Deaths of IRC Staff in Afghanistan: Responses from the Humanitarian Community
IRC aid workers Mohammad Aimal, Shirley Case, Nicole Dial and Jackie Kirk were killed on 13 August 2008 in an ambush in Afghanistan, where the IRC has been working for 20 years, providing lifesaving aid and recovery assistance to the Afghan people. They were returning from meetings with the local community in Logar Province about an IRC project that aids children with disabilities.
This is a selection of official responses from our colleagues in the humanitarian community. If you would like to send a personal tribute, please write care of children@theIRC.org or Emily Miner, International Rescue Committee, 122 E. 42nd Street, New York, NY 10168 USA.
Message from Bill Clinton
I was profoundly shocked and saddened to learn of your loved ones' tragic deaths, and I extend my heartfelt sympathy to each of you at this difficult time.
Though diverse in their backgrounds and individual experience, as colleagues in the International Rescue Committee's development work in Afghanistan, Shirley, Nicole, Jackie, and Aimal were united in their shared commitment to building a brighter, more equitable, and more peaceful future for generations to come.
Each of them made invaluable contributions to educate and empower innocent young people often mired in conflict situations, and their courage in confronting injustice in the face of great danger to their own lives is nothing short of heroic. We owe them all a debt of gratitude for the sacrifices they made in their efforts to relieve the suffering of others.
Shirley, Nicole, Jackie, and Aimal were lost in a senseless act of terror, but they did not die in vain. Their story of service and compassion adds a critical dimension to the global dialogue about human rights, and their example serves as a legacy that will not only endure, but inspire. I hope the knowledge that each of these four people left our world a better place than they found it will ease your sorrow and bring you comfort as you celebrate their remarkable lives.
You are all in my thoughts and prayers.
Message from International Committee of the Red Cross President, Dr. Jakob Kellenberger
I was deeply grieved to learn about the tragic loss of Mr Mohammad Aimal, Ms Shirley Case, Ms Nicole Dial and Ms Jacqueline Kirk attacked and killed in Afghanistan on 13 August 2008.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) was particularly shocked that such a horrific act was once again committed against people engaged in humanitarian action. We feel particularly close to you in this painful time, being together in the field operations and sharing the difficulties of humanitarian work.
On behalf of all ICRC colleagues, allow me to express my deepest sympathy to all International Rescue Committee (IRC) staff as well as my sincere condolences to the families of the victims.
UNESCO Director-General expresses sorrow over death of aid workers in Afghanistan
It was with shock and great sorrow that I learned of the murder of four colleagues, working for the International Rescue Committee (IRC), in Afghanistan on 13 August 2008. Those killed were Dr. Jackie Kirk, Ms Nicole Dial, Ms Shirley Case, all education and child protection specialists, and their driver, Mr. Mohamed Aimal. As members of the development and humanitarian communities, we at UNESCO and all partner agencies are deeply affected by this tragic event.
One of the deceased, Dr. Jackie Kirk, worked with UNESCO colleagues in various field offices, at headquarters and with UNESCO’s specialized institutes on numerous occasions. Her tireless advocacy and passion for quality education in conflict, post-conflict and post-disaster situations moved and inspired all those who had the opportunity to work with her. Dr. Kirk was a gifted researcher and scholar, with a deep grounding in field operational realities in the most difficult of environments. She was especially committed to the provision of high quality education to women and girls in conflict and disaster settings and to increasing understanding of the gender dynamics of education. She worked tirelessly within the Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE) with colleagues all over the world. Dr. Kirk’s death is a loss to her many personal friends at UNESCO, to the education in emergencies community and to the children, teachers and communities who will continue to benefit from her tremendous contributions to the field.
Jackie Kirk worked with UNESCO IIEP on two studies, which will soon be published posthumously: One deals with the educational response to the 2005 earthquake in Pakistan; the other with the certification of the learning attainments of refugee and internally displaced students. The 2009 Education for All Global Monitoring Report, to be published shortly, includes a background paper she authored on teacher management issues in fragile states. Next week, she was due to participate in a joint UNESCO/UNHCR/IRC mission to Syria and Jordan, working on certification of Iraqi refugees’ learning attainments and safe learning environments. These are but a few examples of her broad and deep engagement.
