• 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]

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.

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.