Fazillah, age 25, lives in Maidan Shar, the central city of
Afghanistan’s Wardak province. She married about six years ago, and
gave birth to a son, Aymal, who just turned five without a father.
Fazillah tells her son, Aymal, that his father was killed by an American
bomber plane, remote-controlled by computer.
That July, in 2007, Aymal’s father was sitting in a garden with four
other men. A weaponized drone, what we used to call an Unmanned Aerial
Vehicle or UAV, was flying, unseen, overhead, and fired missiles into
the garden, killing all five men.
Now Fazillah and Aymal share a small dwelling with the deceased man’s
mother. According to the tradition, a husband’s relatives are
responsible to look after a widow with no breadwinner remaining in her
immediate family. She and her son have no regular source of bread or
income, but Fazillah says that her small family is better off than it
might have been: one of the men killed alongside her husband left behind
a wife and child but no other living relatives that could provide them
with any source of support, at all.
Aymal’s grandmother becomes agitated and distraught speaking about her
son’s death, and that of his four friends. “All of us ask, ‘Why?’” she
says, raising her voice. “They kill people with computers and they can’t
tell us why. When we ask why this happened, they say they had doubts,
they had suspicions. But they didn’t take time to ask ‘Who is this
person?’ or ‘Who was that person?’ There is no proof, no
accountability. Now, there is no reliable person in the home to bring
us bread. I am old, and I do not have a peaceful life.”
Listening to them, I recall an earlier conversation I had with a
Pakistani social worker and with Safdar Dawar, a journalist, both of
whom had survived drone attacks in the area of Miran Shah, in Pakistan’s
Waziristan province. Exasperated at the increasingly common experience
which they had survived and which too many others have not, they began
firing questions at us.