• 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 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.

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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.”

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: The Grocer

Posted By: Marla B.

During the 2006 war nearly all businesses in the north of Israel closed. Many Israelis fled their homes here, heading south staying with friends, family and even occasionally strangers willing to take them in.

In Kiryat Shmona, a town close to the Lebanese boarder, this man stayed behind and tended to one of the few grocery stores that remained open to serve its neighbors.

He tells the story here of his experience and of the war’s lasting psychological effects on him and his family.

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

VIDEO: Bint Jbeil, War’s Lasting Damage

Posted By: Marla B.

Perched on a hilltop overlooking a lush valley on the other side of which is Isreal, Bint Jbeil was considered a ‘Hizbollah stronghold’ during the 2006 war.

Two major battles took place there. The first began early in the morning on July 25, 2006 with heavy gun volleys between the Israeli Defense Forces and Hizbollah fighters. The fighting lasted four days. The second battle began on the evening of August 6th and lasted to August 14th, when finally a tentative ceasefire agreement was signed.

All through the town, there is no mistaking war had been here. Buildings, still in rubble, streets with pock holes from mortars and missiles. Nearly two years after the war, the town still bears its deep scars.

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