is a non-issue. No humanitarian or peacekeeping operation has ever been barred because of weapons.

Take the landmine ban treaty, for example. The US didn’t sign that and yet has worked together with allies like the UK (who did sign it) for years. What’s more, this new Convention allows for those kinds of partnerships, whether cluster munitions are on ships or planes, so this is a non-issue.

Sarah: But the US says it needs cluster munitions to defend the country. Do we really need them?

Marc: We haven’t used them since 2003, so let’s just say they’re obviously not indispensable when fighting a war. There are plenty of other weapons that can defend the country and not indiscriminately kill and maim civilians, who represent the vast majority of victims.

Sarah: The US says it won’t “unilaterally get rid of” clusters.

Marc: The Cluster Munitions Conventions is nowhere near a unilateral effort. There are 111 countries who have agreed to destroy their stockpiles and not use these horrible weapons again, including key NATO allies like the UK, Germany, France, and Canada. If they can do it, so can the United States.

Sarah: So, as a nation, we’re really behind the 8-ball here, aren’t we?

Marc: Couldn’t have said it better myself.

To learn more about the impact of cluster munitions on civilian populations, and to take action on this issue, click here.

VIDEO BLOG: Marla B in Jordan, Day 1

Posted By: Marla B.

CIVIC’s associate director Marla Bertagnolli talks briefly from Jordan about the stories of Iraqi war victims who have fled to the country as refugees.