• 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

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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.

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Herat and a meeting with survivors…

Posted By: Erica

We arrived in Herat today — the largest city in Western region of Afghanistan, not far from the Iranian border — where we met with the Regional Command West (RCWest), the regional headquarters for ISAF. RCWest has been trying to use money from the Post-Operations Humanitarian Relief Fund [read our recent press release] to get emergency relief to different areas of the province that are suffering the effects of recent and ongoing operations. We also met with the Italian Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT), which head up medium- to long-term development and reconstruction projects for the province. It was striking how dedicated and involved these CIMIC (Civil Military Coordinators) were in finding ways for the international forces to bring emergency relief, stabilization and reconstruction support to the Western region.

In complete and tragic contrast, though, I then ended my day by meeting several survivors of the July 17 US bomb strike on the Zerkoh community of Shindand province. The site of the bombing is still too insecure to know the final damage toll – residents I interviewed said that military forces still prevented them from returning to see the damage to their homes and communities. Initial estimates, though, suggest as many as 50 civilians may have been killed. The same community was hit in April 2007 by US air strikes, killing an estimated 59 civilians, injuring 62, and destroying or severely damaging an estimated 110 houses.

Civilian losses like these in one stroke can undo all the good intentions of the CIMIC teams at RCWest or the PRTs. I asked one of the civilian survivors what his impression was of international forces after the recent bombing of his community, “I used to think that [the international forces] would not use force on civilian people. Now I see that it has changed. They are killing all people; they don’t care if it is civilians or the bad guys. They think all Afghans are the same. They see it all from the same lens.”

VIDEO: Haifa Train Depot

Posted By: Marla B.

Haifa’s train depot was the scene of the deadliest attack in Israel during the 2006 war with Hizbollah. On July 16, shortly after nine in the morning missiles rained down on the city. One directly struck the train depot killing eight workers inside.

We visited the train depot in the hopes of getting inside to interview other workers or people who had survived the missile attack. We were turned away but found a mechanic across the street who received us warmly with stout coffee and offered his eyewitness account of what happened that day.

For more on the 2006 conflict in Lebanon and Israel, and long-term aftermath, visit: http://www.civic-israel-lebanon.org/

Mahdi’s Story

Posted By: Marla B.

Explosive remnants of war (ERW) are a problem in countries around the world. Erica’s post sadly illustrates the depth of the problem in Afghanistan. Just today we posted a video from our March 2008 travels to Lebanon. It tells the story of a young boy, Mahdi, who was injured by a unexploded cluster dud. Take a moment to watch Mahdi’s Story. You will see the children of Lebanon and Afghanistan have much in common.

Q and A: America and the Cluster Ban Treaty

Over half the world’s governments agreed last week to a ban on cluster munitions. But not the United States. Our government not only skipped the deliberations, but continues to defend its policy of keeping and using these deadly weapons.

Why won’t America join the movement to ban cluster munitions? Our executive director Sarah Holewinski sat down with a premier expert to find out.Sarah Holewinski Marc Garlasco is senior military analyst at Human Rights Watch and a board member of CIVIC. He was instrumental in getting the ban passed and was there at its signing.

Sarah: The US says it can’t support the Convention on Cluster Munitions because its military then couldn’t help countries devastated by tsunamis and earthquakes. Is this true?

Marc Garlasco of Human Rights WatchMarc: This is circular reasoning at its best. First of all, what humanitarian operation uses cluster munitions? The real issue is US ships have cluster munitions on them, and the US was worried their allies who did sign the Convention could no longer work with it because of that. But this is a non-issue. No humanitarian or peacekeeping operation has ever been barred because of weapons.

Take the landmine ban treaty, for example. The US didn’t sign that and yet has worked together with allies like the UK (who did sign it) for years. What’s more, this new Convention allows for those kinds of partnerships, whether cluster munitions are on ships or planes, so this is a non-issue.

Sarah: But the US says it needs cluster munitions to defend the country. Do we really need them?

Marc: We haven’t used them since 2003, so let’s just say they’re obviously not indispensable when fighting a war. There are plenty of other weapons that can defend the country and not indiscriminately kill and maim civilians, who represent the vast majority of victims.

Sarah: The US says it won’t “unilaterally get rid of” clusters.

Marc: The Cluster Munitions Conventions is nowhere near a unilateral effort. There are 111 countries who have agreed to destroy their stockpiles and not use these horrible weapons again, including key NATO allies like the UK, Germany, France, and Canada. If they can do it, so can the United States.

Sarah: So, as a nation, we’re really behind the 8-ball here, aren’t we?

Marc: Couldn’t have said it better myself.

To learn more about the impact of cluster munitions on civilian populations, and to take action on this issue, click here.