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17 Jul

Events of Interest and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective

News

News

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Senior aide to Karzai assasinated  

Jan Mohammad Khan, along with Mohammad Hashim Watanwal, an MP, was attacked by the assailants at his home in Kabul.

Last Modified: 17 Jul 2011 18:09 GMT

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Murdoch ally Rebekah Brooks arrested

Lawyer says former News International chief went to the police station to co-operate with the investigation.

Last Modified: 17 Jul 2011 15:30 GMT

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[QODLink]

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The Poet of Baghdad – Artscape – Al Jazeera English.

In 1979, Nabeel Yasin fled his homeland of Iraq with his wife Nada and his three-year-old son. His crime was publishing poetry – work like The Poet Satirizes the King, that did not fit with the views of Saddam Hussein and his regime. Branded an ‘enemy of the state’, Nabeel faced imprisonment and likely death if he remained in Iraq.

After fleeing the country he continued to write in exile in the UK, his works smuggled back into Iraq where they became a symbol of resistance.

A deeply personal film about the experience of exile told through the haunting verse of Nabeel Yasin. Nabeel performs some of his works specifically for this film, taking us on a poetic journey through his story and giving a rare insight into the complexities of love and longing in exile.

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US drone strikes in Pakistan claiming many civilian victims, says campaigner

One man in Waziristan is documenting casualties – and says destruction has been radicalising locals

Saeed Shah in Islamabad and Peter Beaumont

guardian.co.uk, Sunday 17 July 2011 18.00 BST

Article history

Pakistani protesters burn a representation of an American flag

US drone strikes in Pakistan are condemned by protesters at a rally in Waziristan along the Afghanistan border. Photograph: Khalid Tanveer/AP

For the past three years, Noor Behram has hurried to the site of drone strikes in his native Waziristan. His purpose: to photograph and document the impact of missiles fired by pilotless American “drone” aircraft, controlled by pilots holding a joystick thousands of miles away, on US air force bases in Nevada and elsewhere. The drones are America’s only weapon for hunting al-Qaida and the Taliban in what is supposed to be the most dangerous place in the world.

Often arriving on the scene just minutes after hearing the explosion of a missile, he first has to put his camera aside and start digging through the debris to see if there are any survivors. It’s dangerous, unpleasant work. The drones frequently hit the same place again, a few minutes after the first strike, so looking for the injured is risky. There are other dangers too: the militants are suspicious of anyone with a camera, as are locals. After all, it is a local network of spies working for the CIA that are directing the targets for the drone strike.

But Behram says his painstaking work has uncovered an important – and unreported – truth about the US drone campaign in Pakistan‘s tribal region: that far larger numbers of civilians are dying and sustaining injuries than the Americans and Pakistanis admit. The world’s media quickly reports on how many militants were killed in each drone strike. But reporters don’t go to the spot, but rely on quoting unnamed Pakistani intelligence officials.

For Noor Behram, you actually have to go to the aftermath of a drone strike to try to figure out whether those killed were really extremists or ordinary folk living in Waziristan. And he’s in no doubt.

“For every 10 to 15 people killed, maybe they get one militant,” said Behram. “I don’t go to count how many Taliban are killed. I go to count how many children, women, innocent people, are killed.”

The drone strikes are a secret programme run by the CIA to assassinate al-Qaida and Taliban extremists who are using remote, wild Waziristan as a refuge. The CIA doesn’t comment on drones at all, but privately claims that civilian casualties are rare.

The Guardian was unable to independently verify the photographs. Behram’s account of taking the pictures appeared detailed and consistent however. Other anecdotal evidence from Waziristan is conflicting: some insist the drones are accurate, while others strongly disagree.

According to Behram, the strikes not only kill the innocent but injure untold numbers and radicalise the population. “There are just pieces of flesh lying around after a strike. You can’t find bodies. So the locals pick up the flesh and curse America. They say that America is killing us inside our own country, inside our own homes, and only because we are Muslims.

