It sounds very basic, but it’s very hard when you try to execute it in journalism: the sense that we all are human. —Anthony Shadid
WOUNDS highlights the stories of those directly impacted by drone attacks in Pakistan–in their own words.
Since the drone attacks began in Pakistan in 2004, much of the focus has been on the technology. And, although the borderlands between Pakistan and Afghanistan are endlessly debated and declared upon by journalists and pundits, the ordinary people who actually live there are rarely heard from. WOUNDS records the voices of those who have been either labeled “militants,” or summarily dismissed as “collateral damage.”
The photographs handed to me were taken after New Year’s Eve 2009, when Karim Khan received a phone call from his brother, who, unable to speak, hung up on him. So, it was his uncle’s voice that traveled across the crackling phone line to tell Karim that his brother, his son and a stone mason nearby, were dead. In the dead of night, an American drone had savaged his home in North Waziristan, in Pakistan’s northern Tribal Areas, killing all three. Karim became the first Pakistani to file a case on drone strikes. His lawyer, Shahzad Akbar, publicly leaked the identity of US spy chief, Jonathan Banks in 2010, sending him scurrying from the country.
Sixteen-year-old Saddam Hussein suffers from survivor’s guilt after his sister-in-law and 9-month-old niece were obliterated in a drone attack in March 2010.
Although the drone wars conducted by the CIA in Pakistan’s northern Tribal Areas—formally known as the Federally Administered Tribal Areas or FATA— are hotly debated, the voices of drone survivors and families of the dead are largely, conspicuously absent from any discussion. Wounds of Waziristan uses these stories to illuminate the lives of drone affectees and tell their stories, beyond the numbers and the legal debates. It illustrates the far-reaching effects of Obama’s drone wars, ones that reverberate long after the initial drone attack.
Since the drone attacks began in Pakistan in 2004, much of the focus has been on the technology itself. From the political Right to the Left, analysts, western artists, analysts and academics have focused on the forms of drone technology.
In short, Americans have been looking up when they should be looking down.
Wounds of Waziristan reflects the subjectivities and experiences of those who experience drone attacks firsthand. These are some of the people on the front-lines of the terror wars, and Americans rarely hear from them.
Leaks to the media have revealed the Obama administration’s view of Pakistan’s Tribal Areas. Last year, for example, The New York Times exposed how the American government has been counting all military-age males in a strike zone as “militants” leading to skewed figures about just who has been killed. Successive reports in McClatchy as well as The New York Times this year show that the Obama administration has been using a tactic in which it does not even bother to determine just who it is killing. Known as ‘signature strikes,’ these drone attacks–particularly in Pakistan’s Tribal Areas–are based on what is called a “pattern of life” analysis in which suspicious behavior is enough to qualify for death.
Wounds injects the voices of those who have been either labeled de facto as “combat militants,” or summarily dismissed as “collateral damage.” We simply ask:
Just what does it take to be considered human?