UNESCO has recently spoken out forcefully against the increasingly prevalent practice of armed attacks on schools, students, teachers and other education workers. Last year, we published a study by Brendan O’Malley, entitled Education under Attack, which documented the killings, kidnaps and other types of attacks on educational institutions and personnel all over the world. The cowardly murders of our IRC colleagues in Afghanistan are just four more examples of this lamentable trend. I am determined that UNESCO, in partnership with many others, will do its utmost to reverse this trend, by advocating for the strengthening of the monitoring of compliance with the instruments of international law that condemn such attacks.
We at UNESCO hope to honour our dead colleagues by applying the same commitment and passion in our work as they did in theirs, and by continued dedication to the cause they pursued so relentlessly: the provision of education for children and communities affected by conflict and disasters.
The following is an excerpt from a statement from the Bernard van Leer Foundation, which funds and shares knowledge about work in early childhood development and child rights.
The staff of the Bernard van Leer Foundation would like to share our deepest regrets with the families and colleagues of the four aid workers who were killed while working for the International Rescue Committee in Afghanistan on August 13th, 2008. We are shocked and saddened by this event -- and we are reminded of the senseless violence affecting so many people around the world.
Mohammad Aimal, Shirley Case, Nicole Dial and Jackie Kirk were all committed to fighting for the rights of the most vulnerable children and their families. Each of them was working for change, putting themselves in harm’s way in the hope that they could provide some comfort and support to others…
We would like to take this time to mourn [their] loss … and to celebrate their lives and their commitment to social change.
15 August 2008
UNICEF offers condolences to the families and colleagues of four aid workers killed in Afghanistan
14 August 2008 - UNICEF expresses its deep sorrow at the killing of 4 International Rescue Committee (IRC) aid workers yesterday outside Kabul, Afghanistan.
UNICEF offers its heartfelt condolences to the families and colleagues of those killed and injured.
Attacks on humanitarian workers are unacceptable and threaten the delivery of urgently-needed aid to those in need.
The four aid workers, Mohammad Aimal, Shirley Case, Nicole Dial and Jacqueline Kirk, were killed when a group of armed men opened fire on their two vehicles as they travelled from Kabul to Logar [sic] just south of the capital. Another IRC staff member was critically wounded.
Their deaths bring to 23 the number of aid workers killed in Afghanistan so far this year, eight more than were killed in all of 2007.
Statement by UNGEI on the deaths of aid workers in Afghanistan
NEW YORK, USA, 13 August 2008 - The United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI) is deeply saddened by the killing in Afghanistan of four aid workers, three women and their driver, from the International Rescue Committee (IRC). We strongly condemn the attack on these committed individuals, who worked tirelessly to improve the lives of the people in Afghanistan, especially children. We offer our deepest condolences to the families and friends of the victims at this difficult time.
One of the three women killed Dr. Jackie Kirk, was a close friend of UNGEI and deeply committed to girls’ education. Dr. Kirk was a technical specialist in education in emergencies, conflict and post-conflict and fragile states, with a particular focus on gender, and on teacher-related issues, including teacher training. She worked for IRC, providing technical assistance to country programs as well as working on global policy and program development projects.
Dr. Kirk was also a Research Associate and Consultant based at the McGill Centre for Research and Teaching on Women (MCRTW). Her research focuses on gender, education, conflict and peace, on gender dynamics of schooling in conflict, post-conflict and fragile state contexts, and on the promotion of gender equality in and through educational transformation. She was particularly interested in the use of alternative methodologies such as visual analysis for the study of and application to gender and education, and had recently finished a research project for UNGEI.
UNGEI mourns the loss of Dr. Kirk and her unwavering commitment to gender and education.
Message of condolence from SAVE Canada
On behalf of Board, staff and volunteers of Save the Children Canada, I want to express our sorrow and outrage at the senseless killing of our colleagues with the International Rescue Committee. As aid workers committed to improving the lives of women and children, these workers were striving to build a life of peace and prosperity for Afghanistan. We offer our condolences to the family of the murder victims, and our solidarity and support to IRC.
