PRESS RELEASE: Remembering a friend killed in Iraq —
From Kevin Danaher and Medea Benjamin,
April 17, 2005. Just about
every day we hear of bombs going off in Iraq, and perhaps we pause for a
moment and think what a tragedy it is, and then we go back to our daily
routine. But when someone close to you is killed by one of those bombs,
the world stops spinning.
On Saturday April 16, our colleague and friend, 28-year-old Marla
Ruzicka of Lakeport, California, was killed when a car bomb exploded on
the streets of Baghdad. We still don't know the exact details of her
death, which makes it all that much harder to deal with the utter shock of
losing this bright, shining light whose work focused on trying to bring
some compassion into the middle of a war zone.
Marla was working for a humanitarian organization she founded called
CIVIC (Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict), which documents cases
of innocent civilians hurt by war. Marla and numerous other volunteers
would go door-to-door interviewing families who had lost loved ones or had
their property destroyed by the fighting. She would then take this
information back to Washington and lobby for reparations for these
A case in point, taken from Marla's own journal,
as published November 6, 2003 on AlterNet:
On the 24th of October, former teacher Mohammad Kadhum Mansoor,
59, and his wife, Hamdia Radhi Kadhum, 45, were traveling with their three
daughters — Beraa, 21, Fatima, 8, and Ayat, 5 years old — when they were
tragically run over by an American tank.
A grenade was thrown at the tank, causing it to loose control
and veer onto the highway, over the family's small Volkswagen. Mohammad
and Hamdia were killed instantly, orphaning the three girls in the
backseat. The girls survived, but with broken and fractured bodies. We are
not sure of Ayat's fate; her backbone is broken.
CIVIC staff member Faiz Al Salaam monitors the girls' condition each
day. Nobody in the military or the U.S. Army has visited them, nor has
anyone offered to help this very poor family.
Marla first came to the Global Exchange office when she was still in
high school in Lakeport. She had heard a talk by one of staff members
about Global Exchange's work building people-to-people ties around the
world — and she wanted to do something to help. She was a quick study and
took to the work with a passion and energy that were inspiring to us older
activists. She later chose a college (Friends World College) that allowed
her to travel to many countries and learn from diverse cultures. She
quickly developed a "big love" — love of the human race, in all its joy,
frailties, and exotic permutations.
Marla worked with AIDS victims in Zimbabwe, refugees in Palestine,
campesinos in Nicaragua. Following the US invasion of Afghanistan, Marla
traveled to Afghanistan with a Global Exchange delegation. She was so
moved by the plight of the civilian victims that she dedicated the rest of
her too short life to helping innocent victims of war. She was on a
similar mission in Iraq when she met with her untimely death.
Marla was once asked by a San Francisco Chronicle reporter if she would
ever consider doing work that was safer. Marla answered: "To have a job
where you can make things better for people? That's a blessing. Why would
I do anything else?"
We are somewhat consoled by the fact that Marla died doing what she
really wanted to do: help people less fortunate than herself. Many of us
believe that character trait to be the most beautiful quality a human
being can possess. And Marla had an abundance of it.
It is so difficult to think of this lively young woman as not being
alive any more. Marla seemed to have one speed: all-ahead-full. She had
more courage than most people we know. She loved big challenges and she
took them on with a radiant smile that could melt the coldest heart.
One of the things we can do to honor Marla Ruzicka is to carry on her
heartfelt work to build a world without hunger, war, and needless
suffering. And every time we start to get depressed about the state of the
world, we should take inspiration from Marla's boundless energy and throw
ourselves back into the work of global justice with the same kind of
passion that was Marla's most endearing quality.