• 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

LIBYA: “Everyone would like to stay in his city.”

We met Mustafa at the 50 km checkpoint outside of Sirte. He left the city 10 days before and was taking his sister to receive medical care and the IMC clinic at the checkpoint. He told CIVIC staff about what Sirte was like for his family:

We left Sirte ten days ago and have been staying at the 30km checkpoint area, Talatin. We left because of the war, bullets, rockets. A rocket hit our house and my sister was unconscious for three hours. My grandmother died of fear.

Our house was hit on both sides and we don’t know who did it.

There are nine people in my family. My dad is sick with hypertension. My mom has a bad back and lost her back brace when we left. She’d had it for many years. My sister is seven and she is scared, she vomits. When she is very frightened she becomes unconscious. She wets herself when she hears airplanes. I’ve brought her here because she is still sick and we want to take her to Misrata.

We feel safe at Talatin but we want to go back to Sirte. We can’t go now. If you leave your house [in Sirte] you will get bullets day and night. Many people were killed by bombs and guns and NATO. Families with children. There was a family killed by NATO about 20 days ago. They weren’t fighters.

Now we don’t get much aid at Talatin. A little food has been brought in from Misrata. The people who live around Talatin are accepting us because they are just farmers. They are providing us food and diapers for babies. We are cooking over fires and staying in tents. Each tent has 10-12 families. There is no water and many people are sick. It’s better than Sirte, but we want to go back when we can.

We lost our money, lost our cars. Even if I had money in my house I couldn’t go back to get it.

When the war is over, we will be safe, I am not worried about being attacked. The people of Sirte are simple people. Just Bedouin people.

Everyone would like to stay in his city.

GUEST BLOG: Afghanistan: A Soldier’s Perspective

By Major Dennis Sugrue

It is an unfortunate reality of war that innocent civilians are harmed.  As a US Army Soldier, I recognize the importance of protecting civilians, especially during combat operations.  Despite our care, civilian casualties and property damage do occur.  I recall the great initiative that we took in Afghanistan to make amends and offer closure to harmed civilians and their families.

From 2006-2007, I deployed to northern Kunar Province, Afghanistan. This is a mountainous and exceptionally remote area.  It is accessible by a single road closed periodically due to rain storms.  Rain was infrequent, but came in torrents when it arrived.  As part of my duties, I interacted with Afghan civilians who had been injured or lost property due to military actions.  Victims would arrive at the gate of our base and, in most cases, I would meet with them.  I would listen to their claims, often over tea, and try to determine validity.  I would walk valid claims to our pay officer and often make monetary compensation in that same meeting.  In these sessions, I also tried to learn about their lives and offer them a glimpse into American life by exchanging stories.

To help these victims, the Army offered compensation or solatia payments. Compensation usually takes the form of monetary payment and medical treatment.  Monetary compensations for damaged property, lost livelihoods, or personal injury are somewhat common in Afghanistan.  These payments are consistent with cultural norms and important to economic stability, but they can fall short of “making things better.”  It was my experience that civilians injured in a warzone often want something far simpler and more valuable – closure.  They seek a human connection offering condolence.  A sincere apology does more to offer closure than any payment possibly could.  Solatia activities should have the ultimate goal to provide a sense of closure for the civilians who suffer losses in combat zones.

LIBYA: Souheid’s story

By Kristele Younes

When I met Souheid, I was already overwhelmed by the toll this conflict is taking on civilians. But Souheid made me understand that I was only seeing the tip of the iceberg. Lying on his bed in a Benghazi hospital, this 8 year-old told me of how his whole life changed after a missile landed in the Misrata house he, his parents, his four siblings and their extended family of fourteen were sharing. “I don’t know what happened,” Souheid told me. “But one minute, we were all sleeping in the same room, away from all the windows to protect ourselves from bullets, and the next, I woke up in the hospital.” Souheid’s prognosis was so dire that he was immediately transferred to the Benghazi hospital I visited him in, where doctors can attend to him without fearing the hospital could be bombed at any moment.

Souheid will likely feel physical pain for the rest of his life. But it was abundantly clear to me, and to his father who sits by his bedside, that the emotional impact of what happened to his family will be much harder to overcome. That night in Misrata, Souheid lost a sister, a brother, his grandmother, his aunt, and three of his cousins.

Souheid and other victims of war need to have their suffering acknowledged. Although it is never possible to make up for these kinds of losses, warring parties should make amends by recognizing the harm and ensuring civilians have the tools they need to regain control of their lives.

Those fighting for a new Libya need to remember that it will be built by the very people who are victimized by the conflict, those who deserve to have their losses recognized and dignified. For Souheid’s and Libya’s sake, preventing, minimizing and addressing civilian harm must be at the heart of both national and international efforts in Libya.

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HUFFINGTON POST: Driving Afghanistan: The Winding Road to an Afghan Takeover

By Sarah Holewinski

I wouldn’t drive a car without working brakes. And I need a wheel to steer, and a speedometer to tell me when I’m not following the speed limit.

Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) will assume responsibility for the security and stability of their own country by 2014. But as a big moving vehicle ramping up to a high speed, it’s missing some of the major controls it needs to protect its own population and not cause even more harm. Continue reading

One Minute Update: Libya

Imam, a Libyan woman whose husband was killed last month while out buying food, told CIVIC: “I don’t want my husband to be just another statistic.”

Kristele just returned from Benghazi, in Eastern Libya, where she met with civilian victims and their families to assess their losses and needs. She met many like Imam, mourning lost loved ones or watching over their injured in the overflowing hospitals. CIVIC’s job now is to advise NATO and opposition forces on minimizing civilian harm, and ensure each and every victim is recognized and helped. We believe Imam’s husband is more than a statistic.

Read more from Kristele’s trip to Libya: BLOG: Harmed civilians need protection too

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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

One Minute Update: Ft. Leavenworth, Military Training

 

CIVIC Field Director Kristele Younes at Ft. Leavenworth

Last month you came with us to Afghanistan. Now we’re taking you to the US military base at Ft. Leavenworth with CIVIC’s new Field Director Kristele Younes. Kristele comes to CIVIC with extensive experience advocating for civilians from Pakistan and Iraq to Congo and Bosnia — though this was her first time in Kansas! At the US Army Command and General Staff College, Kristele and CIVIC’s Marla Keenan role played in a military planning scenario, or “war gaming” exercise. The goal was to train tomorrow’s military leaders to think holistically when planning combat operations. CIVIC was there to give them a better grasp of what civilians experience in war, how to better avoid them on the battlefield, and how to recognize and help those harmed in the crossfire. CIVIC believes this kind of training is critical to ensuring militaries understand the human cost of war.

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