Bereaved Yemenis speak at launch of drone victims’ organisation

April 2, 2014

Image of drones

A group of people who have lost loved ones to US drone strikes in Yemen yesterday launched a national organisation, which will support affected communities and highlight the civilian impact of the “targeted killing” programme.

The National Organization for Drone Victims (NODV), which is the first of its kind, has been founded by Mohammad al-Qawli, an Advisor to the Ministry of Education. Mr al-Qawli lost his brother, a primary school-teacher, in a January 2013 drone strike in Khawlan near Sanaa. The Yemeni government itself confirmed that Ali al-Qawli didn’t have any connection with militants.

At the launch, Mr al-Qawli said: “Today we commemorate the civilians killed by US drone strikes and the scores of innocent people who are terrorised by drones every day. My brother Ali was a primary school teacher – he was not a terrorist; he dedicated his life to children’s education. This event is an opportunity to bring ordinary people together to stand shoulder to shoulder to send a peaceful message to the US and Yemeni administrations. We hope that by us coming together the world will sit up and listen to the voice of the Yemeni people.”

Families of victims from seven different strikes in five different provinces attended the launch. Many brought personal items belonging to their deceased loved ones. Among the belongings were including the stethoscope of a doctor who had been killed while treating another drone victim.

The event also highlighted a December 2013 strike which hit a wedding party in Radaa. Faisal bin Ali Jaber spoke about his brother-in-law – an imam who preached against Al-Qaeda – and nephew were killed in an August 2012 strike. The event comes within days of Yemen’s President Hadi expressing regret that the drone strikes have killed innocent civilians, while continuing to express his support for the use of drones in Yemen. The Yemeni Parliament recently passed a resolution criminalising drone strikes. The past year has seen a surge of drone strikes, with as many as eleven taking place in the first few months of 2014 alone.

Kat Craig, Legal Director of Reprieve, said: “It is outrageous that President Hadi is willing to let his own people die because of a covert and counterproductive program run by the US’ secret service. The evidence is clear: drones kill innocent civilians, terrorise populations and are used as a recruitment tool by Al Qaeda.” ENDS Notes to editors 1. For further information and photographs of the event, please contact Clemency Wells in Reprieve’s Press Office on: / +44 (0) 207 553 8161 or for US queries: / +1 (917) 855 8064

2. The organisation will seek to investigate and publish facts about drone strikes and their effects on communities with the aim of changing government policy regarding the secretive US programme. The organisation will also seek to assist affected communities with the after-effects of drone strikes including the economic impact of the loss of families’ primary bread-winners; psychological trauma— particularly in children; and physical injuries. Sign up to join our press mailing list.