• 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

Afghanistan’s war victims: Zalmay’s story

Trevor Keck is CIVIC’s field fellow, based in Kabul, Afghanistan.  He is assessing Afghan National Security Force preparedness to protect civilians after NATO and its allies withdraw.

Here’s the story of Zalmay, a boy living in a very small village on the border with Pakistan.  Assadullah – the boy’s uncle – told me his story at a local radio station in Jalalabad, where we met.

Just after international forces invaded Afghanistan in 2001, the Taliban came to Zalmay’s house while retreating back over the border into Pakistan. They killed Zalmay’s father and wounded his mother so badly she was permanently disabled.  Zalmay was only two years old.

Assadullah doesn’t know why the Taliban targeted Zalmay’s family. He wonders if  it might be that Zalmay’s father had been a senior military commander in the communist regime that preceded the Taliban.  When the Taliban came to power, Zalmay’s father no longer had a place in the military and turned to woodcutting to provide for his family.

Without a breadwinner, Assadullah began taking care of Zalmay, his mother, and his two sisters, which he has done for more than ten years.  Now a teenager, Assadullah is training Zalmay in his shop to work as a car mechanic.  Zalmay is now the only male in his immediate family, which means that he must work to support his mother and two sisters instead of going to school like a typical teenager.  His destiny is that of manual labor.

Taking care of Zalmay’s family as well as his own is a financial burden for Assadullah, who hopes that one day Zalmay will be able to open up his own shop and be self – sufficient.  Financial assistance from the Afghan government would be extremely helpful for both Assadullah’s and Zalmay’s families, which are entirely dependent on Assadullah to survive.

Assadullah also said he wanted the international community and the Afghan government to “make good on their promises.”  For Assadullah, that means peace, economic opportunities and good governance.  According to him, only the politically connected get help from the Afghan government; it doesn’t work for everyone.

“We are so tired of war…I am 35 years old and I haven’t seen a good day in my life,” Assadullah told me with a look of despair.

Voices from the Field: Who are Afghanistan’s War Victims?

Trevor Keck is CIVIC’s field fellow, based in Kabul, Afghanistan.  He is assessing Afghan National Security Force preparedness to protect civilians after NATO and its allies withdraw.

A few weeks ago, I wrote briefly about my trip to Jalalabad, a city in eastern Afghanistan, where I researched civilian casualties.  I spoke to numerous Afghan officials and more than a dozen civilians harmed by warring parties in Afghanistan.

The next posts are what I heard from some victims of the conflict in Afghanistan.  I’ll start today with Tahir’s story as told to me by his father.

Tahir and his family live in a very rural part of Nangarhar province, situated in eastern Afghanistan between Kabul and the Pakistani border.  Tahir is eleven years old and, until recently, loved going to school and playing cricket with his friends.

About two weeks before I spoke to him, Tahir set out to visit his father – a farmer – who was tending to his fields at the time.  He never made it there. On his way, Tahir stepped on a roadside bomb, presumably set by the Taliban or another armed group.  The blast knocked him out and even now, Tahir barely remembers what happened. After the explosion, local villagers who saw the incident rushed him to the hospital in Jalalabad, where I interviewed him.

When I met him, he was in a lot of pain and heavily medicated, suffering wounds on his right arm, his legs and his stomach.  Thankfully, the doctor at the hospital told me he was stable and the physical wounds would heal.  What kind of mental trauma Tahir will suffer remains to be seen.

Tahir was in a lot of pain so he didn’t talk much.  But his father told me that his son doesn’t like the hospital and “just wants to go home.”

PAKISTAN: Victims Continue to Struggle in Jalozai

“How much could a wheelchair cost?”  Rubina exclaimed.  “Seven hundred rupees?”  She took 500 rupees, about $7, from her wallet and turned back to Mahia’s tent to give it to her family.

Jalozai Refugee Camp

In 2008, while in her home in Bajaur Agency, shrapnel from tank or artillery shelling struck Mahia in the head, paralyzing her and leaving her unable to speak.  She now lives with her mother, two of more than 100,000 other displaced persons in the Jalozai refugee camp outside Peshawar, in northwest Pakistan.

I was lucky to have Rubina help me conduct interviews in the camp. A housewife from the nearby city of Nowshera, she spoke both Pashtu and English—and as a woman, she could conduct interviews that I could not.

Rubina was shocked by Mahia’s situation.  Without a wheelchair, Mahia’s family has to carry her to the public latrines down the road from their tent.  Outraged that the lack of a simple, inexpensive item could make such a difference in their lives, Rubina felt compelled to offer the family money in the hope that they could purchase a wheelchair.

