• 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.

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  • 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

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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.

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GUEST BLOG: Waking up in Afghanistan

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

Just as any other morning my driver was waiting for me outside. I got into the car hoping that my coffee-mug will ease the misery of an early Saturday morning pick-up. Our usual greeting routine was full of how are you and how was your weekend. “We had a lot of guest,” he said. I was still on the autopilot barely paying attention to the conversation. He continued, “it was a year since my brother died, I was busy with shopping and other things.”

My sleepiness was gone in no time. I didn’t know how to react. “He was so young.” I heard my pathetic “I am sorry to hear that.” He didn’t notice, “I still remember that day, sometimes I wake up crying. I see his blood on me.” We overtook a police car, and then got stuck at an intersection. “He went out to get some bread for the morning. And when he was outside a convoy passed by our street, and a suicide bomb exploded. I heard it and ran out to see what happened, but the police would not let me through.” The jam started to move, we made another swerve and accelerated. “I saw him lying on the ground and I yelled that is my brother let me through, that is my brother. So the police let me in. I picked him up and brought him to our car. I drove him to a hospital, but he died in my hands.” “He was badly damaged?” “Nothing in his body was hurt, but a piece of bomb was stuck behind his ear. Doctors said that that is why he died. Nothing else was seriously hurt.”

We drove sometime in silence. Tears started rolling out of my eyes. I saw him clenching onto the steering wheel. His face was frozen with pain seeping through. “He was two years younger than me. He was twenty-two.” “Did he marry?” “No.” He let out a deep sigh. “I am the only son left. I still think about him. I sometimes wonder why did he go to get bread?” He stared at the road; we were approaching another jam; he drove over the curb to jump traffic. “May be I should’ve gone to get the bread.” Now we were racing against other cars. “The people who were supposed to be killed were not hurt, but my brother… I still see him lying in my arms.” We arrived to the office. “Four o’clock?” he said. “Yes, today is four o’clock.” I signed the logbook, got out of the car, walked to my desk. I sat there staring at my coffee mug. I no longer needed it to be awake.