On April 16, 2005, the world lost the founder of Center for Civilians in Conflict (then known as the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict, or CIVIC). Marla Ruzicka, a vibrant, passionately caring woman, was traveling on the road between Baghdad and the international airport with her Iraqi colleague, Faiz Ali Salim, when a suicide car bomber detonated his explosives right next to her car. She was just 28.
Marla wasn’t the target; a convoy passing near her presumably was. She was just in the wrong place at the wrong time, and she paid the ultimate price, just like too many civilians she was trying to help in Afghanistan and Iraq had. But she was also exactly where she wanted to be—helping the civilians harmed by those conflicts receive compensation from the US military, to be recognized and their dignity to be acknowledged.
She was tireless in her efforts on their behalf. She confronted, cajoled and convinced generals, diplomats, and politicians that the US had a responsibility to the families of those killed or injured by American military operations, that recognizing the harm done to civilians was a moral imperative.
After Marla’s death, her friends and family picked up her mission and carried it forward, eventually transforming a small, personal campaign into an international NGO that now works on behalf of civilians in 13 countries and nine conflicts. In some ways, it is fitting that the anniversary of her passing falls on Easter this year, a time of renewal and rebirth. While the work she started is still sadly necessary, her life and efforts are the inspiration and guiding light for all of us here at Center for Civilians in Conflict.
Marla, you are sorely missed, but never forgotten.