CIA drone strike photos published for the first time

July 18, 2011

Legal action charity Reprieve and Islamabad human rights lawyer Shahzad Akbar today announce the publication of the first large array of photographs depicting the devastating impact of US unmanned aircraft (‘drone’) attacks on innocent civilians in Pakistan.  The photographs are the work of Noor Behram, a 39 year old photographer from the North Waziristan Agency (NWA). Noor’s pictures and videos will be featured at an exhibition, Gaming in Waziristan, which opens tomorrow [Tues 19 July] at Beaconsfield [22 Newport Street, London SE11 6AY +44 (0) 207 582 6465] and runs 11am-5pm Tuesday-Friday until 5 August. At 6.30pm on Thursday 21 July, Reprieve’s Clive Stafford Smith will be in conversation there with Shahzad Akbar.Noor started covering the violence in Pakistan’s Waziristan and FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas) for Al Jazeera in 2007. For last three years, as a personal project, he has been taking pictures and footages of civilian victims, focusing on women and children killed and injured by CIA drones. He has documented many drone strikes since 2007; the current photograph and video collection provides images of 28 attacks. Noor is married with 6 children.  His oldest daughter Aqsa, aged 14, just finished her school in Miranshah and is going to college. His youngest is 6 months old and is named Mohammed Ali.  The exhibition is part of Reprieve’s broader project Bugsplat which aims to inject transparency into the use of drones in Pakistan and elsewhere. The US is radically changing the nature of war in ways that jeopardise 60 years of humanitarian law. Today, working in conjunction with Reprieve, Shahzad Akbar will also file an FIR (First Information Report) in Islamabad calling for a warrant for the arrest of John A. Rizzo, former acting chief counsel to the CIA, who has publicly boasted of his role in killing people with drones.  This will be one stage of a long and concerted campaign to reintroduce the rule of law into US-sponsored violence around the world. Also later today the Bureau of Investigative Journalism will be rolling out a project intended to inject objective transparency into the numbers of those being killed, using some of Noor’s photographs in its launch, and disproving objectively US official claims that the drone strikes hit targets precisely and without civilian casualties. See Shahzad Akbar, the pioneering lawyer who has been leading the legal fight against the American use of drones in his native Pakistan, said: “I constantly meet the relatives of those killed in these drone strikes, and they are all angry at America.  This policy is simply further radicalising an unstable region.  Noor Behram shows great courage to capture these pictures in order to show the world what is really happening. People living in countries supporting this war with their tax money need to ask questions from their governments if their money is being spent on such gruesome murders of women and children.” Reprieve’s director Clive Stafford Smith said: “This is another terrible US policy in the War of Terror.  I hate to expose the world to pictures of a child with his head blown half off, but this is what the CIA calls ‘collateral’ damage. In a country that is not at war with America, everyone else calls it murder, and the drone attacks are causing vastly more harm than good.”