Drone strikes kill real people; here are the ones I know

Children don't go to school for fear; they don’t know what the objects in the sky are or why they are killing them.

Mariam Kizilbash February 22, 2013
Yesterday, Senator Lindsay Graham, made the following remark:
“We’ve killed 4,700.”

“Sometimes you hit innocent people, and I hate that, but we’re at war, and we’ve taken out some very senior members of al Qaeda.”

And in this swift statement, all the damage caused and all the lives destroyed by drone strikes have been justified - just because Senator Lindsay "hates" it.

A huge number of civilian victims of the US drone attacks in Waziristan still remain silhouettes to euphemisms like ‘collateral damage’. Their voices are muted under the constant humming of US drones circling their villages causing constant fear and immense psychological damage.

They are also simply shunned from any semblance of humanity, not only the state - which directly and deliberately perpetrates these strikes, but also their own countrymen which cast a blind eye to them.

One such brave man is Noor Khan, who lost his father to a deadly strike in Waziristan on March 17, 2011 where a US drone missile targeted a group of chromite farmers gathered for a jirga along with 49 other innocent people.

Malik Daud Khan, Noor’s father was a well respected member of his community and was decorated by the Government of Pakistan. He was a patriot tribal who always helped and assisted the Pakistani armed forces, played an active role in the construction of a road through his village for the movement of the armed forces and had always been held in high esteem by the army as well as by the political administration.

Mourning for his father, Noor told us how Malik Daud had a good heart and always strived for betterment of his people and their circumstanc. He was one of the few supporters of the empowerment of women, exemplified by his efforts to establish a ‘women skills development centre’ in his village.

Noor Khan, who himself is a brave survivor of the March 17 attack, is also a petitioner in the first constitutional case filed by the Foundation of Fundamental Rights (FFR) on behalf of victims of drone strikes against the government of Pakistan.

Eye witnesses and survivors of the US drone attacks in Waziristan usually have similar, heartbreaking stories.

Drones circle their village with a loud ‘humming sound’ causing fear and havoc for hours before they finally attack their hujras in the village, funerals, fields or shops. The lives of many innocent children and women have been compromised and, property and houses are destroyed.

Children have stopped going to school and move about in fear of being killed like flies.

They usually don’t even know what the objects in the sky are or why they are killing them.

Perhaps, even many years later, we might still not be able to explain the answer to their surviving family members; we may never be able to tell them why innocent members of their families were so brutally murdered.

On September 7, 2009, during the month of Ramazan, Saadullah, another innocent victim lost his house which was the inaccurate target of a missile launched by a drone, or unmanned aerial vehicle.

Three members of his family were killed instantly, while Saadullah and his cousin sustained extensive injuries due to the attack. Saadullah lost both legs and an eye as a result. To this date he suffers from mental and physical side effects that have lasted through time and cannot be healed. Every single day, Saadullah pays the price of a political and historical mistake he might never even have the knowledge of.

Dear Senator Lindsay Graham, these are real people who the US has killed, not just collateral damage.

Mir Daad Khan witnessed his first drone strike at the age of 13. He has seen up to five drones’ strikes in one day and six to seven strikes in 2012 alone. Due to the prevalent strikes in the area most children including Mir Daad Khan have stopped attending school. Mir Daad says this is because strikes target schools predominantly and only a few remain.

These are the very real effects that drone strikes have caused, but just because American citizens are not affected, noone seems to care.

Mir Daad stopped attending school at the age of 13 when the first strike occurred and like the rest of the children in the village, never went back due to the fear of being killed. As a result of this fear, he remains illiterate.

In order to support his wife, two small babies, and to help support a total of 17 family members living in the same house, he takes on small, non technical odd jobs. Mir Daad Khan’s father, Khanay Khan - aged 40 and the main bread winner of the large family - was also killed by a drone strike on March 17, 2011. Khanay Khan had been attending this jirga from which only scattered parts of dead bodies were recovered after the strike.

Mir Daad can probably never hope for a good, completely fulfilled life because he happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. How can you explain this away by three words i.e. War on Terror? Ruining, permanently, the lives of innocent people is just not justifiable.

Karim khan, who has taken the brave step of  filing  a case in the Islamabad District court against a  CIA station chief who called for the drone attack that killed his  teenage son, Zainullah, and his younger brother Asif Iqbal, in December 2009 said to FFR regarding the drone strikes that have killed a number of women and children since 2004:
 "Of course they are killing terrorists. A three month old baby is indeed a terrorist."

The tragic irony, and the world's silence to date about it, makes one sick.

Read more by Mariam here.
Mariam Kizilbash The author read her LLM from University College of London and has worked in human rights NGOs in Islamabad and London. She is currently a legal researcher for Corruption Watch (UK).
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.

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