A group of people who have lost loved ones to US drone strikes in Yemen yesterday (3 April) launched a national organisation, which will support affected communities and highlight the civilian impact of the "targeted killing" programme.
The National Organisation 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 who 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.”