Transcript: Zubair Rehman’s remarks on civilian drone strike victims – Oct. 29, 2013

Partial transcript of remarks by Zubair Rehman, the 13-year-old son of Rafiqul Rehman who was gravely injured by a U.S. drone strike on Oct. 24, 2012. Zubair’s grandmother, Mamana Bibi, was killed in that strike. His remarks were delivered via a translator at a congressional briefing on Oct. 29, 2013:

…My name is Zubair Rehman. I am 13-years-old. On Oct. 24, 2012, I watched a U.S. drone kill my grandmother. I myself was injured in this strike.

My grandmother was nobody’s enemy. She was kind and caring. She used to help the mothers in my village deliver their babies. In the evening, she would tell all the children to gather around and she would tell us stories – stories of our life, of our family, of our community. She had so many stories that I can’t pick a favorite. I miss all of them.

My grandmother and I used to share a love of bright blue skies. We have many of them in Ghundi, the village where I live. The sky in Ghundi was particularly blue on Oct. 24, 2012. I was excited.

The next day was the start of Eid. I know many Americans do not know what Eid is. I’ve been told that it’s like Christmas. Since I do not know what Christmas is like, I cannot say.

I can only tell you that it’s a magical time filled with joy. It is a holiday every child, including myself, gets excited about.

Just before the drone strike, my grandmother promised me that as soon as we finished our chores, we could start celebrating. The night before we had helped her make sweets. I couldn’t wait to try one.

As I helped my grandmother in the field, I can see and hear the drone hovering over our heads. But I didn’t worry. Why would I worry? Neither my grandmother nor I were militants.

When the drone fired the first time, the whole ground shook and black smoke rose up. We ran but several minutes later, the drone fired again.

People from our village came to our aid and took us to hospital. We spent the night in great agony at the hospital, and the next morning I was operated on. That is how we spent our Eid.

Unfortunately, my initial operation was unsuccessful and a few days later I was taken to Islamabad for treatment. The doctor examined my injured leg and said that the drone shrapnel was stuck in a very bad place. It could only be removed with a laser operation, which was very expensive. We did not have enough money for my operations so I had to return home with the shrapnels still in my leg.

When we returned home, my father spent months borrowing money from relatives and neighbors. It took him several months but he was finally able to secure enough money for me to have the surgery.

Congressman Grayson, I no longer love blue skies. In fact, I now prefer gray skies. The drones do not fly when the skies are gray, and for a short period of time, the mental tension and fear eases. When the sky brightens, though, the drones return and so does the fear.

I know that Americans think that drones are the answer. But I wish they could understand how I and other children in my community see drones. We used to play outside all the time – all the time. We loved to play all sorts of games in my village – cricket, football, volleyball. But now people are afraid to even leave their houses, much less travel great distances. So we don’t play very often.

There are few schools in my community but now many children have stopped going to the few that exist. This is a big problem in my community because what everybody really wants and needs is education. But education isn’t possible as long as the drones circle overhead.

I almost decided not to tell America but Mr. Grayson called us. The U.S. refused to let my lawyer, Shahzad Akbar, come with me. He used to visit the U.S. all the time but since he started helping people like me, the U.S. now says he isn’t welcomed.

In the end, I decided that welcomed or not, it is important for me to tell my story. I hope by telling you about my village and my grandmother, I can convince you that drones are not the answer.

More importantly, though, I hope I can return home with a message. I hope I can tell my community that Americans listened, that America’s not just drones that terrorizes us from above but a country that listens and is trying to help us solve the many problems that we face, and maybe – just maybe – America may soon stop the drones.

Thank you.

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