The following account was written by Faisal bin Ali Jabar. Reprieve is assisting Faisal to challenge the deaths of his family members before the US Federal Courts.
On Friday, President Obama announced the number of civilians he believes he has killed with drones over the past seven years. The number is between 64 and 116. These were ordinary people killed in countries where the U.S. is not at war; in places like my village, Khashamir, in Yemen.
Like many grieving families who have lost loved ones to the mistakes of U.S. drones, I don’t know whether my nephew Waleed and my brother-in-law Salem, both innocents, were included in the President’s number. Mr. Obama did not provide names. He did not say in which years the civilians were killed, nor in which country. He did not explain how the CIA decided who counted as wrongfully killed, and who didn’t.
The President’s version of transparency – a bare number – does not help the families of the dead. It also does not help us achieve peace in Yemen. I am older and educated, but my worry is for our younger generation. How can Yemen’s young people make peace with the world when their first experience of the U.S. is hovering drones killing innocents, where no-one will admit responsibility?
Instead of killing my brother-in- law Salem, the U.S. should have supported him. Salem was an anti-extremist Imam who preached against al Qaeda only days before he was killed. His speech was so strong and inspiring, I worried al Qaeda would kill him. I spoke to Salem about my fears. He said “If I don’t use my position to make it clear to my congregation that this ideology is wrong, who will? I will die anyway, and I would rather die saying what I believe than die silent.”