McClatchy News & Brave New Foundation & Matt Sledge / The Huffington Post – 2013-10-13 02:03:24
Malala Yousafzai Tells Obama Drones Are ‘Fueling Terrorism’
(October 11, 2013) — President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama met in the Oval Office Friday with Malala Yousafzai, the Pakastani girl who was shot in the head on her school bus by Taliban gunmen for criticizing their rule, including banning education for girls.
The White House says the first couple invited Malala — the youngest ever nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize — to the White House “to thank her for her inspiring and passionate work on behalf of girls education in Pakistan.”
In a statement, the White House says the United States “joins with the Pakistani people and so many around the world to celebrate Malala’s courage and her determination to promote the right of all girls to attend school and realize their dreams.”
In a statement released after the meeting, Malala said she was honored to meet with Obama, but that she told him she’s worried about the effect of US drone strikes. (The White House statement didn’t mention that part.)
“I thanked President Obama for the United States’ work in supporting education in Pakistan and Afghanistan and for Syrian refugees,” she said in the statement. “I also expressed my concerns that drone attacks are fueling terrorism. Innocent victims are killed in these acts, and they lead to resentment among the Pakistani people. If we refocus efforts on education it will make a big impact.”
Malala was in Washington to address the World Bank.
The White House noted that Obama had said in a proclamation marking today as the International Day of the Girl, that “across the globe there are girls who will one day lead nations, if only we afford them the chance to choose their own destinies.”
The meeting was not on the president’s schedule and there was no advance notice, nor any press coverage.
Press Secretary Jay Carney had earlier said Malala’s “courage and efforts are remarkable, and the president absolutely honors them,” after ABC News‘ Jonathan Karl asked him whether the Nobel committee “blew it” by giving the Nobel Peace Prize to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, rather than Malala.
Carney said the award “reinforces the international community’s commitment to the international prohibition against the use of chemical weapons. “One of the President’s highest priorities is to prevent the proliferation or use of weapons of mass destruction,” Carney said. “And this award honors those who make it their life’s work to advance this vital goal.”
Let Them Speak
Brave New Foundation
(September 24, 2013) — On October 24 2012, Rafiq and his family were devastated by a drone strike that killed his 67-year-old mother and injured his children. The family has been invited to testify about their experience before Congress. Their ad-hoc hearing has been indefinitely postponed, as the Department of State is dragging its heels in issuing their lawyer, Shahzad Akbar, a visa to come to the US Without Shahzad, Rafiq and his family will be unable to come to DC, and their story will never be heard.
Sign this petition now — Click Here — to join Rafiq to urge the Department of State to immediately approve Shazhad Akbar’s visa:
My Mother Was Killed by a US Drone
Petition by Rafiq ur Rehman
To be delivered to: US Department of State
In 2012, my 67-year-old Mother was killed by a US drone strike, and now the State Department is preventing us from sharing our story with the American public and Legislature. Please urge the Department of State to immediately approve a visa for our lawyer, Shahzad Akbar, so that he may escort my family to the United States and allow Congress to hear the first hand account of what it is like living under drones.
Pakistani Lawyer For Drone Strike Victims Misses Drone Conference After Visa Troubles
Matt Sledge / The Huffington Post
NEW YORK (October 11, 2013) — There was no shortage of industry representatives scheduled for a conference on drones this weekend. But one man who isn’t attending is Shahzad Akbar, a Pakistani lawyer for the victims of drone strikes.
The reason, Akbar told HuffPost: the State Department has yet to issue him a visa to enter the country, more than two weeks after he began speaking publicly about the problem.
He was scheduled to take part in “Life Under Drones,” a Friday panel discussion at the Drones and Aerial Robotics Conference at New York University. “The United States government will not allow him to speak to you,” independent journalist Madiha Tahir said at the start of the event.
The primary purpose of Akbar’s scheduled visit to the US this month was to allow him to serve as an interpreter in front of Congress for a client who says a US drone strike killed his grandmother. Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) called on the State Department to approve Akbar’s visa, but the agency has yet to act. Akbar has in the past upset American officials by outing the name of the CIA station chief in Islamabad.
Noting that the drone conference was populated by drone geeks and Air Force representatives, Tahir lamented in Akbar’s stead the fact that the US has no large, organized lobby for the overseas victims of drone strikes.
“There is a lobby for drones, though,” she said, pointing to the defense contractors who sit on the board of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International.
Some drone producers seemed irritated with panelists like Tahir, who called on them to avoid “normalizing” military use of the robotic killers by promoting the cheap hobbyist models any civilian can buy.
One even suggested that instead of the racism Tahir suggested was at the root of US policies in Pakistan and elsewhere, there is “racism” against drones.
CIA drone strikes have killed a reported 99 to 160 people in Pakistan this year, with up to four of those reported to be civilians, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.
“How do we get away from this idea that drones are evil?” asked another conference attendee, who said he founded a drone company.
“I think that’s part of your responsibility,” Tahir responded. “Military drones should not be an acceptable form and that is part of your responsibility.”
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.