Hi everyone! I’m excited to be joining CIVIC and begin working in Pakistan. After some last minute visa drama, I will be leaving soon for Islamabad. I’ll be writing here about our work in Pakistan throughout the coming months, but let me begin by introducing myself and explain my interest in CIVIC’s work. LINK TO CHRIS’ BIO
Though I am new to Pakistan, I have worked extensively on human rights and the laws of war in many different parts of the world. I worked with the United Nations in Jordan to assist Iraqi refugees, with Human Rights Watch on the negotiation of the Convention on Cluster Munitions and, in Gaza, with a Palestinian human rights NGO.
In Gaza, I witnessed the impact of armed conflict on civilians first-hand. Israeli strikes were an almost daily occurrence and though civilians may not have been targeted, large, modern bombs and ordinance exacted a heavy toll in the dense city blocks and refugee camps. During the Hamas takeover of the territory, the entire city became a battlefield. Every civilian was trapped in their home and many were caught in the cross fire as gunmen fought building to building.
Throughout my work, I’ve seen how the greatest burden of conflict is often borne by innocent civilians. Death, injury, destruction of homes and property, and the loss of livelihood and loved ones are so common in war zones and yet the suffering is difficult to communicate or convey to others a world away. As a lawyer, I have deep respect for the potential of international law to protect civilians in conflict, however I also recognize that current law says little about those deemed ‘collateral damage’ and even less about how to help those that have been harmed.
This is why I’m so passionate about CIVIC’s work and excited about the opportunities to get help to war survivors in Pakistan. Conflict there has increased markedly the past couple years, especially in the northwest of the country. Caught in the middle, many civilians have been harmed or their property destroyed, while millions have fled to escape the fighting.
It will be challenging, but there is a lot of progress to be made. I’m looking forward to getting started. In my next posting I’ll explain a bit more about the current situation in Pakistan and what we hope to accomplish. Until then…