The State Dept. prevented the lawyer challenging U.S.-led drone attacks from appearing before Congress.
Shahzad Akbar, the lawyer challenging US-led drone warfare in Pakistan, has been blocked by the U.S. Department of State from appearing before a Congressional ad hoc hearing with his clients who have survived drone strikes in their town. Rafiq ur Rehman – a teacher in a primary school in North Waziristan – lost his mother in the same October 2012 drone attack that hospitalized his children Nabila and Zubair.
It is necessary for Mr. Akbar to accompany his client Mr. Rehman and his two children, in order for them to come to D.C. Such testimony would be the first time that drone victims from Pakistan have come to Capitol Hill to present the on-the-ground reality of America’s drone policy.
Congressman Alan Grayson (FL-09) has requested that the State Department give Shahzad Akbar a visa to bring his clients to testify. He explained: “Congress would like to conduct an ad hoc hearing on drones, and it is very important for us to hear from victims of drone strikes. Rafiq ur Rehman, a school teacher in Pakistan, lost his 67-year old mother in a drone strike, and two of his children also suffered drone-strike-related injuries. The State Department has granted the visas of Rafiq and his children to travel to the U.S. and share their stories with Congress. However, it has not yet issued a visa for the family’s lawyer and translator, Shahzad Akbar. Without Mr. Akbar, Rafiq and his children will not be able to travel to the U.S.. I encourage the State Department to approve Mr. Akbar’s visa immediately.”
Robert Greenwald, who is the director of the forthcoming documentary Unmanned met and interviewed Mr. Akbar and Mr. Rehman in Pakistan and shared their stories with Congressman Grayson.
“I also met and interviewed Rafiq and his family and know that if Mr. Akbar were allowed into America by the State Department, Congress and the American people would be as moved as I was about the plight of these survivors in a covert war.”
For the film, Greenwald traveled to Pakistan in the fall of 2012 and interviewed more than 35 victims, witnesses, psychiatrists, and Pakistani leaders. The film will include exclusive footage from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan, Jirgas, and interviews with many drone policy experts.
“Before I began representing civilian victims in 2010, I used to travel regularly to the U.S. My visa would be processed in 3 working days. Then, in 2011, I applied for a visa to talk at a conference about my work with drone strike victims. Suddenly, I was told my visa required additional processing which took 14 months. This time, the denial is to stop me from talking to American lawmakers who have invited me to speak about what I have witnessed. I hope to tell them about the impact of drone strikes and also to shed light on the fact that policies like drone strikes are actually a challenge to America’s national security.
Watch a one-minute clip of Rafiq ur Rehman interviewed in the forthcoming documentary Unmanned. Sign the petition urging the State Department to give a visa to Mr Akbar.