• 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

LIBYA: Voices from Misrata [Part 3]

Part 3 of 3, Part 1 is here, Part 2 is here

Soad, wife and mother

I was in the bedroom with my husband.  It was night and we were asleep when a rocket hit.  I was unconscious and when I awoke I was widowed.

I was hurt in my back and I don’t know what happened next.  People came to the house and they put me in an ambulance.  I have seven children living here and two of my children were also injured by pieces of the rocket, though not badly.  My house was damaged

The bedroom is fixed now, but my back is still badly hurt and I have scars.  Thanks to God I am still alive, but there is nothing that can bring back my husband. My husband has died.  I don’t know how we will survive.

My neighbors have helped us get by but we do not have any income.  I wish to receive some compensation, some means to live.

Mostly, I want to tell the NTC, tell NATO to please protect us.  Protect the people.  We have children.  All of us here are civilians.

LIBYA: Voices from Misrata, [Part 2]

Part 2 of 3, Part 1 is below

Khani, 41, truckdriver

Three families in this neighborhood lost family the day the rocket killed my son.  It was April 13.

I was walking past the checkpoint and they told me there had been a rocket by my house, that my son was dead.  I started running and I could see that something had happened near my home.

MISRATA, LIBYA, October 3, 2011

My son was only seventeen and he is dead.  He was with seven of his cousins, my nephews and they are dead.  The only one who survived is Khaled [his 15 year old son] and you can see he is injured still.

My son tried to run from the rocket.  They all did.  They were just kids standing in the street.  The rocket was launched from Tawarga from Gaddafi and they were just trying to destroy neighborhoods.   They didn’t care who they hit.

Khaled took cover by a car and he survived, thanks be to God.  At first we took him to Misrata hospital where there was little to treat him.  After Misrata was liberated during Ramadan I took him to Tunisia for medical care.  Friends and neighbors helped pay for his transport.  I was a truck driver before the siege but I have not been working since the war in Misrata.

I have two sons and three daughters and my wife is okay, thanks be to God.  We didn’t receive any assistance but at that time it is the war.  Casualties happen.  But my sons were not fighters.  I am not a fighter.  My family is civilian.

[go to part 3]

PAKISTAN: CIVIC Fellow Headed to Pakistan

Posted by Chris, CIVIC Fellow

Hi everyone!  I’m excited to be joining CIVIC and begin working in Pakistan.  After some last minute visa drama, I will be leaving soon for Islamabad.  I’ll be writing here about our work in Pakistan throughout the coming months, but let me begin by introducing myself and explain my interest in CIVIC’s work.  LINK TO CHRIS’ BIO

Though I am new to Pakistan, I have worked extensively on human rights and the laws of war in many different parts of the world.  I worked with the United Nations in Jordan to assist Iraqi refugees, with Human Rights Watch on the negotiation of the Convention on Cluster Munitions and, in Gaza, with a Palestinian human rights NGO.

In Gaza, I witnessed the impact of armed conflict on civilians first-hand.  Israeli strikes were an almost daily occurrence and though civilians may not have been targeted, large, modern bombs and ordinance exacted a heavy toll in the dense city blocks and refugee camps.  During the Hamas takeover of the territory, the entire city became a battlefield.   Every civilian was trapped in their home and many were caught in the cross fire as gunmen fought building to building.

Throughout my work, I’ve seen how the greatest burden of conflict is often borne by innocent civilians.  Death, injury, destruction of homes and property, and the loss of livelihood and loved ones are so common in war zones and yet the suffering is difficult to communicate or convey to others a world away.  As a lawyer, I have deep respect for the potential of international law to protect civilians in conflict, however I also recognize that current law says little about those deemed ‘collateral damage’ and even less about how to help those that have been harmed.

This is why I’m so passionate about CIVIC’s work and excited about the opportunities to get help to war survivors in Pakistan.  Conflict there has increased markedly the past couple years, especially in the northwest of the country.  Caught in the middle, many civilians have been harmed or their property destroyed, while millions have fled to escape the fighting.

It will be challenging, but there is a lot of progress to be made.  I’m looking forward to getting started.  In my next posting I’ll explain a bit more about the current situation in Pakistan and what we hope to accomplish.  Until then…

SRI LANKA: ‘This is too much to take. Why is the world not helping?’

Originally printed in The Guardian

May 12, 2009

VIDEO BY THE ORGANIZATION WAR WITHOUT WITNESS:  Click here

Yesterday a shell was reported to have hit a temporary hospital in the so-called no-fire zone in north-east Sri Lanka, killing 47 people. Vany Kumar, 25, works at the temporary medical facility in Mullaivaikal East primary school, which is caught between government troops and the last remnants of the Tamil Tigers (LTTE). Here, in a telephone interview with the Guardian, she describes life on the front line.

This is really a disaster. I don’t know really how to explain it. At the moment, it is like hell.

Most of the time we live in the shelter. There is not enough medical equipment, so it is really difficult to treat people. Food is a problem as well. There is no food at all here, there are no vegetables and no rice, they just eat whatever they can find, that’s all. The hospital is located in a primary school so there is only one room. We just try our best to achieve what we can.

I was in the office working [when the shell hit]. It was definitely a shell, there is no doubt about that. I was about 20 metres away, and I was sure that it landed inside the hospital, so I went to the shelter. I got the news from the doctors that there were people injured and dead. There was constant shelling so I couldn’t leave the shelter.

For us, shell bombing is just a normal thing now. It is like an everyday routine. We have reached a point where it’s like death is not a problem at all. No one has any feeling here now, it’s like everyone says, “Whatever happens, it happens.” That’s it, that’s the mentality every single person has here.

The most terrible thing that I have seen was when a mother had a bullet go through her breast and she was dead and the baby was still on the other side of the breast and the baby was drinking her milk, and that really affected me. I was at that place where it happened.

There is just too much to take. Children have lost parents, parents have lost children, it’s just a common thing now.

[The shelling] is definitely coming from the government side, that can be sure, because it is only a small area on the LTTE side and from the sound and from the distance I can surely say it is from the government side.

I don’t care about the government, I don’t care about the LTTE, my concern is the civilians because through all these problems they are the people affected.

The government or the LTTE, they have got to do something, and if not, I can’t imagine what will happen next. Both parties have got to have a ceasefire. I think the international [community] has to either come into the country or get both parties to stop the fighting and start thinking about the civilians living here. Every single person living here asks why the international [community] is not doing anything.

I really want to come to the UK but I don’t know. I’m talking to you now, but maybe tomorrow I’ll be dead.

AFGHANISTAN: Who compensates those the Taliban hurts?

Posted by:  Erica G.

One of the most difficult challenges we faced this year in our Afghanistan work was how to get compensation to victims of Taliban or insurgent abuses. They are not only responsible for a greater proportion of civilian deaths (55% in 2009, according to the UN), but often because of insurgent tactics that have knowingly placed civilians at risk, including using them as human shields.

A UNAMA official based in a remote and heavily Taliban-controlled province called me a few days ago with a recent case he had been dealing with: insurgents had apprehended a man named Mustapha and whipped him with a cable in his genital region until all that was left was a bloody pulp. Although the circumstances of why he was targeted were not entirely clear, one factor influencing the severity of the punishment was that insurgents felt he was not entirely supporting their cause, raising issues of a war crime violation. The UNAMA official felt so stricken with the pain Mustapha was in (he could not even afford pain medication) that he gave him all the cash he had on hand. He called to ask me if there were not some government program or way to get compensation for this man?

In my next blog posting, I’ll discuss more broadly what help might be available for victims of insurgents…