Rafiq ur-Rehman’s mother was working as his two children played near her in a field just outside his village of Tappi in the tribal region of North Waziristan in Pakistan when some of the CIA’s pilotless spy planes targeted their village and fired four missiles almost one year ago this month.
TruthOut- “Rehman’s children, 13-year-old Nabila and 9-year-old Zubair, watched as the drone strike killed their 67-year-old grandmother, Mamana, instantly, and lodged shrapnel into their legs, hospitalizing them. Rehman returned from work to find the remains of his mother, his injured and bleeding children and a smoking field dotted with dead cattle.
A year later, Congressman Alan Grayson (D-Florida) has formally invited Rehman, who is a primary school teacher in North Waziristan, and his children to testify about their experience before a Congressional ad-hoc hearing. It would mark the first time survivors of military drone strikes have traveled to Capitol Hill to give a voice and face to the reality of the CIA’s covert drone program.
But the family can’t travel to the United States to tell lawmakers their story because their attorney’s visa has been delayed by the State Department. Rehman’s attorney and translator, Shahzad Akbar, is a fellow at the human rights organization Reprieve and represents more than 156 drone strike victims.
Akbar has accused the State Department of deliberately barring his entry to the United States to silence the voices of drone strike survivors after they have prepared for months to travel to Washington, D.C. The State Department already has granted Rehman’s and his children’s visas.
“I have been blacklisted for simply one reason, that is my drone work. Otherwise, if I am any kind of security threat, [the State Department] can simply say,” Akbar told Truthout in a telephone interview.
This is not the first time Akbar has had trouble gaining entry into the country. Before he began investigating drone strikes in 2010, he traveled frequently to the U.S. as a consultant for U.S. agencies. But when he was invited to speak at a human rights conference in May 2011 at Columbia University about his work on legal cases involving drone strikes, his visa was delayed by the State Department for 14 months…”
- US to Drone Victims: Shut Up (counterpunch.org)
- Pakistani drone victims’ lawyer accuses US of blocking his visit to Congress (theguardian.com)
- Pakistani drone victims’ lawyer says U.S. blocked his visit to Congress (rawstory.com)