Families of drone victims launch NODV to the international press
On April 1st 2014, bereaved families who lost relatives to US drone strikes in Yemen launched the National Organization for Drone Victims (NODV) with the aim of supporting affected communities and highlighting the civilian impact of the covert programme.
The initiative comes from Mohammad al-Qawli, an Advisor to the Ministry of Education whose brother, an elementary school-teacher was killed in a drone strike in Khawlan near the capital Sanaa in January 2013. (At the time of the attack I received graphic photos of body parts from the attack from a lawyer friend in Yemen but it was months before I found out the identity of the victims after reading testimony given to a Senate hearing in the US.) Mohammad Al- Qawli stated;
“I founded the NODV in memory of my brother Ali because it was clear that the voices of victims of the US drone programme in Yemen need to be heard and the affected communities need support. There is so much misinformation spread about these attacks and almost no notice paid to the lasting, devastating affect they have on communities throughout Yemen. These attacks are making us all less safe: not only are innocents killed, but drone strikes create instability and radicalisation. By bringing victims together we have the chance to uncover facts regarding the strikes and their consequences and work together towards ending the illegal use of drones in Yemen and preventing further bloodshed.”
Display showing images of those affected by drone strikes
Legal organization, Reprieve, are providing ongoing support to NODV and have taken on the role of “assisting victims’ families to seek legal accountability for drone attacks, with the goal of exposing the programme to scrutiny and restoring the rule of law.” Members of the group include Faisal Ali Bin Jaber, whose brother-in-law, an Imam who preached against Al-Qaeda, and nephew were killed in an August 2012 strike.
In an interview with Al Jazeera, Baraa Shiban, the project coordinator for Reprieve spoke of the constant presence of drones in Yemen that is devastating communities, he said, “we are talking almost 50 percent of the country — ten provinces in total — who suffer from the constant hovering of drones.”
The US claim to be targeting “alleged” insurgents but time and time again civilians in Yemen (and also Pakistan) are killed or severely injured. Victims of “collateral damage” are taking legal action but its a long and stressful road to justice. NODV describes its main role as follows;
“to investigate and publish facts about drone strikes and their effects on communities with the aim of changing government policy regarding the secretive US programme. The organization will also seek to assist affected communities with the after-effects of drone strikes including: the economic impact of the loss of families’ primary bread-winners; psychological trauma—particularly in children; and physical injuries”
The launch of the programme comes just says after the tragic death of Hamza Hassan Bin Dahaman, a Yemeni youth so traumatized at witnessing a drone strike that he never recovered from the experience, see my earlier story on the link below
Yemeni lawyer, Haykal Bafana’s poignant words about Hamza were posted on his Facebook, they read as follows,
“maybe Americans know how not to care about anonymous innocents droned dead or the boy frightened to death by drones. Teach me, please.
Teach me how not to dream about innocent people droned dead. Teach me how not to grieve over men, women and children killed for no reason, without need for a court, judge or jury to judge them.
Maybe one can learn to not care, not feel. Teach me, then, how not to care about a boy frightened dead by drones.
Teach me how not to see my children in his place”
Hamza Hassan bin Dahaman traumatized to death after witnessing drone strike
Yemenis were outraged and took to the streets in December 2013 after a wedding party in Radaa was hit by drone missiles killing 12 men and injuring at least 15 others including the bride. Human Rights Watch issued a 28 page report with researcher, Letta Taylor stating, “the US refusal to explain a deadly attack on a marriage procession raises critical questions about the administration’s compliance with its own targeted killing policy. All Yemenis, especially the families of the dead and wounded, deserve to know why this wedding procession became a funeral.”
Families gather for a group photo and the debris from drone strikes
The US have also killed America citizens in Yemen including Anwar -al Awlaki, a Yememi Imam wanted for alleged terrorist activities and in a separate drone strike his son Abdulrahman -al-Awlaki age 16 who had no connection to terrorism.
Faisal bin Ali Jaber highlighted to Al Jazeera the importance of investing in civil projects and institutions instead of drones which only radicalizes a new generation and creates violent blowback. Any one that doubts this should take a look at Azan magazine aimed at recruiting youth to jihad and its comprehensive and chilling article on countering drone attacks. Violence breeds violence and the cycle continues…
Carol Anne Grayson is an independent writer/researcher on global health/human rights and is Executive Producer of the Oscar nominated, Incident in New Baghdad. She is a Registered Mental Nurse with a Masters in Gender Culture and Development. Carol was awarded the ESRC, Michael Young Prize for Research 2009, and the COTT ‘Action = Life’ Human Rights Award’ for “upholding truth and justice”.