An Eid gift was delivered to Nabila Rahman’s home by Americans last year. A gruesome gift that blew her grandmother's body into pieces on a magical day that was supposed to be filled with joy.
Nine-year old Nabila didn’t get a rousing welcome that her country mate Malala Yousufzai received because she didn’t fit the war on terror agenda. Five Congressmen came to her family’s testimony on Tuesday, October 29, 2013; the first ever testimony of drone victims before members of Congress.
After months of paperwork, Congressman Alan Grayson, a Democrat from Florida and others offered the formal invitation. The only lawmakers to attend the briefing organized by Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.), were Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) and Rep. Rick Nolan (D-Minn.).
Nabila bit her fingernails and testified that she was collecting okra when the missiles struck. “My grandma was teaching me how you can tell if the okra is ready to be picked,” she said. “All of the sudden there was a big noise. Two fireballs dropped from the sky.”
The most heartbreaking part of the testimony was from her teen brother whose leg was injured by shrapnel from the strike, Zubair, who couldn’t understand why his family was attacked; "I no longer love blue skies. In fact, I now prefer gray skies. Drones don't fly when sky is gray and for a short time the mental tension eases.”
According to independent organization drones attacks have killed at least 300 civilians in Pakistan. Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif mentioned a cessation of drone attacks in his recent meeting with Obama. According to top secret memos released right before his visit, it is apparent that the Pakistani government is briefed about the attacks ahead of time.
“She was the string that held the pearls together,” testified Rafiq Rahman of his mother Momina Bibi, a village favorite. Four of Rahman’s children were injured in the attack, as were four of his brother’s children. The school teacher relayed that many in his community have been killed. “Usually drones strike two times, to kill the relatives who come out to help,” Zubair Rehman, his 13 year old son is chronicled in Greenwald’s documentary, Unmanned: America’s Drone Wars.
Jennifer Gibson of Living with the Drones project (currently staff attorney with Reprieve) as well as filmmaker Robert Greenwald also testified. Greenwald hopes that the briefing will begin the process of demanding investigation.
Mahdi Bray of the American Muslim Alliance expressed his condolences to the family on behalf of American Muslims.
“It is a real tragedy,” said Bray, “a high-tech wild Wild west.” He said that President Obama Administration is both a Nobel peace prize winner and a constitutional lawyer yet he is clearly violating international law.
After attending the briefing, Bray thinks that there is very little Congress can do. “The only way we will get an redress we have have to direct action campaign when people of conscious will go out and tell the [government] that killing in our name is not acceptable. I have little faith based on the hearing that Congress can do anything, the people will have to express their outrage.”
On November 2, 2013 a U.S. drone strike killed the leader of the Pakistani Taliban, Hakimullah Mehsud. This strike also threatened to add to strains between the United States and Pakistan, as the Pakistani government had announced settlement talks with the group.
Pakistan had accused the United States of carrying out “a conspiracy to sabotage the peace talks.’’
“I think we have always sold war in this country with created hysteria. We are not being protected [and] it creates more resentment for the United States, develops more hatred- we are creating more enemies. I think that it is a matter of debunking the myth and the American people demanding due process,” said Bray.
“Millions of dollars spent and here we are cutting benefits to seniors and cutting aid to the poor while we are dropping bombs on grandmothers.” Bray thinks that the media and progressives have given Obama a pass for his behavior on civil liberties and civil rights. “This is a man who campaigned on ‘Yes, we can’, we have to respond to him with ‘No, we can't.”
As Nabila, her father and brother headed back home, Bray quoted Thomas Jefferson- "I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever."