• 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: 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.
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GUEST BLOGGER: Grieving a Son in Kandahar – Part 1

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

Ahmed Sultani is a small 70-year old man with a soft-spoken voice and lines etched deeply into his tanned face. On July 22, 2006, his 18-year old son, Zalmai, was killed by a suicide bomber who had been targeting Canadian troops in the centre of Kandahar city. In this attack, twelve civilians were killed and twenty-eight were injured. Ahmed told me how his neighbors came to his house in a village outside Kandahar to tell him that his son was dead. The women of the house started screaming and wailing in grief. Ahmed rushed down to the city and found his son “on the ground and he was torn up and burned and we took him. Half his body was missing.”

I asked him what he missed most about his son and his eyes filled with tears. “Every time I think about him, my heart goes to pieces. I cry hard. I miss everything about him. He was a good son. He was married and he had one son and then another baby was on the way when he was killed. Now he has another son but he never saw this son.

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.

GUEST BLOGGER: “Are you able to understand my pain?”

Posted By: Ana, working on human rights issues in Afghanistan

“Are you able to understand my pain?”

I hid my eyes for a second, and then looked up at the woman I was talking to. I think she is in her fifties; her face burned by the sun, full of wrinkles; her eyes were searching every corner of my soul. “I am not a mother, and I would never understand the pain of losing two sons.” She gave me another penetrating look: “Can a person on a horse understand what it means to walk on foot? Who really cares what happened to my life?” She came to visit a program one of my colleagues is running. But I hijacked her attention because I was curious about the life in Kabul during the wars.

She lost several people to so called “collateral damage” during the time of factional violence in Kabul. The entire city was divided. To go to work, or get supplies the people had to sneak around like thieves from house to house, from an alley to an alley. She says that sometimes it looked like a rain of bullets falling from the sky, and nothing could stop it. One morning two of her four sons went out to fetch some flour for the house. Noon came and went, the evening came, the sons never came back. On a random day her brother was passing by a checkpoint when a rocket landed there. Another night of fighting another rocket hit near by their compound. Shrapnel took her son-in-law while he was reading along with two little girls from their compound.

The family decided to flee, leaving everything behind. They stayed in Pakistan for ten years. The children had a chance to go to school while she and her husband worked. They’ve built a house. Then the Transitional Government called all the Afghans to comeback; they were promised their houses, their livelihoods, and their homeland back. She is living in Kabul now, but she says Pakistan was better. They never got what they were promised – no jobs, no place to live, and no chances to educate their children. Her husband passed away a year ago, but they are hanging on. Her two other sons are working.

I catch myself irritated, thinking, “what’s the big deal, everyone in this country lost a family member, at least she has two other sons to help her.” And then mentally slap myself: “how dare me to think this?” She looked at me as if reading my thoughts; pondered for a moment; then said: “Are you able to understand my pain?” I wished I could do something other than listen.