Posted By: Erica

On March 4, 2007, a US Marine convoy killed 19 Afghan civilians and wounded 50 others in one of the worst incidents of indiscriminate fire on Afghan civilians. Fleeing the scene of a suicide bomb attack in Jalalabad city, the Marines fired arbitrarily at passing civilians on the crowded highway, including those civilians who had pulled over to the side of the road to let the convoy pass.

Ashraf was standing “two fields away” when he was hit by stray gunfire. “One bullet struck me in my shoulder and now my hand is paralyzed.” For Ashraf, a farmer with a young family to support, the injury to one of his arms was crippling. He has a wife and three children — aged 2 months old, 2, and 3 years old — who depend on him.

In the immediate aftermath of the incident, many of the wounded, including Ashraf, were transferred to the US military hospital a few hours away for treatment. A US military spokesman later apologized, and US military lawyers sought out those families who suffered losses to apologize in person and offer financial support in the form of “condolence” – the symbolic payments we at CIVIC often talk about.

Nonetheless, an ACAP (the US funded war victims program created in 2005 in Afghanistan) staff member working to help Ashraf said that the incident is still a source of resentment. At the time, thousands of Afghans took to the streets in protest, and even now many of the villages with families who were injured are hostile toward the international troops, in part because of this incident. While we think these programs are tremendously important for ‘winning hearts and minds,’ it’s not always the case that they will. Even aid cannot entirely erase the harm caused by indiscriminate and excessive force.

ACAP is now working one-on-one with families like Ashraf’s who suffered losses in the shooting, with much success. “Before I had two hands. Now I have one. Of course there will be a few changes. But the assistance I got from ACAP is a great benefit to me and now my farming is doing well.”

Image courtesy of CIVIC