CIVIC has advocated for assistance to conflict victims in Iraq since our founding in 2003. Our work helped create the first US-funded program for civilians harmed by US combat operations, the Marla Ruzicka Iraqi War Victims Fund (named for CIVIC’s founder). The fund helps civilian victims and their families begin to rebuild their lives by providing health care and livelihood assistance, and rebuilding destroyed homes. Over the years, CIVIC has held training and assessment sessions with the Marla Ruzicka Iraqi War Victims Fund staff and seen many of our recommendations to USAID and Congress for improving how assistance is delivered implemented on the ground.

Civilian protection has deteriorated dramatically with the rise of the Islamic State (ISIS) and with militias, government forces, pro-government “popular mobilization committees,” and the anti-ISIS international coalition intensifying their fight against ISIS. ISIS has committed numerous atrocities and targeted religious minorities, but pro-government militias have also attacked civilians.

With the US-led coalition targeting ISIS and training Iraqi and Kurdish security forces, we are working to ensure that the coalition has the necessary policies and tools to minimize civilian harm and track, investigate, and make amends during their operations.

In 2015, CIVIC staff traveled to Northern Iraq to assess protection issues in areas retaken from ISIS by pro-government forces. We published an article identifying key protection challenges with recommendations on how to effectively address them.  We also used our research to develop a training module for both Kurdish and Iraqi security forces on protecting communities during operations. We piloted this training with a group of Peshmerga fighters.