• 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: 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.

Advertisements

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]

LIBYA: Voices from Misrata [Part 1]

Part 1 of 3

By Liz Lucas

Driving into Misrata, my colleague Kristele remarked that it reminded her of Beirut, where she spent much of her childhood.  The skeletons of shops, hotels, and apartments line Tripoli Street and old men drink tea next to bullet-ridden structures that can scarcely be called buildings.

Misrata looks like the city it is—a place torn apart by a war that is not yet over.  Many Misrati brigades are still fighting on the front line in Sirte and the community’s wounds are still raw.  But civilians were willing to talk to us about their experiences during the six-month siege on the city.

There is no tally of the dead and wounded of Misrata at this point, though estimates are in the thousands.  The hospital is located on Tripoli Street, at the heart of much of the fighting, so even accessing it proved to be a challenge for some families.  There was indiscriminate shelling of Misrata with rockets launched from far away and landing in the middle of neighborhoods.

In one area I visited, civilians told me stories about lost loved ones.  “Was this neighborhood particularly hard hit?” I asked.   No more than others they told me.  This was just an average neighborhood in Misrata.  Above are the stories of two families from there, in their own words.

[go to next post]

LIBYA: “Where are our Human Rights?” [Part II]

Part 2 of 2, Part 1 is below.

By Liz Lucas

“Where are the human rights?” asked Ali Ali Mustafah. He has filled one of the few remaining rooms in his house with photos of the dead, including children.

As I count the photos, a young man draws my attention to a smaller photo I missed.  It is his brother, killed in the strike—another civilian, he says. There are 28 photos on the wall of Ali’s house, though he says not everyone who was killed has their photo up yet.  The dead included one pregnant woman and many other women and children.

Many of the dead in Zlitan—women, children—were reportedly civilians.  But verifying who and what was hit is tricky business in locations that were virtually obliterated and when the dead are quickly buried according to Muslim tradition.  So far NATO has admitted very few casualties from its strikes in Libya.

In Zlitan the families of the dead mostly want to know why. Other than the removal of bodies the scene has been left virtually untouched, a memoriam. Cars are twisted heaps of metal.  Bits and pieces of the families’ lives can be seen through the rubble.  Still, there has been no investigation of the incident.  There has been no compensation or outreach to the injured.

While there is no damage estimate, survivors say that compensation would be appreciated particularly to help the injured. Mostly, however, they want answers on why they were targeted.

At CIVIC we believe that NATO should immediately investigate these instances.  Even if these houses prove to have been legitimate military targets, NATO should provide support to the families of any civilians found to be harmed.  While no one can bring back the families lost, material support, along with an explanation and apology, can be given to help survivors start again.

“Children, families, what crime did they commit?” asked Ali.  “Imagine this was your house and your family.”

LIBYA: What happened in Zlitan? [Part I]

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

AFGHANISTAN: Civilians caught in the middle

By Kristele Younes

When civilians die in war, the public is understandably outraged. In Afghanistan, in the past few months, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) has come under heavy criticism from President Karzai for a series of incidents that have cost innocent lives. Fueled by the President’s statements, public anger is mounting, which ISAF will be the first to admit is not helpful to the international mission in Afghanistan. Furthermore, the Taliban continue to indiscriminately kill scores of civilians, violating international laws and basic humanity.

War is perhaps never more tragic than when it takes the lives of the most innocent. All incidents of civilian casualties should appeal to our global consciousness. Indeed, even if some harm might be unavoidable because of the very nature of modern warfare, a lot can be done to prevent these tragedies and mitigate the pain caused to victims, their families, and their communities.

ISAF has publicly declared its commitment to minimizing civilian harm in Afghanistan in many statements issued by the highest levels of its chain of command. Indeed, protecting civilians in Afghanistan is not only a moral imperative, but a strategic one for coalition forces. But is enough being done?

In the past year, ISAF has strengthened its system to track each incidence of civilian casualties countrywide, and every incident is investigated either by the field unit or by a special team. This is a welcome step on several levels. First, it shows that ISAF recognizes the importance of keeping track of civilian harm. Second, it could enable the troops to understand what went wrong and prevent future harm. Third, it can help international forces make amends to those hurt by recognizing what civilian losses exist and where they are. But for this system to be truly effective, more needs to be done. Indeed, ISAF needs to be better at reaching out to different actors to gather increased situational awareness and, most importantly, troop-contributing nations must all adopt a uniformed way to compensate those they harm.

For all the system’s flaws, credit must be given to ISAF for its efforts, and statistics show that in the past year, the number of casualties caused by international troops has consistently gone down.  In the period of much talked about transition, though, it is essential that the international community and especially the Afghan government start paying much closer attention to the harm caused (or which could potentially be caused) by Afghan forces. The Afghan army lacks the basic mechanisms to record and investigate civilian harm, let alone compensate for it. ISAF must make it a top priority to help Afghans create trainings and programs parallel to its own. President Karzai must also move away from the war of rhetoric by acknowledging that Afghans have a responsibility in protecting their own civilians, and by ensuring that his armed forces make minimizing harm a top priority.

As for the anti-government forces, which according to the UN were responsible in May 2011 for over 80% of all civilian casualties, they have to wonder if their disregard for civilian harm is the best strategy in seeking national reconciliation and power-sharing. Certainly, Afghans deserve their suffering—and safety—to be a priority for whoever will end up governing them.

AFGHANISTAN: New UN Report: More Than 1,000 Civilians Killed in 2009 (The Huffington Post)

Posted by Erica G from Kabul

The UN issued its mid-year review on civilian deaths this morning. More than 1000 Afghan civilians have been killed so far this year — 24% more than in the first part of 2008. Two key take-aways from the report:

1) Numbers of those killed by insurgent attacks are way up (59% of casualties). It’s not just the number of those killed; the overall number of IEDs and suicide attacks has jumped. Just think about what that does for perceptions of (in)stability in months leading up to Afghanistan’s Presidential and provincial elections.

2) While the percentage of civilians killed by ISAF and Afghan forces is down, the number itself is about the same: 308 killed in the first 6 months of 2008; 310 killed in the first 6 months of 2009. This despite the previous ISAF Commanding General’s December 2008 “Tactical Directive” that was supposed to significantly reduce civilian losses. Let’s hope McChrystal’s TD is more effective.

Put these two facts together and you’ve got the statistical grounding for Afghans’ intuitive mistrust of the way things are going. Your average Afghan doesn’t have to look at numbers to know that more civilians are dying each month and that neither the Afghan government nor international forces have been able to protect civilians from insurgents.

In a month where both sides have said they plan to reduce civilian casualties (see here and here), these numbers are a good reality check of how far there is to go.