Today marks the third anniversary of the day the world lost Marla Ruzicka, a 28-year old woman originally from California who focused global attention on the fate of the thousands of civilians who have been killed or injured in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"Marla Ruzicka, a native of Lakeport, California, a pristine community on the shores of California's Clear Lake, was born December 31, 1976. She attended Long Island University's Friends World Program, studying in Costa Rica and Cuba, Kenya and Zimbabwe, Israel and Palestine. After graduating from LIU in the Spring of 1999, Marla returned to California and worked briefly for the Rainforest Alliance. At an early age it was evident that human rights was her passion. She eventually returned to Global Exchange, a San Francisco-based nongovernmental advocacy organization, where she had volunteered during high school.
After leading a Global Exchange Reality Tour in opposition to the war in Afghanistan, Marla decided to stay behind to help families accidentally harmed in Operation Enduring Freedom. She arrived in Kabul only a few days after the Taliban were removed from power and organized a survey of the military campaign's impact on Afghan civilians. She used the information to get assistance from the U.S. military and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to the families who were harmed. The day after Saddam's statue fell Marla arrived in Iraq and immediately began a door-to-door survey of civilians who had been killed or injured.
In 2003, Marla formed a new NGO, the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict (CIVIC). Although she became an innocent victim of war herself when she was killed in a suicide bomb attack in Baghdad on April 16, 2005 at the age of 28, CIVIC is continuing the work that Marla started.
Before her death Marla had successfully lobbied the U.S. Government through Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) to provide medical, vocational and other types of assistance for Afghan and Iraqi families and communities harmed as a result of U.S. and coalition military operations. To date, $25 million has been appropriated for the "Marla Ruzicka Iraqi War Victims Fund," and more than $14 million for similar activities in Afghanistan. These funds are administered by USAID through NGOs, in consultation with the U.S. Congress and CIVIC."
"While leaving Iraq before the war, our convoy broke down on the desert highway. We got out and Marla suddenly darted across the camera lens, while a voice in the background says "bye bye." Moments later Marla was just a dot running into the desert, the last shot I have of her. Marla dodged the camera. Yet, in this glimpse she reveals herself, utterly and completely - her passion, her intelligence, her tenderness, and her bold love. The facts of Marla's life have spread across the media, but the mystery of who Marla was seems more accurately conveyed by something more than fact or word. By chance, or fate the song "Lost Unto this World," by Emmylou Harris, sing the details of Marla's story - "I was murdered by the highway, and my cries went out in vain." It also asks us, "O you among the living, will you remember me at all?" Marla Ruzicka gave her life to a question "How many Iraqi's died? Her story should capture the imagination of this country and penetrate the halls of power with a simple question, "How many?" Marla should be remembered with an answer. The piece closes with the sun through the clouds of the Iraqi/Jordanian border, credited "to Marla." For in Marla's lifetime, I did not give her the credit she was due. Please visit Marla's Website: CivicWorldwide.org"