‘What did my grandmother do wrong?’

Published: October 30, 2013
Nine-year-old Nabila Rehman sits in front of pictures of her relatives killed in drone strikes, at the start of a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington on Tuesday. PHOTO: REUTERS

Nine-year-old Nabila Rehman sits in front of pictures of her relatives killed in drone strikes, at the start of a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington on Tuesday. PHOTO: REUTERS


Nabila Rehman was picking vegetables from her family garden last year when missiles from a US drone rained down from the sky, killing her grandmother and injuring her and seven other children. The nine-year-old Pakistani girl now has a question for the US government: “What did my grandmother do wrong?”

The family, who survived the drone strike, appeared before US Congress members on Tuesday to record what happened on the life-altering day.

Nabila’s father, Rafiq, has travelled with her from North Waziristan to Washington, along with his 13-year-old son Zubair – also wounded by shrapnel – to put a human face on America’s drone campaign.

He told the briefing through a Pushto translator that he did not have any bad feelings towards the US before his mother was killed in the drone strike. Replying to a question, he said that when his mother died in the drone strike, the neighbours told him, “See what the United States has done to your mother. You should hate them.”

“Our children now do not want to go to school, they even fear to play outside. We live in constant fear. Before the drone campaign started, we were busy in our own lives,” Nabila told the Congressmen. Their account was cited last week in an Amnesty International report that demanded an end to secrecy around the drone attacks.

Rehman said he accepted an invitation from a documentary production company to come to the United States because “as a teacher, I wanted to educate Americans and let them know my children have been injured.”

To a question on what Rehman would say if he got the chance to meet President Obama, who approves the strikes, he said, “I would like to tell President Obama that what happened to my family is wrong. I would urge him to find a peaceful answer to end this war.”

He pointed out, “I have noticed that everyone in the US lives in peace and I dream that my children will also be able to live in peace.”

Rehman’s lawyer, Shahzad Akbar, who represents others who say they are victims of drone strikes, had planned to accompany them but the State Department denied him a travel visa, according to Jennifer Gibson, a lawyer with Reprieve, which works with Akbar. “[The family] are not asking for money. They want answers,” she said. “They hope that by coming here and saying we’re the faceless people who you keep counting as numbers, somebody is going to start listening and questioning if this is really a smart policy.”

Congressman Alan Grayson, who hosted the briefing, said the presence of five members of Congress at the briefing indicated that there was a fair amount of interest from representatives.

He, however, conceded that he does not see any formal briefing on drones soon as most of the house committees are chaired by the people who are friends of those who make up the military industrial complex. “I believe that over time, people will realise the gravity of this issue.”

How their lives changed

After the drone strike in October last year that killed Rehman’s mother, Momina Bibi, media reports confirmed a drone strike did take place, but said missiles hit a house, with one version alleging a car was struck and several militants killed.

But the aggrieved family said no building or car was directly hit in the attack. Missiles landed in the field where their grandmother was teaching Nabila how to recognise when ladyfingers are ripe enough to pick.

After a loud boom, “where my grandmother was standing, I saw these two bright lights come down and hit her,” described Nabila. “And everything became dark at that point.”

Shrapnel lodged in her right hand and she was treated at a local hospital. Her brother, Zubair, suffered shrapnel wounds to his left leg, which required two operations. His family had to take out a loan to pay for the surgery.

The family’s experience are featured in a new documentary, “Unmanned: America’s Drone Wars,” set to be released by Jemima Khan and Brave New Foundation, which takes a critical view of the strikes.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 30th, 2013.

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Reader Comments (15)

  • Ali
    Oct 30, 2013 - 3:47AM

    However late this might be, it’s an amazing step in the right direction. May Allah have mercy on the souls that were wrongfully killed. And May Allah have mercy on the lives of the bereaving!


  • Aik Paki
    Oct 30, 2013 - 4:28AM

    I hope after their story, the Pakistani elite and some media outlets fed by US aid will also recognize the aftermath of drone strike.


  • Imran
    Oct 30, 2013 - 8:01AM

    failed state


  • khan
    Oct 30, 2013 - 8:06AM

    Every govt protect the life of their citizens but our Govt. (civil and Army) didn’t protect our own people from such misery


  • faiz
    Oct 30, 2013 - 9:04AM

    An un-interesting piece of “fabricated lies” for liberals of Pakistan. Isnt it, liberals?

    Waiting to see a Human Chain formed for these people too. Or maybe you dont find it cool to do so for these poor, pathetic cavemen. Right liberals?


  • Ch. Allah Daad
    Oct 30, 2013 - 9:12AM

    Terrorists have killed more than forty thousand innocent people to avenge deaths caused by Drones including grand mother of this guy. How many more innocent deaths will satisfy these guys?


  • Usman Masood
    Oct 30, 2013 - 9:23AM

    Can the people in Pakistan who are for the drone strikes please stand up?
    Do you feel ashamed or have you sunk that low!!!


  • Saim Baig
    Oct 30, 2013 - 9:35AM

    Can’t see any comments from so called liberals.


  • Dr. Usman Khalid
    Oct 30, 2013 - 10:03AM

    At this moment we are neither optimistic in the obama admin nor the pakistani government regarding curtailing drone attacks. A completely counter productive strategy that breeds more terrorism, it must be condemned and must be stopped. After severe disappointment from my own country s media in this regard, i have nothing but well wishes for amnesty international and the team of this documentary , with hopes that the people of the world would see the human side of this conundrum, if not the governments!Recommend

  • Ahmed Khan
    Oct 30, 2013 - 10:24AM

    It’s good to see Pakistani people dealing with these issues in a peaceful manner. However the media, and by media I mean Fox News and CNN will continue to shine light on the the less than 1% of people that choose violent methods to retaliate. I hope this event will force the Americans to be less violent and more accurate in dealing with this extremist problem I wish this family the best and am proud to hear that they are Pakistani.


  • Usman Aziz
    Oct 30, 2013 - 10:47AM

    Once Again confusion would further get deep in minds of people, why drones strike is the basic question, and answer is simple because there is no writ of Pak govt and even champions of Taliban talks can not enter these regions even in day time. I personally feel the problem is within our selves and not with America so we have to put things right otherwise stop declaring Tribal Area as Part of Pakistan.


  • salman
    Oct 30, 2013 - 10:58AM

    Two wrongs doesn’t make right. Innocent deaths both by the drones and terrorists are wrong and should be criticized at every forum in the world. Period.


  • muhammad.salman@slfe.com.sa
    Oct 30, 2013 - 12:19PM

    @Saim Baig:
    Alot of unwanted comments are deleted by ET… they will ony “show” what they want to show .. champions of independent media.??


  • doop
    Oct 30, 2013 - 5:21PM


  • salman
    Oct 31, 2013 - 9:08AM

    Survivor of Taliban attack Malala.. contesting for noble prize

    Survivor of Drone Attack.. Nabeela.. begging for peace


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