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Victim Stories

The following provides excerpts from the testimony of individuals who told our research team that they had survived or witnessed drone strikes, or lost family members in strikes.

Sadaullah Wazir, teenager, former student from the village of Machi Khel in Mir Ali, North Waziristan, was severely injured in a September 2009 drone strike on his grandfather’s home.[1] Sadaullah has filed a complaint before the UN Human Rights Council.[2]

“Before the drone strikes started, my life was very good. I used to go to school and I used to be quite busy with that, but after the drone strikes, I stopped going to school now. I was happy because I thought I would become a doctor.” Sadaullah recalled, “Two missiles [were] fired at our hujra and three people died. My cousin and I were injured. We didn’t hear the missile at all and then it was there.” He further explained, “[The last thing I remembered was that] we had just broken our fast where we had eaten and just prayed. . . .We were having tea and just eating a bit and then there were missiles. . . . When I gained consciousness, there was a bandage on my eye. I didn’t know what had happened to my eye and I could only see from one.” Sadaullah lost both of his legs and one of his eyes in the attack. He informed us, “Before [the strike], my life was normal and very good because I could go anywhere and do anything. But now I am not able to do that because I have to stay inside. . . . Sometimes I have really bad headaches. . . . [and] if I walk too much [on my prosthetic legs], my legs hurt a lot. [Drones have] drastically affected life [in our area].”

Waleed Shiraz, 22, was pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and taking various foreign language courses before he became disabled.[3]

“My father was asleep in the hujra as usual after a normal day, and I was studying nearby. . . . I had liked studying in the hujra, because it is peaceful and quiet. There was nothing different about our routine in the prior week.” Waleed recounted the subsequent sequence of events. “[When we got hit], [m]y father’s body was scattered in pieces and he died immediately, but I was unconscious for three to four days. . . . [Since then], I am disabled. My legs have become so weak and skinny that I am not able to walk anymore. . . . It has also affected my back. I used to like playing cricket, but I cannot do it anymore because I cannot run.”

“I have two younger brothers, who are both unemployed, and I don’t have a father and I am disabled. I have been completely ruined. . . . [My brothers] can’t go to school, because I can’t afford to support them, buying their books, and paying their fees. They are home most of the day and they are very conscious of the fact that drones are hovering over them. [The presence of drones] intimidates them.”

“If the drones had not become routine and my father had not died and I hadn’t lost my leg, today I would have completed my MA in Political Science.” Waleed explained, “I can’t dream of going back to college.”

Dawood Ishaq is a father of four young children who works as a vegetable merchant in North Waziristan.[4]

“I was going to [a] chromite mine for work. On the way, as the car was going there, a drone targeted the car. . . . All I remember is a blast, and that I saw a bit of fire in the car before I lost consciousness. The people in the back completely burned up, and the car caught fire.” Dawood was taken to several locations for treatment, before he awoke in Peshawar. “[The] driver and I lost our legs . . .” 

Adil Hashmi’s house was destroyed in a drone strike.[5]

“A drone struck my home. . . .[At that time] there was nobody in my home [so] no one [was] killed. . . . I went back to see the home, but there was nothing to do. I just saw my home wrecked and came back. I was extremely sad, because normally a house costs around ten lakh, or 1,000,000 rupees [approximately $10,600], and I don’t even have 5,000 rupees [approximately $53] now. I spent my whole life in that house. My father had lived there as well.”

“[I now have to rent a house.] There is a big difference between having your own home and living on rent or mortgage. I enjoyed a lot of freedom and a lot of flexibility before. I have five sons and they all live with me in the house in Miranshah now. . . .”

Tahir Afzal’s brother died in a drone strike.[6]

“It was in the afternoon around two o’clock and he was on his way to work. They were in a car. A drone struck and four people died in it, including children who were walking on the road. . . . There were lots of drones wandering over that day. They were wandering all over, and as the car passed by, it was targeted.” Tahir told our team, “He was my older brother, and I miss him a lot.”

“[Before, e]verybody was involved in their own labor work. We were all busy. But since the drone attacks have started, everybody is very scared and everybody is terrorized. . . . People are out of business, people are out of schools, because people are being killed by these drone attacks.” Tahir emphasized, “It’s not a [fictional] story. It’s brutality that we are undergoing and that needs to be stopped.”

Khairullah Jan’s brother was killed in a drone attack. [7]

“[One day, [m]y brother was coming from college . . . . dropping his friend to his house, which is located behind our house a few kilometers away. . . . I was coming from Mir Ali Bazaar . . . going to my house. That’s when I heard a drone strike and I felt something in my heart. I thought something had happened, but we didn’t get to know until next day. That’s when all the villagers came and brought us news that [my brother] had been [killed] . . . I was drinking tea when I found out. [My] entire family was there. They were crying . . . . [T]o lose such a young one; everybody is sad and it also affects the tribe, our community, as well. My mother is really affected. She is sad all the time, and my father is also heavily affected. At times he used to go to Peshawar or Karachi, he was outgoing, but now he sits at home.”

“I have been affected. The love that I had for studies—that has finished. My determination to study—that is also gone. . . . if, for instance, there is a drone strike and four or five of your villagers die and you feel sad for them and you feel like throwing everything away, because you feel death is near— [death is] so close, so why do you want to study?”

Ismail Hussain’s cousin was killed in a drone strike. [8]

“We were sitting together and my mother said Sajid did not come home. She said there was [a] drone [attack] and so my mother said to go ask about Sajid. . . . When I came to know that the drone [attack] had happened in the other village, I took my motorcycle to go to that village. . . . When I reached that village, people told me Sajid and some others were injured and were taken to the hospital. They didn’t want to make me sad. Then I went to Miranshah hospital. I didn’t meet with him because before I arrived he died. The body of my uncle’s son was put into a box. I took it to my village. I placed it in the house of my neighbor during Fajr [dawn] prayers. At the time of Fajr, I took it to my home.” Ismail informed us, “His mother hangs his picture on the wall. She looks at it 24 hours [a day] and cries.”

