• 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

GUEST BLOGGER: Kandahar Field-Visit, Suicide Bomber Attack and the Daily Threat for Civilians

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

[Written 7/19/08] Driving from Kandahar Air Field into the city, the difficult security situation in Kandahar and the severe challenges facing civilians become immediately apparent. Squashed in the back of an armored vehicle and wearing a bullet-proof vest, I saw the wreckage caused by a suicide bomber who’d exploded himself only an hour earlier. It was a tense environment – and the civilian population has to deal with it day after day. There is at least one suicide bomb attack every week here.  In February, a suicide bomber killed 80 people at an event just outside the city. I asked my Afghan driver who was born and raised in Kandahar how he and his family coped in this environment. He sighed, shook his head and told me how the women always make an extra effort to kiss their fathers, husbands, sons and brothers goodbye. “The women never know if their men will return,” he said. “Just stepping outside is a risk. But we have to go out. We cannot be trapped inside like animals.” Gesturing towards the site of the suicide bombing, he added: “Why did he blow himself up here? There are no soldiers here. Just poor people trying to make enough money to feed their families. Tonight in my city there are even more mothers and wives left to grieve.”

GUEST BLOGGER: Kandahar Field-Visit, Reports of Civilian Mutilations in the Southern Provinces

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

[Written 7/19/08] I arrived in Kandahar this morning. My first stop was Kandahar Air Field (KAF) where I met with a government official who accompanies military forces into remote parts of the southern provinces and organizes stabilization projects. His stories were nothing short of shocking. He described finding one young woman who had, he was told, been a sex slave to the Taliban. She had been raped, mutilated and killed. Such stories suggest that there are horrific atrocities (what the international community would call “war crimes”) committed against civilians that are hard to document and verify. Many regions in this part of Afghanistan are controlled by the Taliban and other Anti-Government Elements (AGEs) rendering them completely inaccessible to most NGOs. So many civilians are left without help.

GUEST BLOGGING: Pressure to stay silent…

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

I am in Jalalabad now, a city in the Eastern part of Afghanistan a few hours from the border with Pakistan. US forces are stationed here, and recently came under heavy criticism for an air attack on a wedding party that killed 23 civilians in a village about an hour from Jalalabad city.

This afternoon I was interviewing one man, Ziaul Haq, whose 10-year-old daughter was killed in a shooting incident by US Marines in March 2007. We had already been speaking for quite a while about the shooting, the positive impact of assistance he had received from the USAID-funded ACAP program, and about his hopes for his two sons’ futures. Then, I asked him what else was on his mind. Almost as an afterthought Haq mentioned that his wife, while on the family’s roof cleaning rugs, had been shot and badly injured by international forces doing target practice in the open space near Jalalabad Air Field.

Haq had previously alerted authorities to the dangers of using that space as a shooting range to no avail. Following the shooting he re-approached district leaders. This time they requested that he not bring it to the attention of the Coalition Forces, expressing concern about how doing so might impact that relationship. Keeping silent meant Haq could not request assistance from the PRT to pay his wife’s medical bills or receive any form of apology. And it also meant that live rounds continue to be discharged in the open field.

Grave concern for civilians in Afghanistan

Posted By: Sarah

Afghans are dying from bombs, missiles, explosive devices, police fire, beheadings, domestic violence… and the list goes on.

The situation for them is becoming untenable. This, after many decades of war has ripped through their land. Over and over we’ve heard calls from President Karzai to stop the needless violence. In the streets, Afghans have protested the deaths of their loved ones. And today, the Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief (or ACBAR) released a wake-up call for ALL the warring parties. The brief report begins:

“We, the 100 national and international NGO members of ACBAR, express our grave concern about the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan and the serious impact on civilians.”

It’s a strong declaration on behalf of so many Afghans that cannot speak for themselves. Now it’s up to the warring parties to listen. According to ACBAR’s report, there has been a surge of civilian casualties caused by all groups (the Taliban, international and national forces, militants). Areas that were stable are now unraveling. 260 civilians were killed or injured last month — that’s more than any other month in the entire six years of this conflict. Schools and health facilities are closing, development projects are shutting down, and families are leaving their homes causing massive displacement. Humanitarians are being threatened or attacked… just this year nineteen NGO staff have been killed. We check on our own in Kabul every day, but are increasingly wary of what’s happening.

So what to do?

Continue reading

BDPs and Problem of Lack of Info, Pt. 1

Posted By: Erica

Below is the first of two separate reports on the information vacuum that exists when assessing the need for humanitarian aid to battle-displaced persons.  Both my report and the future report form Rebecca, our guest blogger, highlight the difficulty of properly assessing, delivering and evaluating aid to those harmed by conflict.

KABUL – Last week I met with several staff members from the United Nations HCR who work specifically with assisting battle-displaced persons (BDPs) in Afghanistan. Particularly in the conflict-prone south of Afghanistan, near Kandahar and Helmand, assisting those who are battle-displaced can be a never-ending cycle. Recent news articles have focused on large numbers of displaced civilians in Arghandab and Garmser . like UNHCR, together with the World Food Program, the International Red Crescent or other humanitarian agencies, Agencies have the tough task of trying to develop enough emergency relief supplies – tents, blankets, food, clean water – to allow these families to survive in the immediate aftermath of conflict. Their work is often compromised by lack of access to credible information. Because of security concerns, they often cannot go to the site of the conflict, and have to depend on reports from the military, journalists, community leaders etc. “Often it means splitting the difference between what the military says and the community leaders say,” one UNHCR representative told me. “If the community says 3,000 and ISAF says 300, we prepare enough provisions for somewhere in the middle of that.”

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.

Disappearances, Pt. 2

Posted By: Erica

When his family members went missing, Shafek went with his father and his uncle to the “front lines” of Kabul (ironically a road that is now so peaceful that my office is located there). They saw bodies strewn everywhere. Many of them had been mutilated, a woman’s head atop a man’s body, or vice versa. “Unrecognizable,” Shafek said. He saw one woman who had been pregnant, with her belly slit open, her womb a pit of dried blood and flies.

They did not find their family members anywhere, so they went to the nearby university to search the containers. These steel shipping containers can still be found everywhere in Kabul — it’s the most common structure for small shops and businesses. But back in those days they sometimes had a different purpose. Fifteen to twenty bodies were collected in each container, Shafek said. As Shafek and his father and uncle sifted through the containers, looking for their loved ones, they were horrified to think that a similar fate had befallen them.

“The worst is when someone goes missing,” Shafek told me, a lump in his throat, “Because then whenever you hear about something horrible that has happened, you imagine that this same atrocity has happened to them as well. When someone dies, at least you can bury them, but when someone has disappeared, they always stay on with you this way.”

Like many Afghan families, Shafek and his family have never found out what happened to their two loved ones.

Photo: Shipping Containers

Shipping Containers in Kabul