• 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

Images from the Syrian border

Photographer Nicole Tung accompanied a CIVIC team to the Lebanese border of Syria to speak with refugees in June 2012.  The following images and captions from Nicole are from that trip; CIVIC’s findings from these interviews, and others in Jordan, are here.

We’ll be posting more of Nicole’s photos and CIVIC interviews with civilians on Facebook and twitter–follow us for more!

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LIBYA: What happened in Zlitan? [Part I]

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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.

PAKISTAN: Internally Displaced in Northwest Pakistan

By Chris

Children playing in a field in Jalozai camp, surrounded by thousands of tent homes.

I’m in Jalozai camp in northwest Pakistan.  Built on a barren, dusty plain, it is a massive tent city with over 80,000 displaced persons.  Residents of Jalozi have little or no access to employment.  They are completely dependent on UN agencies and NGOs for food, water, and other essentials.

Plastic sheeting around ‘blocks’ of tents provide a minimal sense of privacy and security.  Firewood is scarce and though winter is approaching, UNHCR has been unable to offer heavier, winterized tents.  Many have been here for up to two years.

I met Ghulam Noor here, sitting on a metal bed frame in a dusty field, chatting with some friends.  He’s 22, but already married with a four month old baby.  He has been living in Jalozai for a year.

Last October, Ghulam Noor was in his village bazaar when a Pakistani helicopter gunship opened fire.  He was hit by shrapnel in the leg and head and is now paralyzed from the waist down with minimal movement in his arms and hands.  He says what he needs most is medical assistance.  His father and family pooled money to pay for initial treatment, but he requires additional care for paralysis and the shrapnel still lodged in his head.  Ghulam says he is depressed, can no longer work, and is completely dependent on the support of his family to survive.

For those like Ghulam who have to cope with a debilitating injury as a result of the conflict, life in Jalozai camp is especially difficult.  There are no facilities for the disabled and little or no assistance is offered to such persons or their families despite the unique challenges they face.  Talking to victims in Jalozai, a feeling of powerlessness and senselessness pervades their stories.  For Ghulam, all he wants to do is walk again and can’t understand why the helicopter that paralyzed him opened fire.  For others, all they want to do is return to their villages and rebuild.  But no one knows how or when they will be able to move forward with their lives.

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.

GUEST BLOGGER: “Next time, I will not vote for Karzai; I will vote for my donkey” – Pt. 1

Posted By: Rebecca W., Erica in Afghanistan

Goli’s hand is twisted and scarred. His leg and chest is also a knot of scars, threading across his skin. His uncle, Haji, still has his foot in a bandage – two years after the ISAF forces mistakenly bombed their village. And his left leg consists principally of bone and sinew, a mere shadow of the healthy leg that he once used to farm his land.

Goli's injured leg prevents him from earning a living as a farmer, as he once did.

Goli's injured leg.

Two years ago, ISAF forces bombed the village where Goli and Haji lived because the Taliban were nearby, crossing a road from one area to the next. The bombing began at 11pm. Haji described to me how he was sleeping in the courtyard of his house and “saw bright lights like lightning and a loud sound like a bomb.”

Continue reading

GUEST BLOGGER: Civilians Flee to Kandahar City After ISAF Aerial Bombing

Posted By: Rebecca W., Erica in Afghanistan

It was 2am when the aerial bombardment started. Ahmed described to me, in an interview in the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) office in Kandahar, how he and has family huddled together behind a wall. “We said that if we were going to die, we would die together.” The bombing by ISAF troops continued for two hours. Nine of Ahmed’s neighbors died and eleven civilians were injured, including three of Ahmed’s family members: his mother and his two brothers.

Ahmed

Ahmed

When the bombing finally ended, Ahmed grabbed his family members, found a bus and sent them to Kandahar city. He and his neighbors then tried to get the badly injured and dying to a hospital. In one of the houses, five family members were dead. The head of this household pulled his son from the rubble. His son was crying, saying “I’m cold, I’m so cold.” Ahmed found a blanket and put it over the boy, but he died not long afterwards.

The coalition troops had been told that the Taliban were hiding in Ahmed’s village. This is why the bombing had targeted near these civilian homes. But Ahmed told me that when the land troops came after the air strike, they found no Taliban and only civilians. The foreign troops therefore promised to compensate Ahmed and his neighbors. But they said that they would pay only for the dead and not for the livestock and land that had been lost. Continue reading

GUEST BLOGGER: Night Raids and Cultural Insensitivity Anger Kandahar Civilians

Posted By: Rebecca W., working with CIVIC’s Erica in Afghanistan

Mohddin is angry. His eyes glare at me while he speaks and he sits on the edge of his chair so that he can lean forward and emphasize his complaints. Unlike the majority of civilians who visit the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) office in Kandahar, he has not lost a close family member or had his property damaged. But he is angry about the life that he and his neighbors are being forced to endure. It is a life of insecurity and hardship – caught as they are between the Taliban and the international forces.

Mohddin came to the AIHRC office because he feels the situation is unjust. He was particularly frustrated with the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) – the international forces in Afghanistan. He told me he couldn’t understand why ISAF was hitting civilian targets. “They have sophisticated technology. Surely they can distinguish between the Taliban and the people,” he said, jabbing the air with his finger to emphasize his anger. “Now the people are beginning to think that the ISAF are deliberately targeting civilians. Their perception is that the ISAF forces are committing abuses and this is driving people more towards the anti-government forces.” Continue reading