“The youth in the area surrounding a strike gets crazed. Hatred builds up inside those who have seen a drone attack. The Americans think it is working, but the damage they’re doing is far greater.”

Even when the drones hit the right compound, the force of the blast is such that neighbours houses, often made of baked mud, are also demolished, crushing those inside, said Behram. One of the photographs shows a large tangle of debris that he said were the remains of five houses that were blitzed together.

The photographs make for difficult viewing and leave no doubt about the destructive power of the “Hellfire” missiles unleashed: a boy with the top of his head shorn off, young children pummelled with shrapnel, a severed human hand, flattened houses, the parents of children killed in a strike. The chassis is all that remains of a car in one photo, another shows the funeral of a seven-year-old child. There are pictures, too, of the rubber flip-flops worn by children and adults alike, because of their cheapness, which often survive: signs that life once existed there. A 10-year-old boy’s body, prepared for burial, shows lipstick on him and flowers in his hair – a mother’s last loving touch.

There are burned and battered Korans – but no pictures of women: the conservative religious culture in Waziristan means that locals will not allow Behram to photograph their womenfolk, even dead and dismembered. So he makes do with documenting shredded pieces of women’s clothing.

The jagged terrain, the often isolated location of strikes, curfews enforced by the Pakistan army and the presence of Taliban, all mean that it is a major challenge to get to the site of a drone strike. Behram has managed to reach 60 drone attacks, in both North and South Waziristan. He estimates that over 600 people were killed in those attacks. An exhibition of his work, at London’s Beaconsfield gallery opening on Tuesday, features pictures from 27 different drone strikes.

Clive Stafford Smith, head of Reprieve, the campaigning group, has launched a lawsuit along with Pakistani lawyer, Shahzad Akbar, seeking to bring to justice those responsible for civilian deaths from drones. “I think these pictures are deeply important evidence,” said Stafford Smith. “They put a human face [on the drone strike campaign] that is in marked contrast to what the US is suggesting its operators in Nevada and elsewhere are doing.

“They show the reality of ordinary people being killed and losing their homes, not senior al-Qaida members.”

The programme of drone strikes was ramped up under the Obama administration. Last year saw the greatest number of attacks, 118, while there have been 45 so far in 2011, according to a tally kept by the New America Foundation, a thinktank based in Washington.

• Gaming in Waziristan, an exhibition including images of the consequence of drone strikes in North Waziristan, opens at Beaconsfield, 22 Newport Street, London SE11 6AY info@beaconsfield.ltd.uk

One victim’s story

Sadaullah, a 15-year-old, lost one eye and both legs in a drone strike on 7 September 2009, during the month of Ramadan, near Mir Ali town in North Waziristan. Three family members died, including an uncle who used a wheelchair. It was reported at the time that three Taliban commanders – rather than his three relatives – were killed in the strike.

“It struck after Iftar,” says the shy Sadaullah, referring to the breaking of the fast in the evening during Ramadan.

It had been a happy day for Sadaullah, who was looking forward to the evening when a feast was going to be served at his house, as his grandfather and uncles were visiting to break their fast.

After saying his prayer, Sadaullah, was entering the room where the other guests had already taken their place for the evening feast when the missile hit. Something heavy fell on his legs, requiring them both to be later amputated.

He also lost his uncle Mautullah Jan, who was in a wheelchair for the past decade, and two his cousins, Kadaanullah Jan and Sabir-ud-Din.

Now Sadaullah does not go to school and gets only a religious education in a madrasa – Islamic seminary – in his village. Sadaullah sees no hope for the future but says that the madrasa “is good for me, as it keeps me busy”.

Sadaullah is one of the victims on whose behalf British human rights lawyer Clive Stafford Smith is to launch a lawsuit against the CIA’s former legal chief, John Rizzo, who approved dozens of drone strikes on Pakistan’s tribal region.

One Response to “Events of Interest and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective”

  1. 1
    mary Says:

    Obama will be known as the Drone President.

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