• 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

Iraqi Refugees in Jordan, Najla’s story

Posted By: Marla B.

There are an estimated 750,000 Iraqi refugees now residing in Jordan and another 1 to 1.5 million in Syria. In June, I traveled to Jordan to conduct interviews with families and to talk with them about their experiences. That task proved to be one of the most challenging of my time here at CIVIC.

On June 1, 2008, I visited a woman who I’ll call Najla*. Her son Samir* was the apple of her eye. She beamed as she told us how much he loved toys and school and what a lovely young boy he was.

Samir as baby

Samir as baby

In 2003 when the war began, they knew the bombing was coming and she and her son prepared. On the first day the bombing was very strong and most of the Iraqis from Baghdad left their homes to seek safety. She and her son stayed behind. She recalled that the sky was red from the bombing and resulting fires. No one in their neighborhood was killed in the first part of the war, but soon the violence would start and many would be lost. She told me that the war had been very difficult for them. Too, life under Saddam’s regime was hard but at least there was security. Now, she says, there are militias and they have taken their sons. “It is just easy to kill in Iraq.”

One night the milita came to their house. As her family (her, her son, her brother and his son) lay asleep on the ground, ten armed men broke a window and entered. They beat her and her brother threatening them not to make a sound or they would be killed. They beat Samir and threatened to kill Najla’s brother’s son. Samir told them he would do whatever they wanted as long as they didn’t harm his family. They demanded money and Samir gave all they had. As the gunmen were leaving… one of them said “kill them… we can’t leave them alive”. Another said “no, we’ve gotten what we want, just cut his ear”.

At first they lived in fear that the masked men would return. But after time passed they began to believe they had indeed escaped this threat. They had not. On the 6th of March 2006, as her son headed home from work, he turned onto the very street where he lived. Militia men came and murdered him in cold blood. Her neighbors told her that they were from the Medhi army, the same group suspected of the earlier break in on their house, she is sure of it. Najlaa wept now as she told me how much she missed her son and how he had been so brutally taken from her.

Samir as an adult

Samir as an adult


In the coming months we will be posting short videos with snippets of some of my conversations.

*In all cases the names will be changed and the faces obscured at the request of the subject.

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Marla B in Jordan: Where have all the doctors gone?

Posted By: Marla B.

We’ve just finished interviewing several doctors – from a psychiatrist to a head and neck trauma specialist to a dermatologist.  None of the doctors wanted to on video because they all were worried about the situation for their families back in Iraq and as a precaution if they decided to return one day.   But they each told us the same thing:  there are no medical specialists left in Iraq.

When militias started becoming prevalent in Iraq there were certain groups specifically targeted by their violence.  Professors, doctors, anyone who worked or cooperated with Americans and artists among them.  Many of these people, or those with the financial means, left Iraq early on for Jordan or other countries.  This ‘brain drain’ (dubbed as such by the Western media) wreaked havoc on the hospitals in particular, leaving them without proper capacity to treat the victims streaming in every day.

One of the doctors told us about his time working in one of Baghdad’s busiest hospitals.  Chief among the points he made was the lack of appropriate supplies – from the sophisticated equipment to something as rudimentary as the correct type of sutures for his patients.

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.

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.