Putting a face on drone attacks
Updated: 2013-10-31 07:13
By Dan De Luce in Washington (China Daily)
Pakistani family asks lawmakers why they were targeted by military
Nabila Rehman was picking okra in her family garden last year when missiles from a drone rained down from the sky, killing her grandmother and injuring her and seven other children.
The 9-year-old Pakistani girl now has a question for the US government: "What did my grandmother do wrong?"
Rehman's father has traveled with her from Pakistan's North Waziristan region to Washington, along with her 13-year-old brother, who was also wounded by shrapnel, to put a human face on the US drone campaign.
Their account was cited last week in a report that demanded an end to secrecy around the drone attacks and questioned US claims that the missile strikes in Pakistan's tribal belt are carried out only against imminent threats, with minimal civilian casualties.
Nabila's father, Rafiq Rehman, said he accepted an invitation from a documentary production company to come to the United States because "as a teacher, I wanted to educate Americans and let them know my children have been injured".
"My daughter does not have the face of a terrorist and neither did my mother. It just doesn't make sense to me, why this happened," he told AFP in an interview.
The Rehmans said they have no connection to any anti-US extremists or al-Qaida militants, and as they mourned their grandmother, they were confounded by inaccurate accounts of the October 2012 bombing raid.
Media reports afterward confirmed a drone strike took place, but said missiles hit a house, with one version alleging a car was struck and several militants killed.
But the Rehmans said no building or car was directly hit in the attack, and that paved roads are some distance away. They said missiles landed in the field where their grandmother was teaching Nabila how to know when okra are ripe enough to pick.
After a loud boom, "where my grandmother was standing, I saw these two bright lights come down and hit her", Nabila said. "And everything became dark at that point."
She noticed blood on her hand and tried to wipe it away with her shawl. "But the blood just kept coming," she said.
Shrapnel lodged in her right hand, and she was treated at a local hospital. Her brother, Zubair, suffered shrapnel wounds to his left leg, which required two operations. His family had to take out a loan to pay for the surgery.
Since the attack, Zubair said, he has trouble sleeping and no longer goes outside to play cricket.
"I don't feel like going outside and playing with my friends. I don't feel like going to school. It has really destroyed my life," he said. His sister said the US government's explanation for drone strikes did not apply to her family.
"When I hear that they are going after people who have done wrong to America, then what have I done wrong to them? What did my grandmother do wrong to them?
"I didn't do anything wrong," she said.
(China Daily 10/31/2013 page12)