• 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

AFGHANISTAN: Who compensates those the Taliban hurts?

Posted by:  Erica G.

One of the most difficult challenges we faced this year in our Afghanistan work was how to get compensation to victims of Taliban or insurgent abuses. They are not only responsible for a greater proportion of civilian deaths (55% in 2009, according to the UN), but often because of insurgent tactics that have knowingly placed civilians at risk, including using them as human shields.

A UNAMA official based in a remote and heavily Taliban-controlled province called me a few days ago with a recent case he had been dealing with: insurgents had apprehended a man named Mustapha and whipped him with a cable in his genital region until all that was left was a bloody pulp. Although the circumstances of why he was targeted were not entirely clear, one factor influencing the severity of the punishment was that insurgents felt he was not entirely supporting their cause, raising issues of a war crime violation. The UNAMA official felt so stricken with the pain Mustapha was in (he could not even afford pain medication) that he gave him all the cash he had on hand. He called to ask me if there were not some government program or way to get compensation for this man?

In my next blog posting, I’ll discuss more broadly what help might be available for victims of insurgents…

Advertisements

AFGHANISTAN: A family’s story, but who will listen

Posted By:  Erica G.

WASHINGTON, DC – I received an email recently from a friend in Afghanistan who helps develop local girls’ schools. She got a call from the family of a community elder who had assisted her in establishing a school for 200 girls in Taliban-heavy Logar province. The family said a week before Special Forces had raided their home and detained several of the men from their family. A week later they were still holding the community elder and the family did not know what they could do. The only reason they had been given was suspected Taliban involvement. No specific allegations were made to rebut, and they had no idea where their relative was being held, and whether he would be released. They were terrified, worried, and outraged. Some of their property had also been taken and they had no way to get it back.

It’s impossible to tell from the details whether the detention was valid or not – given the community leader’s involvement with the international community in building girls schools (not exactly the hallmark of Taliban) it seems unlikely that he was affiliated with the Taliban. But given the lack of transparency y over these actions, it’s impossible for the family or any international partners working with them to find out who was involved, or why they were targeted, much less whether it was justified. The odds of them receiving any compensation or redress for their losses, much less an apology for what happened if they are deemed innocent, are even slimmer.

We at CIVIC have seen examples of international military forces being more responsive to civilian losses in recent months – statements by Secretary Gates saying that we have to get better on this, and several incidents in November, January, and February, where we saw immediate recognition of civilian loss and attempts to provide payment or support to affected communities afterwards. But when complaints like this one come in, it makes me question whether the changes have been made at a PR level, and not at the deep, institutional level that they need to happen on.  After all the progress we’ve made in getting recognition to this issue, I still have nowhere to tell this family to go, and little hope that anyone will listen if the family tries to raise the issue.

GUEST BLOGGER: “Next time, I will not vote for Karzai; I will vote for my donkey” – Pt. 1

Posted By: Rebecca W., Erica in Afghanistan

Goli’s hand is twisted and scarred. His leg and chest is also a knot of scars, threading across his skin. His uncle, Haji, still has his foot in a bandage – two years after the ISAF forces mistakenly bombed their village. And his left leg consists principally of bone and sinew, a mere shadow of the healthy leg that he once used to farm his land.

Goli's injured leg prevents him from earning a living as a farmer, as he once did.

Goli's injured leg.

Two years ago, ISAF forces bombed the village where Goli and Haji lived because the Taliban were nearby, crossing a road from one area to the next. The bombing began at 11pm. Haji described to me how he was sleeping in the courtyard of his house and “saw bright lights like lightning and a loud sound like a bomb.”

Continue reading

GUEST BLOGGER: Civilians Flee to Kandahar City After ISAF Aerial Bombing

Posted By: Rebecca W., Erica in Afghanistan

It was 2am when the aerial bombardment started. Ahmed described to me, in an interview in the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) office in Kandahar, how he and has family huddled together behind a wall. “We said that if we were going to die, we would die together.” The bombing by ISAF troops continued for two hours. Nine of Ahmed’s neighbors died and eleven civilians were injured, including three of Ahmed’s family members: his mother and his two brothers.

Ahmed

Ahmed

When the bombing finally ended, Ahmed grabbed his family members, found a bus and sent them to Kandahar city. He and his neighbors then tried to get the badly injured and dying to a hospital. In one of the houses, five family members were dead. The head of this household pulled his son from the rubble. His son was crying, saying “I’m cold, I’m so cold.” Ahmed found a blanket and put it over the boy, but he died not long afterwards.

The coalition troops had been told that the Taliban were hiding in Ahmed’s village. This is why the bombing had targeted near these civilian homes. But Ahmed told me that when the land troops came after the air strike, they found no Taliban and only civilians. The foreign troops therefore promised to compensate Ahmed and his neighbors. But they said that they would pay only for the dead and not for the livestock and land that had been lost. Continue reading

GUEST BLOGGER: The Dangers of Assisting Civilians, Kandahar ACAP Field-Officer Captured by the Taliban

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

[Written 7/20/08] I went this morning to the Kandahar IOM/ACAP office (ACAP is the program created by the United States to help war victims and IOM is the agency that implements it across the country). I met the staff and talked with one field officer who travels around the southern provinces to find harmed civilians and verify information that has been submitted to the office. He has worked with ACAP for three years. He told me that his job was rewarding but also dangerous: a few months ago, he went into a remote village to survey an ACAP-funded construction project when he suddenly found himself surrounded by gun-wielding Taliban fighters. They accused him of supporting the international forces. As he was being taken away by the Taliban, a close friend saw him and negotiated his release – the only reason he is alive today. Such stories emphasize the difficulty in assisting civilians in this charged atmosphere, where humanitarian projects are frequently targeted by the Taliban and Afghan NGO workers are regularly kidnapped for their “foreign involvement.”

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

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