The victims of a drone strike alleged to be launched last year by the United States spoke to members of Congress on Tuesday and urged the US government to stop killing civilians with weaponized unmanned aerial vehicles.
Rafiq ur Rehman, a primary school teacher from North Waziristan, Pakistan, spoke through an interpreter on Capitol Hill on Tuesday along with his two children, ages nine and 13.
Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Florida) invited Rehman to speak in Washington about the strike last October that killed Momina Bibi, his 67-year-old mother who was recognized around the region as a midwife, not a militant. Regardless, a weaponized drone purported to be under the control of the US Central Intelligence Agency executed Bibi in front of her grandchildren on Oct. 24, 2012. The US has not formally acknowledged the attack, nor taken responsibility.
“Nobody has ever told me why my mother was targeted that day,” Rehman said during the Tuesday morning panel. “All media reported three, four, five militants were killed. But only one person was killed that day. A mom, grandma, a midwife.”
“The string that holds the pearls together. That is what my mother was,” Rahman said. “Since her death, the string has been broken and life has not been the same. We feel alone and we feel lost.”
Speaking before members of Congress, Rehman thanked Rep. Grayson for the invitation and said it was reassuring that some members of the US government are willing to try and shed light on a gruesome operation rarely acknowledged publicly in Washington.
“As a teacher my job is to educate,” said Rehman. “But how can I teach this? How can I teach what I don’t understand?”
Rehman’s 12-year-old son, Zubair, told Grayson and the few congressional colleagues that joined him on the Hill Tuesday that he was with his grandmother last year when she was killed shortly after the buzzing of a drone was heard hovering above them.
“As I helped my grandma in the field, I could see and hear drone overhead but wasn’t worried because we’re not militants,” Zubair said. “I no longer like blue skies. In fact, I prefer gray skies. When sky brightens, drones return and we live in fear.”
“We used to love to play outside. But now people are afraid to leave their houses so we don’t play very often,” the boy added.
Zubair’s sister, nine-year-old Nabila, was picking okra in a field with her grandmother at the time of the attack. She testified that she heard the noise from above. “Everything was dark and I couldn’t see anything, but I heard a scream…I was very scared and all I could think of doing was just run,” she said.
The Rehman’s were joined at the hearing by Robert Greenwald, a filmmaker who has been working in Pakistan over the past several months on a project related to the ongoing US drone strikes. Testifying on his own behalf, Greenwald suggested that the ongoing operations waged by the US as an alleged counter-terrorism operation are breeding anti-American sentiment at a rate that makes Al-Qaeda jealous.