• 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

PAKISTAN: South Waziristan – Access Denied

By Chris

Fighting in South Waziristan has led to the death of many civilians, according to reports from those fleeing the area.  However, restrictions on access make it impossible to get accurate information on civilian casualties.

The restrictions prevent all aid workers and journalists from reaching South Waziristan.  As a result, no one knows how many civilians remain trapped or how many have been killed or injured. The restrictions also prevent much needed aid from flowing in.  The fighting has displaced over 100,000 so far, and more arrive each day—often on foot.

I know a number of journalists that have been stopped and detained just trying to reach Dera Ismail Khan—the town nearest to the fighting and a destination for many of the displaced.  Even the Red Cross has made a rare, public call for more access.  Working in Waziristan is dangerous, but so is knowing nothing about the situation of civilians. Information is the first step towards helping those still caught in the conflict and a more balanced approach is urgently needed.

PAKISTAN: Arrival and Recent Developments

Posted by Chris

Finally arrived in Pakistan last week and began work.  Let me begin by giving you a quick snapshot of the situation here.

After a relatively calm couple of months, the past two weeks have seen a marked increase in violence.  Nearly 200 people were killed in a spate of militant attacks, including many civilians.  This recent wave of attacks began with the bombing of the World Food Program office in Islamabad on 5 Oct.

A few days ago, the Pakistani military began its long-awaited offensive into the militant stronghold of South Waziristan.  Folks around me in Islamabad were right to be worried about retaliatory attacks, given today’s suicide bombings at the University.  The mood is tense.  Security checkpoints have grown and are more thorough, roads have been blocked, and many schools have been closed.

The Pakistanis I speak with all express dismay and anger with the situation.  For them, this level of violence is new.  Terrorist attacks in the cities, like Islamabad and Lahore, were unheard of before last year.

There is very little information about what is going on in Waziristan.  The offensive is all over the newspapers and television, but because of its remote location, the insecurity and restrictions on access imposed by the military, information is very hard to come by.  What is known is that there is intense fighting and tens of thousands of civilians have already fled, while many more remain within the conflict zone.  Some are predicting the operation to last two months.

Civilians will undoubtedly suffer.  We know that from thousands of years of war around the world. Hopefully with improved access and information, we can do more to bring attention to the plight of displaced civilians and those within the conflict zone.  And if history is any lesson, providing civilians with the assistance they need to rebuild their lives will be critical to the Pakistani government’s long-term success in Waziristan.

PAKISTAN: CIVIC Fellow Headed to Pakistan

Posted by Chris, CIVIC Fellow

Hi everyone!  I’m excited to be joining CIVIC and begin working in Pakistan.  After some last minute visa drama, I will be leaving soon for Islamabad.  I’ll be writing here about our work in Pakistan throughout the coming months, but let me begin by introducing myself and explain my interest in CIVIC’s work.  LINK TO CHRIS’ BIO

Though I am new to Pakistan, I have worked extensively on human rights and the laws of war in many different parts of the world.  I worked with the United Nations in Jordan to assist Iraqi refugees, with Human Rights Watch on the negotiation of the Convention on Cluster Munitions and, in Gaza, with a Palestinian human rights NGO.

In Gaza, I witnessed the impact of armed conflict on civilians first-hand.  Israeli strikes were an almost daily occurrence and though civilians may not have been targeted, large, modern bombs and ordinance exacted a heavy toll in the dense city blocks and refugee camps.  During the Hamas takeover of the territory, the entire city became a battlefield.   Every civilian was trapped in their home and many were caught in the cross fire as gunmen fought building to building.

Throughout my work, I’ve seen how the greatest burden of conflict is often borne by innocent civilians.  Death, injury, destruction of homes and property, and the loss of livelihood and loved ones are so common in war zones and yet the suffering is difficult to communicate or convey to others a world away.  As a lawyer, I have deep respect for the potential of international law to protect civilians in conflict, however I also recognize that current law says little about those deemed ‘collateral damage’ and even less about how to help those that have been harmed.

This is why I’m so passionate about CIVIC’s work and excited about the opportunities to get help to war survivors in Pakistan.  Conflict there has increased markedly the past couple years, especially in the northwest of the country.  Caught in the middle, many civilians have been harmed or their property destroyed, while millions have fled to escape the fighting.

It will be challenging, but there is a lot of progress to be made.  I’m looking forward to getting started.  In my next posting I’ll explain a bit more about the current situation in Pakistan and what we hope to accomplish.  Until then…

Civilian Suffering in Pakistan

Posted by: Erica

KABUL – I was in Pakistan recently, looking at the situation of victims of conflict on the other side of the border. In the past few months, the number of US Predator strikes into the tribal areas of Pakistan from across the border in Afghanistan have skyrocketed. (See this Washington Post article). Pakistani army engagements with insurgents further north have led to an estimated 300,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs). The homes of many of those 300,000 IDPs have been destroyed in the fighting or aftermath.  No one could even tell me the number of civilians who might have been killed or injured in these operations.

In terms of help for these families, there’s a Pakistani government compensation fund, but it’s out of money. Those administering it can’t even get to many of the areas where there is active fighting to survey any losses or damage. There are also many international and government-supported aid programs, but with increasing numbers of IDPs, many for extended periods of time, they can’t even keep up with providing basic needs.

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 1

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

Mohammad, Amanullah and Abdul have been friends for over ten years. They are carpenters who work together in Kandahar City. On June 4, 2006, they were finishing a large window frame when a suicide bomber blew himself up just outside their shop. The bomber was targeting a convoy of Canadian troops; as with most civilians caught in the conflict, the three carpenters were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The three friends were all injured. Pieces of shrapnel were embedded in their legs, arms and faces. Mohammad and Abdul were so badly burned that they were flown to Pakistan where they stayed for a month. “The doctors were looking at me as if I was a dead man,” Abdul told me. Over two years after the incident, the skin on his face and arms is still mottled and scarred from the burns.

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.