• 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 BLOG: Marla, CIVIC, and the idea that wouldn’t die

By Catherine Philp

Nine years ago in the bright Kabul spring, I met a young woman called Marla Ruzicka. She was hard to miss, with her wild blonde hair and animal pyjamas peeking out from the hem of her long kameez.

She was harder still to miss the morning she marched to the gates of the American Embassy with astonished, emboldened Afghan families by her side, to demand compensation and apologies for their loved ones lost in American military action. Continue reading

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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 BLOGGER: BDPs and Problem of Lack of Info, Pt. 2

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

Read Part 1, by Erica, on Kabul…

KANDAHAR – On a recent trip to Kandahar, I heard similar stories about the “guessing approach” that aid agencies are forced to adopt in their efforts to assist Battle-Displaced Persons (BDPs). Access to information is a problem that is intensified by a high level of corruption amongst government officials and a lack of monitoring after aid has been distributed. A UN World Food Programme (WFP) representative told me that he faced “tremendous problems” establishing the numbers of BDPs that require assistance. After one military operation in Helmand, he was told by local government officials that 8,000 families – or approximately 48,000 people – had been displaced. After contacting the British PRT in Helmand and the US marines, and after WFP’s implementing partners went into the field, WFP managed to establish that only 1000-1500 BDPs actually required assistance. According to the WFP representative, such inflation of numbers is not uncommon and shows how “the government authorities are taking advantage of our aid.” Kandahar government officials, he said, will send him “fake lists” of BDPs that include IDPs and even, in one instance, a list of individuals from a village that simply did not exist. Another problem is the fact that there is not, as yet, a system in place that tracks the BDPs who have been helped. “We give people a one-time food distribution,” the representative told me, “and then we don’t know what happens to these people. Then the government comes with another list and there’s a good chance that the same people appear again as BDPs who need help. We have no way of knowing.”

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.”

Tragedy at the Indian Embassy in Kabul

Posted By: Erica

This morning a suicide bomb attack on the Indian Embassy killed an estimated 30 to 40 civilians, and injured another 140. I just sat down with the an American friend who was in his office catecorner to the Indian Embassy when the attack happened. His driver was killed; many of his co-workers are in the hospital with injuries ranging from severe shrapnel and blast wounds to facial cuts from the flying glass. He was unharmed, although considering that this is his second week in Kabul, not completely unscathed. “You hear about how powerful the force is but there’s nothing like experiencing it. All the glass and some of the walls of our office were blown away… We walked outside and there were bodies and body parts in the street.”

I heard about the attack when I first arrived at work. About half an hour after it happened, an Afghan colleague of mine walked into my office and started telling me about his friend who was injured in the bombing. His friend worked for an airline and the office was in a shopping block just across the street from the Embassy. It’s one of the few two-story shopping complexes in Kabul and is always filled with pedestrian traffic. My colleague was angry:  “Why would they attack that place? There is no military, nothing. Just poor people.” Then in a more sober voice, my colleague told me that he and some other guys from the office were on their way to the MOI when they got the news.

My American friend said there was dead silence immediately after the blast but after about a minute, one of his Afghan colleagues said “This is Afghanistan.” They immediately grabbed brooms and cloth and started mopping up the rubble and the blood, he said.

Air Raids in Gardez

Posted By: Erica

Today I went to a small city, Gardez, a few hours south of Kabul. I stayed at a UN guesthouse and at different points of the day and night you could hear the faint sound of gunfire and explosions in the distance. Although Gardez itself is relatively stable, it’s only about 10 kilometers out from the hottest part of the province, an area believed to be a stronghold of the Taliban. Continue reading