• 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…

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FT. LEAVENWORTH: CIVIC Participating in Military Training Exercise

Posted By:  Marla B

Sarah and I are here at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas this week at the Army Command and General Staff College (CGSC).  CGSC is a leading educational and intellectual center for the Army in developing leaders for full spectrum joint, interagency and multinational operations.  We were invited to participate in a training exercise with this year’s class.  Participation of NGOs in this level of military training is an excellent opportunity and one we are finding the military is becoming more and more open to.  After just one day (the whole exercise runs a full week) we are incredibly impressed with what we’ve seen.  The schedule is quite packed but we’ll post updates when we can.

GUEST BLOGGER: Kandahar Field-Visit, Suicide Bomber Attack and the Daily Threat for Civilians

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

[Written 7/19/08] Driving from Kandahar Air Field into the city, the difficult security situation in Kandahar and the severe challenges facing civilians become immediately apparent. Squashed in the back of an armored vehicle and wearing a bullet-proof vest, I saw the wreckage caused by a suicide bomber who’d exploded himself only an hour earlier. It was a tense environment – and the civilian population has to deal with it day after day. There is at least one suicide bomb attack every week here.  In February, a suicide bomber killed 80 people at an event just outside the city. I asked my Afghan driver who was born and raised in Kandahar how he and his family coped in this environment. He sighed, shook his head and told me how the women always make an extra effort to kiss their fathers, husbands, sons and brothers goodbye. “The women never know if their men will return,” he said. “Just stepping outside is a risk. But we have to go out. We cannot be trapped inside like animals.” Gesturing towards the site of the suicide bombing, he added: “Why did he blow himself up here? There are no soldiers here. Just poor people trying to make enough money to feed their families. Tonight in my city there are even more mothers and wives left to grieve.”

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 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.

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.”

GUEST BLOGGER: In the wake of a suicide bomb… Pt. 1

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

Karim, sits in his salon fingering photographs of his son, Abdul. The love-worn pictures show a striking 18-year-old, his arms thrown around the shoulders of friends, both Afghan and U.S. military. On February 27, 2007, the day of U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney’s visit to Bagram Air Base, Abdul was assigned to translate for a foreign civilian woman accompanying the U.S. military. A waiting suicide bomber spotted them in front of Bagram’s gates. The suicide bomber ran up, hugged the woman, and detonated himself. Twenty-three people were killed in the explosion, Abdul among them.

“My son was standing with the woman [who was targeted],” Karim said. “His head, body parts…everything was blown to pieces. All detached from his body…I could only recognize that it was him by the clothes he wore, by his hair, and by his boots.”

No one from the U.S. military offered condolences; no one even assisted in the transport of Abdul’s body. Instead, neighbors and friends collected the remains and brought them to Karim. The violence of the explosion destroyed almost any resemblance to his beloved son.

Abdul was engaged to be married, but now the family began planning his funeral. Having lost its primary breadwinner, they could barely cover funeral expenses. Karim worried about how to feed his family. Too old to work himself, and with one son already married with his own children, Karim saw caring for the three daughters and two sons still at home as almost impossible.