"They Destroyed Our Entire Family": Pakistani Survivors of U.S. Drone Strike Speak Out
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org,The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan GonzÃ¡lez.
JUAN GONZÃLEZ: As we continue our special on U.S. drone strikes, we turn now to the killing of a 67-year-old Pakistani grandmother last year. In a moment, we’ll be joined by her son and two grandchildren, nine-year-old Nabila and 13-year-old Zubair. But first, another clip from Unmanned: America’s Drone Wars.
RAFIQ UR REHMAN: [translated] My name is Rafiq ur Rehman. I am a primary school teacher. I’ve been teaching for 10 years. We strive to eradicate illiteracy so our children can be educated and have a bright future. This is my daughter Nabila. This is my daughter Asma. Zubair ur Rehman is my son. We have our own land and grow our own food.
ZUBAIR UR REHMAN: [translated] People enjoyed life before the attacks.
RAFIQ UR REHMAN: [translated] It was 2:45 p.m. on October 24th of 2012. After school finished, I went into town to buy school supplies.
ZUBAIR UR REHMAN: [translated] I was in the fields tying up bundles.
RAFIQ UR REHMAN: [translated] I got back in the car and bought sweets for the children.
KALIM UR REHMAN: [translated] When I got home, I was drinking tea. After the first sip, the drone hit. The house shook.
ZUBAIR UR REHMAN: [translated] The dust flew.
ATIQ UR REHMAN: [translated] The roof shook, and the ground trembled.
ASMA UR REHMAN: [translated] I ran. Then I got hit.
KALIM UR REHMAN: [translated] I ran out, and there was all this dust and smoke.
ZUBAIR UR REHMAN: [translated] I was hit from behind and wounded.
ASMA UR REHMAN: [translated] Then I ran to the house. I was bleeding, and I got bandaged.
ZUBAIR UR REHMAN: [translated] I knew there would be a second strike.
KALIM UR REHMAN: [translated] Usually drones strike a second time after five or 10 minutes.
ZUBAIR UR REHMAN: [translated] It’s to kill the relatives who come out to help.
UNIDENTIFIED: [translated] Then five minutes later it came again.
KALIM UR REHMAN: [translated] Then I fell down right there, and I thought I was dying. And I was shouting, "I am dying!"
RAFIQ UR REHMAN: [translated] The injured children had been taken to various hospitals for treatment.
ROBIN PAGNAMENTA: The attack was October the 24th. I came from Islamabad and interviewed the family in Peshawar clinic. Well, in general, you know, the sense was that the family had had a very traumatic experience and were very upset.
RAFIQ UR REHMAN: [translated] These are the x-rays of the children who were hit by the drone. This is the x-ray of my nephew, whose leg was broken in the attack. They operated on him. These are the iron rods that they put in his legs.
ATIQ UR REHMAN: [translated] When I reached the house, I saw my mother’s sandal lying on the ground. When I saw her sandal, I knew that she had died. Neighbors told me she had been thrown about 25 feet away. That’s when I saw my mother on the ground. And I ran towards her, but the neighbors wouldn’t let me near her. They said, "You cannot see this." She had so many wounds.
RAFIQ UR REHMAN: [translated] My mother was brutally killed. That’s where my mother was killed. She was, as the saying goes, "like a treasure of prayers." I used to discuss all my problems with her. She used to console me, and I would forget my worries. My family has been destroyed since my mother was killed.
ROBIN PAGNAMENTA: Atiq and Rafiq, whose mother had been killed in this attack, you know, obviously, as anyone would be, they were angry, and they were very upset.
RAFIQ UR REHMAN: [translated] The blasts were very powerful. They have damaged the rooms badly. This one’s got cracks in it. This needs to be fixed so it doesn’t fall during the rains. Before these attacks started, there was peace and happiness in our area. When these drone attacks started and our mother was killed, they destroyed our entire family. They have wreaked havoc on our lives and happiness.
DR. RIZWANTAJ: You have people living in constant fear that they’re not safe in their own homes or in their streets or in their locality. They live in fear that they would be attacked and they could die or their children or their property or their land could be seriously affected.
ZUBAIR UR REHMAN: [translated] They buzz around 24 hours a day, so I’m always scared. I cannot sleep.