There are no official figures for civilian casualties in Pakistan.  But in only one day, in one small section of a refugee camp, we came across 24 cases of civilians who had been injured or had lost family members as a result of the fierce fighting between the military and militants.  For many, their injuries or losses have made their lives in the camp even more difficult.

Sabir, a 14 year-old boy, worries about supporting his family without his father.  Last March, fighter jets shot his father when he defied a curfew to search for a way for his family to escape the violence. Sabir’s father made it back to their home, but lost his leg and died within several days from his wounds.  With his father gone and four siblings to look after, Sabir has a lot on his mind for a 14 year-old.  He says he is the only person who can support the family now.

A family tent at Jalozai

Iqbal, 30 years-old with four children, was taking cover from the fighting when his house was struck by a tank shell.  The walls collapsed around him, and he awoke to see one of his legs severed just below his knee.  He now wears a prosthetic thanks to the Red Cross, but finding work with his disability is very difficult, as is traversing the long dirt pathways of the camp.

Indications are that civilian casualties in Pakistan are significant.  In 2009, over 2,400 civilians were killed in terrorist attacks alone.  Counting losses from Pakistani military operations and U.S. drone strikes, civilian casualties in Pakistan likely far exceed those in Afghanistan.  Yet there is no systematic accounting of civilian casualties or assistance for those that are harmed.  Innocent victims like Mahia, Sabir, and Iqbal deserve and expect more.

GUEST BLOGGER: Fatal Trip to the Hairdressers in Kandahar City

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

At 3pm on July 22, 2006, Amanullah sent his ten-year old son to get a much-needed haircut. As usual, the father and son had been working since the morning selling ice-cream from their cart. This day, however, changed that routine forever. As his son reached the hairdressers, a suicide bomber exploded a car-full of explosives that were directed at a convoy of Canadian troops. Eight civilians, including Amanullah’s son, were killed.

Amanullah immediately ran over to help his son. A second suicide bomb then exploded and shrapnel became embedded in Amanullah’s feet, legs and arms. Since that day, Amanullah has found it almost impossible to support his family of six women and small children. He no longer has an assistant to help him with the ice-cream cart and his injuries make it difficult for him to undertake the hard physical labor required to make and sell ice-cream.

Amanullah lost his son to a suicide bomber targeting Canadian troops

Amanullah lost his son to a suicide bomber targeting Canadian troops

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GUEST BLOGGER: Killed for Failing to Stop his Car

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

Around 8am on February 27, 2007, Mohammad was driving to the Pakistan Embassy in Kandahar city to collect his visa. He traveled regularly to Pakistan to buy parts for his successful car business. On the road ahead, an ISAF armored vehicle had broken down. Mohammad failed to pull over, despite requests from ISAF soldiers that he should stop his car. The ISAF soldiers responded with lethal gunfire leaving Mohammad’s mother, wife and four small children without a son, husband, father, and provider.

Today, I interviewed Mohammad’s brother-in-law, Bilal, who has been supporting Mohammad’s family since February 2007. He told me how his sister had previously had a good life; her husband was a successful businessman and she had everything she needed. Now, Bilal told me, “if you take her two apples, she is excited. When she sees other families, with husbands and children happy together, she starts crying.
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GUEST BLOGGER: The Three Carpenters from Kandahar – Pt. 2

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

Read Part 1…

The carpenters paid for their hospital treatment by selling their cars and furniture and by relying heavily on the assistance of family members and friends. They now have debts that make it very difficult to survive. The men finally received some assistance when ACAP approached them in January 2007. ACAP agreed to provide them with funding for their carpentry business, tailoring training for their family members, stationary for their children and additional medical treatment.

I met these men on the day that they were collecting the ACAP assistance. I asked them what the aid meant to them. Mohammad summed up the sentiments felt by all the men: “We are hoping to make an income with the assistance we get. Nowadays, if you get a piece of bread from someone, you are happy. So this aid is very important. It will help to expand my supplies and to expand business. It will bring positive effects to my family. With this business, we can pay off the loans that we owe to people.”

GUEST BLOGGER: Grieving a Son in Kandahar – Part 2

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

Read Part 1…

Zalmai was a taxi driver and the main earner for his family. His income supported ten family members, including an older brother who was shot by the Russians and is paralyzed down the right side of his body. Now the family, which includes four children under the age of three, is finding it extremely difficult to survive. They receive wheat and vegetables from relatives and depend on their neighbors’ generosity.

Things began to look a little more optimistic for Ahmed when one of his relatives told him about the USAID-funded ACAP program. “Finally,” he told me, “I began to feel that there might be hope.” ACAP has agreed to buy the family a cow. “With the cow, we can manufacture milk, yogurt and we will sell this in the bazaar and get income.” As he told me this, a smile finally appeared on his face. Ahmed is still clearly grieving for his son, but now at least he can continue building a future for his family.