• 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

PAKISTAN: Job Wanted: Nine-year-old seeks full time employment to support family.

Unidentified Pakistani boy. Photo courtesy of Chris Hondros.

Posted by: Shelly

When I was nine, my biggest responsibility was to make my bed in the morning and sometimes I didn’t even do that.  Like most kids, I was completely reliant on my parents and other adults to meet my needs. But what if one of my parents died and it was now up to me to not just make my bed, but also support my family?  Would the nine-year-old me have known what to do?

Jamil Khan, a nine-year-old in Pakistan, was presented with such a problem when he became the head of his household after his father was killed during a Pakistani military operation against the Taliban. His father was one of hundreds of civilians in Pakistan killed or injured amidst ongoing military operations against the Taliban. And in his father’s wake, young Jamil is responsible for supporting his family — a task difficult for an adult, let alone a child who has to quit school and earn a living.

But what other option does a family like Jamil’s have?  What can help a family heal its wounds, and then pick up the pieces and continue to support itself? An unlikely source has an answer: Colonel Nauman Saeed, a Pakistani military officer who led operations in Bajaur Agency, calls for the global community to look beyond donations and aid.  He explains, “We need compensation and not ‘alms’ for the victims of wars because the world in general and the US in particular owes it to us… We need to hurry and reactivate their livelihood and launch projects for education, health, power supply and create jobs to avoid these people falling into the Taliban trap again.”

Families like Jamil’s need this compensation, not alms, because it addresses two needs.  The first, as Col. Saeed explains, is to compensate for losses and the second is for psychological trauma. Monetary compensation for families like Jamil’s can help the family stay afloat after losing its head-of-household and can keep Jamil from being forced into the workplace at such a young age.  But compensation addresses more than economics: it can also help a family begin to heal after loss or harm.  It’s recognition of the loss and pain the family has gone through and can serve as an official apology, which is often dignifying despite the tragedy.

Unfortunately, compensation payments won’t last forever and this is where sustainable aid enters the scene. Long-term aid, like livelihood projects, isn’t a handout or a donation; rather, it’s implemented by experienced humanitarians and often enables a family to create an income on their own for the long haul. Families who’ve lost their source of livelihood – be it their breadwinner, home, business or job – deserve the opportunity to support themselves once again.

As warring parties review the way they react to “collateral damage,” we hope to see more immediate compensation to get families back on their feet and longer term aid, like livelihood assistance, to sustain them.  Jamil and his remaining family deserve those opportunities.

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…

GUEST BLOGGER: “Next time, I will not vote for Karzai; I will vote for my donkey” – Pt. 2

Posted By: Rebecca W., Erica in Afghanistan

Another of Goli’s brothers was shot by the ISAF troops and was taken away to Kandahar Air Field (KAF) for questioning. His mother and father went to KAF to beg for his release and to insist that he was innocent. The military provided him with hospital treatment and released him after establishing that he was not a member of the Taliban. All the other injured family members were taken to the local hospital and the family had to sell half of their land in order to pay for the hospital bills.

Three days after the attacks, the Canadian troops came to the village and apologized for the deaths and injuries and paid money to the villagers. The injured civilians even received a visit in hospital from President Karzai and the governor. Every injured person received 20,000 Afghanis (approx. $430) to help pay for the hospital bills. No money, however, was given to compensate for the deaths or for the loss of property and livestock. Continue reading

Aid isn’t one-size-fits-all…

Posted By: Marla B.

Erica’s story illustrates an interesting point. As you well know, we believe civilians suffering in armed conflict need and deserve help. The difficult question becomes ‘what kind of help’? This question cannot be answered without a firm grasp on the dynamics not only of this conflict but also of this particular community. As we’ve seen in several cases in the past, sometimes the best option is victim specific redress. But in this particularly difficult security situation, our answer comes in the form of community re-building. To be sure, there can be no ‘magic’ answer to the question – one that works for every situation. Each conflict, each case has to be considered on its own. What we can be sure about is that regardless of the type of aid, it is imperative to help civilians harmed in ways both feasible and meaningful to them.