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Last Updated: Friday, 29 April, 2005, 17:23 GMT 18:23 UK
Afghan memorial for US activist
By Andrew North
BBC News, Kabul

Marla Ruzicka (right) with an Iraqi woman in Baghdad
Ruzicka (right) with an Iraqi woman shortly before her death
A memorial ceremony has been held in Afghanistan for a US rights activist who raised millions of dollars for civilian victims of US military action.

Marla Ruzicka died earlier this month in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, after her vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb.

She was well known in Baghdad and Kabul for her campaigning work.

Victims of mistaken US bombing raids in Afghanistan, as well as government officials, were among those attending Friday's memorial.

Red tulips

Many of those Ruzicka had helped or worked with came to the memorial ceremony at a guesthouse in the capital, speaking of her warmth and enthusiasm.

Esanullah, a cluster bomb victim, helps unveil the plaque
Esanullah, a cluster bomb victim, helps unveil the plaque

People held red tulips which were then laid beneath a plaque on a wall.

It was unveiled by a young boy, Esanullah, injured by cluster bomb munitions who eventually received compensation after Ruzicka's intervention.

One woman, Arifa, who lost eight children in a bomb attack in 2002, broke down in tears as she spoke about the 28-year-old Californian.

"The same thing that happened to me three years ago has happened again now with the death of Marla," she said.

There were also tributes from Afghanistan's women's affairs minister Dr Massouda Jalal and Afghan human rights activists.

Ruzicka had spent more time in Iraq since the US-led invasion there. But it was in Afghanistan that she began her campaigning on behalf of civilians caught in conflict.

A United Nations worker said it was because of her energetic campaigning - which included a demonstration outside the US embassy in Kabul in 2002 - that the US government had set aside $8m to compensate civilians suffering death or injury as a result of wrongly-targeted American strikes.

She is also credited with securing over $4m of US government funds to help communities in southern and eastern Afghanistan worst affected by the continuing conflict with Taliban-led insurgents.




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