“Collateral damage” – two simple words, used loosely, create a disassociation from the human cost of the US drone programme. Innocent – and often forgotten – lives are lost. In Germany, a young journalist is working to change that and humanise the numbers by giving them back their names. Emran Feroz is about to start up a website listing the names of every single person killed by a drone strike anywhere in the world.
His project called dronememorial.com is driven by a belief that “people in the West do not recognise what daily life in Waziristan and other areas of the world is like when drones are hovering overhead.”
The son of Afghan immigrants, Feroz told The Express Tribune how fortunate he felt to be in Europe while his fellow Afghans were becoming victims of extrajudicial killings under a questionable ‘foreign policy’.
“While people talk a lot about victims of radical religious groups, nobody talks about the fate of drone victims. I want to give them a voice. I want to show everybody as many names as possible, not just some numbers.”
The 22-year-old’s project, though ambitious, is “very simple. It’s a website with only one page – a virtual memorial for all the victims of drone strikes. Let’s be honest, creating such a website isn’t difficult. Many names are already available. So I decided to start with it.”
The site provides a simple list of names and locations of the respective attack.
Feroz saw the need for such a memorial while doing research for stories on the subject. He was never able to find a complete list of the names of those killed. “I was surprised and angry. There are memorials in many cities for victims of terrorism, but there isn’t any memorial for more than 3,000 victims of US drones, not even a virtual one. There are virtual memorials for fictional characters from TV or video games but not for the victims of these cruel attacks which happen somewhere every week. Honestly, this is just sickening and I want to change that.”
Building such a list might be problematic, since names of some of the dead have been concealed. While details on civilians can be gathered with help from local communities and NGOs, others might not be as forthcoming.
“At this moment I don’t know if there is any possibility for me to contact all concerned. Nevertheless, it would be a big advantage to talk with all parties. As a journalist I am not opposed to doing it. I have to talk with as many people as possible,” he said. “Unfortunately, it seems impossible to find out all the names, but that does not mean I shouldn’t try.”
Published in The Express Tribune, December 22nd, 2013.