• 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

Iraqi Refugees in Jordan, Najla’s story

Posted By: Marla B.

There are an estimated 750,000 Iraqi refugees now residing in Jordan and another 1 to 1.5 million in Syria. In June, I traveled to Jordan to conduct interviews with families and to talk with them about their experiences. That task proved to be one of the most challenging of my time here at CIVIC.

On June 1, 2008, I visited a woman who I’ll call Najla*. Her son Samir* was the apple of her eye. She beamed as she told us how much he loved toys and school and what a lovely young boy he was.

Samir as baby

Samir as baby

In 2003 when the war began, they knew the bombing was coming and she and her son prepared. On the first day the bombing was very strong and most of the Iraqis from Baghdad left their homes to seek safety. She and her son stayed behind. She recalled that the sky was red from the bombing and resulting fires. No one in their neighborhood was killed in the first part of the war, but soon the violence would start and many would be lost. She told me that the war had been very difficult for them. Too, life under Saddam’s regime was hard but at least there was security. Now, she says, there are militias and they have taken their sons. “It is just easy to kill in Iraq.”

One night the milita came to their house. As her family (her, her son, her brother and his son) lay asleep on the ground, ten armed men broke a window and entered. They beat her and her brother threatening them not to make a sound or they would be killed. They beat Samir and threatened to kill Najla’s brother’s son. Samir told them he would do whatever they wanted as long as they didn’t harm his family. They demanded money and Samir gave all they had. As the gunmen were leaving… one of them said “kill them… we can’t leave them alive”. Another said “no, we’ve gotten what we want, just cut his ear”.

At first they lived in fear that the masked men would return. But after time passed they began to believe they had indeed escaped this threat. They had not. On the 6th of March 2006, as her son headed home from work, he turned onto the very street where he lived. Militia men came and murdered him in cold blood. Her neighbors told her that they were from the Medhi army, the same group suspected of the earlier break in on their house, she is sure of it. Najlaa wept now as she told me how much she missed her son and how he had been so brutally taken from her.

Samir as an adult

Samir as an adult


In the coming months we will be posting short videos with snippets of some of my conversations.

*In all cases the names will be changed and the faces obscured at the request of the subject.

GUEST BLOGGER: Civilians Flee to Kandahar City After ISAF Aerial Bombing

Posted By: Rebecca W., Erica in Afghanistan

It was 2am when the aerial bombardment started. Ahmed described to me, in an interview in the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) office in Kandahar, how he and has family huddled together behind a wall. “We said that if we were going to die, we would die together.” The bombing by ISAF troops continued for two hours. Nine of Ahmed’s neighbors died and eleven civilians were injured, including three of Ahmed’s family members: his mother and his two brothers.

Ahmed

Ahmed

When the bombing finally ended, Ahmed grabbed his family members, found a bus and sent them to Kandahar city. He and his neighbors then tried to get the badly injured and dying to a hospital. In one of the houses, five family members were dead. The head of this household pulled his son from the rubble. His son was crying, saying “I’m cold, I’m so cold.” Ahmed found a blanket and put it over the boy, but he died not long afterwards.

The coalition troops had been told that the Taliban were hiding in Ahmed’s village. This is why the bombing had targeted near these civilian homes. But Ahmed told me that when the land troops came after the air strike, they found no Taliban and only civilians. The foreign troops therefore promised to compensate Ahmed and his neighbors. But they said that they would pay only for the dead and not for the livestock and land that had been lost. Continue reading

GUEST BLOGGER: Night Raids and Cultural Insensitivity Anger Kandahar Civilians

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

Mohddin is angry. His eyes glare at me while he speaks and he sits on the edge of his chair so that he can lean forward and emphasize his complaints. Unlike the majority of civilians who visit the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) office in Kandahar, he has not lost a close family member or had his property damaged. But he is angry about the life that he and his neighbors are being forced to endure. It is a life of insecurity and hardship – caught as they are between the Taliban and the international forces.

Mohddin came to the AIHRC office because he feels the situation is unjust. He was particularly frustrated with the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) – the international forces in Afghanistan. He told me he couldn’t understand why ISAF was hitting civilian targets. “They have sophisticated technology. Surely they can distinguish between the Taliban and the people,” he said, jabbing the air with his finger to emphasize his anger. “Now the people are beginning to think that the ISAF are deliberately targeting civilians. Their perception is that the ISAF forces are committing abuses and this is driving people more towards the anti-government forces.” Continue reading

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

Continue reading

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.
Continue reading

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 1

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

Ahmed Sultani is a small 70-year old man with a soft-spoken voice and lines etched deeply into his tanned face. On July 22, 2006, his 18-year old son, Zalmai, was killed by a suicide bomber who had been targeting Canadian troops in the centre of Kandahar city. In this attack, twelve civilians were killed and twenty-eight were injured. Ahmed told me how his neighbors came to his house in a village outside Kandahar to tell him that his son was dead. The women of the house started screaming and wailing in grief. Ahmed rushed down to the city and found his son “on the ground and he was torn up and burned and we took him. Half his body was missing.”

I asked him what he missed most about his son and his eyes filled with tears. “Every time I think about him, my heart goes to pieces. I cry hard. I miss everything about him. He was a good son. He was married and he had one son and then another baby was on the way when he was killed. Now he has another son but he never saw this son.