internally displaced person
"It is too dangerous to live near the well, in the town so I stay in the mountains under the trees with my children. I have lived in the mountains since the last attack. Over a month under the trees. It takes two and a half hours to walk here for the water.
Then I must return".
Civilians suffer in a multitude of ways during civil unrest and war. Scarcities of food and water often have significant long-term consequences with the potential for multi-generational impact. Studies conducted after the 1944 Dutch Famine concluded that not only did the famine reduce the birth-weight of newborns, but also the offspring of these same children. This suggests that reduced caloric intake could instigate epigenetic changes, fundamentally changing gene expression for both those affected by the famine and their descendents, and leading to higher rates of certain neurological defects for generations.
Marthe Nyirimfura Gisagara
"I realized that I needed to accept my son, not reject him. It was not his fault. But it took me a long time to figure this out".
"I like to keep busy. It’s not good when I start thinking about what happened to my mom and what a monster my father was".
Children conceived as a result of rape are part of the tragic legacy of war. Opportunistic rape and pillaging have always been war’s calling card. In today’s ethnic conflicts, rape can be used as a strategy of ethnic cleansing. In effect, the very act of creating life becomes a tool to destroy the lives and cultures of those violated.
Mona Four Bear with her two sons and daughter
Survivor of sexual assault
Standing Rock Reservation
"Who will be a role model for these boys? How are they going to learn how to be good, decent men? Who can they learn this from?"
Cultural genocide is the process of undermining, suppressing, and ultimately eliminating, a culture. The consequences for the oppressed peoples are extreme on both individual and societal levels. In Native American nations, extremely high rates of substance abuse, unemployment, poverty and violence have been directly attributed to the consequences of wholesale attempts to destroy indigenous cultures over the last 400 years in North America.
Abdu Hamed Omar, home burnt, Darfur
Abdu Hamed Omar
"I awoke to heat on my back. There was fire. My clothes were burning. I ran out the dooraway from the fire. Then I looked up and saw the town was in flames".
Targeting civilians through the destruction of shelter and food sources is a common practice in zones of conflict, a technique often employed when one group is trying to ethnically cleanse an area. The destruction of towns, villages, and food supplies disproportionately affects the elderly and sick, many of whom are unable to leave safely due to their physical and economic limitations.
Nahad Jabar Jouad, homeless, Iraq
Nahad Jabar Jouad
"We once lived in a good place, but that was before the war. It got expensive after the war so we moved out. Know everything cost so much. The rents are too high. Food is not cheep. My husband can’t find work so we live here. This war did little to help us. We are worse now then before. And to make matters worse I am pregnant again".
Instability displaces peoples and creates hardships. Devaluation of currency, inflation, and unemployment are just a few of the realities of living during, and after, political upheavals. Any previous safety nets are often no longer available, personal savings are often exhausted, and as long as the prospect of instability remains, few opportunities to better one’s future exist.
Hadiyah Abdul Adam
"I am very afraid. Afraid they will come back.
I am ashamed... Ashamed of what happened".
Rape is endemic in conflict zones. And no individual, regardless of age or gender, is safe. A 2010 study found that 22% of men and 30% of women in Eastern Congo reported conflict-related sexual violence. Rape and war have been synonymous for all of recorded history and the present day is as brutal as any time in the past.
Pham Van Diep, 12, right and
brother Pham Van Duc
Agent Orange birth defects
Pham Van Diep
"My friends think I got into a fight got into a fight with a knife... I don't correct them. And I don't like hospitals. I am afraid of them".
Environmentally toxic pollution from warfare effects people long after the violence ceases. Responsibility for safeguarding those who live in these areas is difficult and expensive. Landmines are ‘active’ examples, killing and maiming over 15,000 people annually. Chemical environmental contaminates, such as dioxin or depleted uranium, silently destroy lives for generations. There is rarely agreement over the level of toxicity of battlefield contaminants. Impossible to deny, yet difficult to conclusively pin-point, the unfortunate reality is that many areas are affected. Individuals at risk of contamination often receive little or no attention. Some estimate that tens of millions of people are at risk around the world.
Mr. Yasuji Kaneko, perpetrator, Imperial army of Japan
Mr. Yasuji Kaneko, Imperial army of Japan
"We did all kinds of terrible things. Girls were raped, women and old people killed. It was normal. We were taught that the Chinese were no better then dogs and that is how we treated them... Can you really truly apologize for such things?"
War needs a class of individual called natural killers - a person who has a predisposition to kill; he enjoys combat and feels little or no remorse about killing or hurting an enemy. These natural killers constitute less than 4 percent of the male population and about 1 percent of all females. They are psychopaths. All armies rely on these individuals to commit the majority of their killing. When these individuals are allowed to operate without restraint, within or outside an accountable command and control structure, their actions and cruelty are beyond imagination.
"My only regret is that I did not due more, save more people".
While extensive research has been spent documenting the perpetrators of human right abuses, less attention has been directed towards rescuers - individuals and families that protected or saved people during genocide and ethnic cleansing. One of the few studies conducted, by researchers at Columbia University, involves rescuers from the Holocaust. Their data showed significantly higher levels of social responsibility, empathy, risk-taking, and “altruistic moral reasoning” in rescuers. Controversially the study showed that these personality traits influenced if one was a rescuer, much more so then external, “situational” factors—such as previous interactions with Jews, witnessing Nazi brutality, being directly asked for help and even all factors related to race, gender, age, or religious affiliation.
hurt by fuel truck bomb
“We had just started playing. Then I woke up in the hospital. I heard that Muhammad was also hurt. I do not know if he has burns or open wounds. I am just waiting to get out of the hospital so I can play again. I told my mother to tell my brother not to play outside anymore.”
Violence does not impact all individuals equally. Research suggests when young children such as Hader are exposed to violence they are more apt to suffer from mental illness, such as depression, later in life. Exposure to trauma at a very young age influences how the brain develops, with experts speculating on a life-long “numbing” emotions in consequence.
"After examination we are outside of the school. One of the girls, they just stopped her and abused her in the street; they tore her clothing off and did this. It happened in front of me. I told my mother and father. It was decided I would not leave the house anymore. No school. No friends. Not even to the market except with my father or oldest brother. That was 2 years ago".
"Thank god I did not grow up in the Baghdad of today. Girls in Baghdad like to go out, have boyfriends, cell phones, fashion and makeup. They wear tight jeans and then people say bad things to them. Flora has everything at home, movies, TV, phone. But Flora is not happy, she wants to go out, to school, see her friends. She is going to be kidnapped and they will call her father and demand money".
If the first casualty of war is the truth, then the second might well be everyday freedoms. Women and minorities are often the first targeted. These repressive actions are usually justified by an underlying ideological or theological rationale. Additionally, the disintegration of social order allows parasitic individuals to seek economic or political advantage through murder, kidnapping, and blackmail.
"I am happy that I did not go mad. All I have seen. All I have heard. Some have killed themselves. All have problems that will never be solved".
Mental illness is a common consequence of civil unrest. In some cases, much of the surviving community is deeply traumatized. Studies of civilians in Lebanon, Algeria, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Rwanda, and Timor-Leste show links between war trauma and increased levels of mental disorders several years later, particularly Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and depression. Unfortunately, limited funds available in post-conflict areas makes bringing medical attention to many of these individuals difficult if not impossible.