President & CEO
Save the Children Canada
Statement by the Prime Minister of Canada on the deaths of two Canadians in Afghanistan (NGO)
OTTAWA - Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued the following statement today on the deaths of two Canadians working in Afghanistan with the International Rescue Committee:
“On behalf of the Government of Canada, it is with great sadness that I extend my heart-felt sympathies to the family and friends of the two Canadian aid workers with the International Rescue Committee who were brutally killed today in Afghanistan, as well as to the friends and family of their Afghan and American colleagues who also lost their lives.
“Knowing the risks associated with working in a conflict zone, these humanitarian aid workers gave selflessly to help improve the lives of the Afghan people. Their spirits will live on in the continued efforts of all who are assisting in the reconstruction of Afghanistan.”
The two Canadian aid workers, an American and their Afghan driver were travelling by car in the eastern Logar province towards Kabul when they were attacked today.
“This cowardly attack on unarmed aid workers yet again shows the depravity of the Taliban and the bleak alternative that they represent. Canada remains steadfast in our commitment to the people of Afghanistan and will continue to work with the Afghan government and the international community to improve the lives of Afghans.”
As per one family’s request, one of the names of the deceased has not yet been released.
European Commission condemns the killing of aid workers in Afghanistan
The European Commission strongly condemns the killing of four aid workers in Logar, Afghanistan, today. The victims were working for the International Rescue Committee (IRC). The European Commission extends its deepest sympathy to the families of the four people killed, three women of British-Canadian, Canadian and Trinidadian-American nationality and their Afghan driver, and to the family of the other Afghan driver who was seriously wounded.
These brave and committed workers lost their lives while helping those in need. This situation highlights the importance of our efforts to impose the respect of International Humanitarian Law.
The International Rescue Committee is a highly valued and longstanding humanitarian aid partner of the European Commission in Afghanistan working under often very difficult and dangerous conditions. The IRC is also implementing a Commission-funded project under the Development Cooperation Instrument promoting inclusive education for children with disabilities and those killed included part of the team working on that project.
GENEVA -- UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres today expressed shock and sadness over the killing in Afghanistan of four aid workers from the International Rescue Committee.
On behalf of UNHCR staff worldwide, I want to convey our deep shock and sorrow over the senseless murders of our friends and colleagues from the International Rescue Committee, Guterres said of the fatal ambush Wednesday in Afghanistan's Logar Province. I condemn the killings in the strongest possible terms. We send our deepest condolences to the families and friends of those who died helping others, and express our solidarity with our IRC partners at this difficult time.
An IRC statement said the dead included three international staff members, all women -- a British-Canadian, a Canadian and a Trinidadian American -- and an Afghan driver. Another Afghan driver was critically wounded. It said the group was traveling to Kabul in a clearly marked International Rescue Committee vehicle when they came under fire.
Guterres noted that IRC has been one of UNHCR's longest-standing partners in the delivery of assistance to refugees and internally displaced people. It has provided neutral, impartial humanitarian aid to Afghans throughout all the long years of conflict -- both in exile and inside Afghanistan.
Statement by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan, Kai Eide, on this morning's attack against the International Rescue Committee (IRC)
I am shocked and saddened to have learnt that an International Rescue Committee vehicle travelling on the Kabul to Logar highway was attacked by unknown gunmen this morning, resulting in the death of three female international aid workers and their Afghan colleague.
I condemn this cowardly attack in the strongest possible terms and urge the authorities to leave no stone unturned in the search for the perpetrators.
The IRC provides life saving humanitarian assistance to those most affected by the conflict and it is reprehensible that such selfless individuals working for the most vulnerable communities should be deliberately targeted in this way.
We face a growing humanitarian challenge in Afghanistan and all parties to this conflict must recognise and respect the inherent neutrality and independence of the humanitarian assistance being provided to those Afghans who need our help the most.
On behalf of all United Nations staff in Afghanistan I offer my sincere condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of all those who lost their lives today.