JUAN GONZÃLEZ: An excerpt from Robert Greenwald’s new film, Unmanned: America’s Drone Wars.
We’re joined now by the Rehman family, who have just traveled to the United States from Pakistan. On Tuesday, they became the first victims of U.S. drone war to address members of Congress on Capitol Hill. We are now joined by Rafiq ur Rehman and his 13-year-old son Zubair and his nine-year-old daughter Nabila. For our TV viewers, we’re showing some of the pictures that Nabila drew of the U.S. drones flying above her home in Pakistan. Both children were wounded in the drone attack that killed their grandmother. Their translator is Michelle Khilji.
Welcome, all of you, to Democracy Now! I’d like to start with you, the—your reaction when you first heard of the attack on your mother and your children?
RAFIQ UR REHMAN: [translated] I had gone to Miranshah to buy some things from the bazaar. And so, then, when I returned, I had noticed that in the graveyard on the outskirts of our village, they were preparing for a burial. I had asked some little children who they were preparing the burial for. And they said, "This Latif Rehman’s mother." And that’s my older brother. So I knew at that point that my mother had been killed by an American drone.
AMY GOODMAN: Zubair, you are 13. You were with your grandmother picking okra. It was the day before Eid. Describe what happened.
ZUBAIR UR REHMAN: [translated] I had gone to school that day, and when I came back, I had a snack, and I offered my prayers. And my grandma asked me to come outside and help her pick the vegetables.
AMY GOODMAN: You were hit by this drone that killed your grandmother?
ZUBAIR UR REHMAN: [translated] Yes, I had seen a drone, and two missiles hit down where my grandmother was standing in front of me. And she was blown into pieces, and I was injured to my left leg.
JUAN GONZÃLEZ: And, Nabila, the two of you were not the only ones of your family that were injured, as well. Could you talk about your—what happened to you, what you recall, and your reaction?
NABILA UR REHMAN: [translated] It was the day before Eid, so I was outside with my grandmother, and she was teaching me how to tell the difference between okra that was ripe and not ripe. We were going to prepare it for our Eid dinner the next day. And then I had heard a dum-dum noise. Everything became dark. And I had seen two fireballs come down from the sky.
AMY GOODMAN: You all testified before Congress. You were one of the first people to do this. Rafiq Rehman, what is your message to America?
RAFIQ UR REHMAN: [translated] What I’d like to say to them is: Please find a way to end these drones, because it’s not only affecting me and my children, and it’s not only because they were injured; it’s affecting their future. I feel—I worry that their education will be disrupted and that they will not want to continue.
JUAN GONZÃLEZ: And were you ever—have you ever been contacted either by U.S. government officials or by the Pakistani government officials to explain to you why—why this attack occurred?
AMY GOODMAN: Why your mother was killed?
RAFIQ UR REHMAN: [translated] I did communicate with a local political officer of my village to find a reason and answer, but he was unable to give me an answer.
AMY GOODMAN: Have you been compensated for the death of your mother, for your children’s grandmother?
RAFIQ UR REHMAN: [translated] No one has given me anything.
AMY GOODMAN: Zubair, what did your grandmother, Mamina Bibi, mean to you?
ZUBAIR UR REHMAN: [translated] My grandmother, there was no one else like her. She was full of love. And when she passed away, all my friends told me that "You weren’t the only one who lost a grandmother; we all lost a grandmother," because everyone knew her in the village.
JUAN GONZÃLEZ: And, Nabila, you’re nine years old. How have things changed for you since the attack? How’s your—going out again, out into the fields alone, do you fear again other possible attacks?
NABILA UR REHMAN: [translated] Ever since the strike, I’m just scared. I’m always scared. All of us little kids, we’re just scared to go outside.
AMY GOODMAN: Do you fear another strike, Zubair? You have had numerous operations on your leg. Your message to America?
ZUBAIR UR REHMAN: [translated] I am scared, because of what has happened to me, ever since then. And, you know, I don’t understand why this has happened to me. I’ve done nothing wrong.
AMY GOODMAN: Your message to America?
ZUBAIR UR REHMAN: [translated] What I’d like to say to the American people is: Please tell your government to end these drones, because it’s disrupting our lives.
AMY GOODMAN: Rafiq, Nabila and Zubair Rehman, thank you for joining us.