Yemenis tell Capitol Hill of drone terror

Despite struggles to reach Washington from Yemen, the delegation only drew a small audience of lawmakers

By Natasha Lennard

Published November 20, 2013 7:50PM (EST)

In a congressional briefing Wednesday that snuck clear below the mainstream media radar, a delegation of Yemenis -- on the invitation of Rep. Alan Grayson and Code Pink -- spoke of living in terror in drone-struck regions.

“What could possibly justify terrorizing a community of 250,000 just for the purpose of killing one person?” asked Entesar Qadhi, a Yemeni youth leader from the embattled Mareb province.

A recent report from Human Rights Watch, which focused on six U.S. drone strikes in Yemen spanning the years since 2009, found that 57 out of 82 recorded casualties in these six strikes alone were deemed to be civilians. In one attack, three children and a pregnant woman were killed — a violation of a law of war that prohibits attacks that fail to discriminate between civilians and combatants.

Reporting on today's briefing for Firedoglake, Kevin Gosztola noted how the Yemeni representatives claimed that U.S. drone wars impeded rather than aided the fight to keep al-Qaida at bay. Via FDL:

[The Yemeni youth leader] told of the horror her village has experienced as they fight off al-Qaida and successfully drive members of the militant group out only to have them return after a US drone strikes her village.

“We were told that drones are used to target al-Qaida and only al-Qaida, but the reality is my village didn’t know al Qaeda [until] after those drones” started hovering over our skies, Qadhi said.

“Whenever there is a drone strike, drones heavily hover over the village so the entire village keeps living in constant fear waiting for the moment when it will strike,” she added. And, “Whenever the strike happens, we feel the earth is shaking. We see fire coming from the sky. Everyone is afraid for the fact they don’t know where or when these strikes are happening.”

As was the case with the recent visit of a Pakistani family who had lost their 68-year-old matriarch in a U.S. drone strike, which also injured children, the Yemenis faced obstacles in obtaining travel visas to reach Capitol Hill. Despite this, as with the Pakistan drone hearing, Wednesday's briefing drew only a small number of lawmakers. "Despite the struggle to bring voices to share stories with members of Congress, only five Congress members made appearances during this round: Schakowsky, Grayson, Rep. Barbara Lee, Rep. Charlie Rangel, and Rep. Chellie Pingree," noted Gosztola.

Natasha Lennard

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Al-qaida Alan Grayson Briefing Code Pink Drone Strikes Drone War Drones Terrorism Yemen