My grandmother and I used to share a love of bright blue skies…
Zubair ur-Rehman’s Grandmother Momina Bibi was killed in a US drone strike on October 24th, 2012. On Tuesday October 29th, 2013, Zubair gave this statement to a US Congressional briefing (which he attended with his father Rafiq and nine year old sister Nabila) hosted by Congressman Alan Grayson.
Thank you, Congressman Grayson, for inviting me to submit evidence today.
My name is Zubair ur Rehman. I am thirteen years old. On October 24, 2012, I watched a US drone kill my grandmother. I, myself, was injured in the strike.
My grandmother was nobody’s enemy. She was kind and caring. She used to help the mothers in my village deliver their babies. In the evening, she would tell all of the children to gather around and she would tell us stories. Stories of her life, of our family, of our community. She had so many stories that I can’t pick a favourite. I miss all of them.
My grandmother and I used to share a love of bright blue skies. We have many of them in Tappi, the village where I live. We also have beautiful flowers in the mountains, lush green fields, swaying trees and cold springs where I bath and play.
The sky in Tappi was particularly blue on October 24, 2012. I was so excited. The next day was the start of Eid. I know many Americans do not know what Eid is. I have been told it is like Christmas. Since I do not know what Christmas is like, I cannot say. I can only tell you that it is a magical time filled with joy. It is a holiday every child, including myself, gets excited about.
Just before the drone struck, my grandmother promised me that as soon as we finished our chores, we could start celebrating. The night before we had helped her make sweets. I couldn’t wait to try one.
As I helped my grandmother in the field, I could see and hear the drone hovering overhead, but I didn’t worry. Why would I worry? Neither my grandmother nor I were militants.
When the drone fired the first time, the whole ground shook and black smoke rose up. The air smelled poisonous. We ran, but several minutes later the drone fired again. People from the village came to our aid and took us to hospital. We spent the night in great agony in at the hospital and the next morning I was operated on. That is how we spent Eid.
Unfortunately, my initial operation was unsuccessful and a few days later I was taken to Islamabad for treatment. The doctor examined my injured leg and said the drone shrapnel was stuck in a very bad place. It could only be removed with a laser operation which was very expensive. We did not have enough money for my operation, so I had to return home with the shrapnel still in my leg.
When we returned home, my father spent months borrowing money from relatives and neighbors. It took him several months, but he was finally able to secure enough money for me to have the surgery.
Congressman Grayson, I no longer love blue skies. In fact, I now prefer grey skies. The drones do not fly when the skies are grey. And for a short period of time, the mental tension and fear eases. When the skies brighten, though, the drones return and so too does the fear.
I know Americans think drones are the answer. But I wish they could understand how I and other children in my community see drones. Drones terrify us. We used to play outside all of the time. Now, when we step outside to play, we hear the scary buzz from above and run back inside. We love to play all sorts of games in my village — cricket, football, volleyball, kabadi (a form of wrestling). But now people are afraid to even leave their houses, much less travel great distances. So we don’t play very often.
There are few schools in my community, but now many children have stopped going to the few that exist. This is a big problem in my community as what everyone really wants and needs is education. But education isn’t possible as long as the drones circle overhead.
I almost decided not to tell America and Mr. Grayson all of this. The U.S. refused to let my lawyer, Shahzad Akbar, come with me. He used to visit the US all of the time, but since he started helping people like me, the US now says he isn’t welcome. If he isn’t welcome, than why would I be?
In the end, I have decided that welcome or not, it is important for me to tell my story. I hope by telling you about my village and my grandmother, I can convince you that drones are not the answer. More importantly, though, I hope I can return home with a message. I hope I can tell my community that Americans listened. That America is not just drones that terrorize us from above, but a country that listens and is trying to help us solve the many problems we face. And, maybe, just maybe, America may soon stop the drones.