Hisham Abrar’s cousin was killed in a drone strike. [9]

“When the weather is clear, three or four [drones] can be seen . . . . They are in the air 24 [hours a day], seven [days a week], but not when it’s raining. Every time they are in the air, they can be heard. And because of the noise, we’re psychologically disturbed—women, men, and children. . . . When there were no drones, everything was all right. [There was] business, there was no psychological stress and the people did what they could do for a living.”

“[The drone strikes have caused many problems:] [f]irst, it’s psychological. Diseases that people have—psychological, mental illnesses. And that’s a huge issue. Secondly, a lot of men have been killed, so they’re the wage earners for the house, and now the kids and the families don’t have a source of income because of that.” Hisham noted that “[others in the community help sometimes, but [i]n Waziristan, there are poor people, and [victims] usually rely on . . . daily wage earning. That’s only sufficient for themselves, so it’s hard to help others. But whenever they can, they do.”

Khalid Raheem is an elder member of his community.[10]

“We did not know that America existed. We did not know what its geographical location was, how its government operated, what its government was like, until America invaded Iraq and Afghanistan. We do know that Americans supported the Taliban in our area, North Waziristan, to fight off the Soviets. But [now with] the Soviets divided and broken . . . we have become victims of Americans. We don’t know how they treat their citizens or anything about them. All we know is that they used to support us, and now they don’t. . . . [W]e didn’t know how they treated a common man. Now we know how they treat a common man, what they’re doing to us.”

“We know that the consequences of drone strikes are extremely harsh. Our children, our wives know that our breadwinners, when they go out to earn a livelihood, they might not come back, and life may become very miserable for them in the years to come.” Khalid further explained, “Now we are always awaiting a drone attack and we know it’s certain and it’s eventual and it will strike us, and we’re just waiting to hear whose house it will strike, our relatives’, our neighbors’, or us. We do not know. We’re just always in fear.”

Firoz Ali Khan is a shopkeeper in Miranshah.[11]

“I have been seeing drones since the first one appeared about four to five years ago. Sometimes there will be two or three drone attacks per day. . . . [We see drones] hovering [24 hours a day but] we don’t know when they will strike.” Firoz explained, “People are afraid of dying. . . . Children, women, they are all psychologically affected. They look at the sky to see if there are drones. Firoz told us, “[The drones] make such a noise that everyone is scared.”

Marwan Aleem is a malik in his community.[12]

“My name is Marwan and I am from North Waziristan, in the area of Manzar Khel. I was born and raised here, as was my grandfather. . . . [D]rone attacks create widespread devastation. They have killed so many young men, who have left behind helpless young orphans. We cannot figure out when a drone will strike—they may strike in two days, three days, ten days, or a month—but they are always there.”

Najeeb Saaqib is a malik in his community.[13]

“I belong to the Wazir nation. . . . I have a[n extended] family of 60 to 70 people. My sons and daughters were going to schools, [but] the schools were affected by the drones. I mean these attacks have been on schools, on maliks, on elders, and on different buildings. . . . [S]ometimes when people are moving in cars, they are hit. Sometimes when they are gathering with friends, they are hit. Sometimes when people are gathering to offer prayers to those killed, there are drone attacks on those people. . . . [M]y own relatives, close family relatives, have been killed. Elders of the villages, the maliks, the children of the schools, other children, all have been victims of strikes.

“[In one case,] [t]here was a drone attack on a religious teacher while he was coming in a car with some other people, after which he was brought to the village. A lot of people were gathering, the small children and families were gathered, and another drone attack happened, killing the small children. Two drone attacks in a single day.”

Najeeb later told us, “We love unity. We love peace. We love to live in peace with other people as well.”

 

 


[1] Interview with Sadaullah Wazir, in Islamabad, Pakistan (Feb. 29, 2012).

[2] Reprieve, Complaint Against the United States of America for the Killing of Innocent Citizens of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan to the United Nations Human Rights Council, http://reprieve.org.uk/media/downloads/2012_02_22_PUB_drones_UN_HRC_complaint.pdf?utm_source=Press+mailing+list&utm_campaign=89f3db0a75-2012_02_23_drones_UN_complaint&utm_medium=email.

[3] Interview with Waleed Shiraz (anonymized name), in Islamabad, Pakistan (Feb. 26, 2012).

[4] Interview with Dawood Ishaq (anonymized name), in Islamabad, Pakistan (Mar. 8, 2012).

[5] Interview with Adil Hashmi (anonymized name), in Islamabad, Pakistan (Feb. 26, 2012).

[6] Interview with Tahir Afzal (anonymized name), in Islamabad, Pakistan (Feb. 26, 2012).

[7] Interview with Khairullah Jan, in Islamabad, Pakistan (Feb. 29, 2012).

[8] Interview with Ismail Hussain (anonymized name), in Islamabad, Pakistan (Feb. 29, 2012).

[9] Interview with Hisham Abrar (anonymized name), in Islamabad, Pakistan (Feb. 26, 2012).

[10] Interview with Khalid Raheem (anonymized name), in Islamabad, Pakistan (Feb. 26, 2012).

[11] Interview with Firoz Ali Khan (anonymized name), in Islamabad, Pakistan (Feb. 26, 2012).

[12] Interview with Marwan Aleem (anonymized name), in Islamabad, Pakistan (Feb. 26, 2012).

[13] Interview with Najeeb Saaqib (anonymized name), in Islamabad, Pakistan (Feb. 26, 2012).