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Thursday, April 25, 2013

Aggrieved and angered, Yemenis seek concrete correction in U.S. foreign relations

Senate Committee hearing room

Stop extra-judicial killings, build schools and hospitals
excerpt by Carolyn Bennett (minor edit)

Farea Al-Muslimi gave a personal and journalist’s report this week before the U. S. Senate Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights “Drone Wars: The Constitutional and Counterterrorism Implications of Targeted Killing” This is some of what Al-Muslimi had to say.
Farea Al-Muslimi and
the U.S. attacked
Yemeni village

“Today, I am a writer, speaker, and freelance journalist,” Farea Al-Muslimi said. “I have worked with many local, regional, and international non-governmental organizations, including the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, USAID, and Resonate! Yemen. At the age of 17, I was elected chairman of the Supporting Democracy Committee in the Yemeni Youth Consultative Council. One of the most rewarding experiences I have had has been working as a ‘fixer’ for international journalists in Yemen and Beirut. This work has allowed me to help the world learn about the experiences of my friends and neighbors.

“Most of my work with international journalists has been in the southern provinces of Abyan, Aden, Al-dhalea and Lahj—three of the areas where the United States has focused its so-called ‘war on terror.’”

However, the people of his Yemeni village of Wessab

“Instead of first experiencing America through a school or a hospital, most people first experienced America through the terror of a drone strike.

“What radicals had previously failed to achieve in my village,” he said, “one drone strike accomplished in an instant; and there is now an intense anger and growing hatred of America.

“For me personally, it is deeply troubling, astonishing, and challenging to reconcile that the very same hand (the United States of America) that taught me English, awarded me scholarships, and dramatically improved my life is the hand that ─

Droned my village,

Terrified my people, and

Now makes it harder for them to believe the good things that I tell them about America and my American friends.
“It is especially frustrating to me because all the United States needed to do was identify Al-Radmi as a target, so that he could have been arrested without the injuries, destruction, and death caused by the drone strike.”

What happened?

“As I was thinking about my testimony and preparing to travel to the United States to participate in this hearing, I learned that a missile from a U.S. drone had struck the village where I was raised.… A drone strike [happened] in my home village,” he said: “Just six days ago, this so-called war came straight to my village.…

“Ironically, I was sitting with a group of American diplomats in Sana’a at a farewell dinner for a dear American friend when the strike happened. As I was leaving my American friends, both of my mobile phones began to receive a storm of text messages and calls. For almost all of the people in Wessab, I’m the only person with any connection to the United States. They called and texted me that night with questions that I could not answer:

Why was the United States terrifying them with these drones?

Why was the United States trying to kill a person with a missile when everyone knows where he (Al-Radmi) is and he could have been easily arrested?

“My village is beautiful, but it is very poor and in a remote part of Yemen. Even though the region it is in is about the same size of Bahrain, there isn’t a single meter of asphalt road in it.

“Developmental projects by the central government rarely reach my village and humanitarian aid from international organizations like USAID never does.

“I know that most people have never heard of Wessab. But I could never have imagined that it would be the location of a drone strike.” 
Al-Radmi and Local Government, Wessab Villagers

“My understanding is that Hameed Meftah, who is also known as Hameed Al-Radmi, was the target of the drone strike.

Many people in Wessab know Al-Radmi. He received cooperation from and had an excellent relationship with the government agencies in the village. This made him look legitimate and granted him power in the eyes of those poor farmers, who had no idea that being with him meant they were risking death from a U.S. drone.… After the strike, the farmers in Wessab were afraid and angry. They were upset because they know Al-Radmi; but they did not know that he was a target, so they could have potentially been with him during the missile strike.

“Some of the people who were with Al-Radmi when he was killed were never affiliated with AQAP (Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula primarily active in Yemen and Saudi Arabia), and only knew Al-Radmi socially.

 “Earlier on the night he was killed, he was reportedly in the village meeting with the General Secretary of Local Councilors, the head of the local government.
Anti-U.S. protests

“The people in my village wanted Al-Radmi to be captured [Yemeni officials easily could have found and arrested Al-Radmi.], so that they could question him and find out what he was doing wrong so they could put an end to it. They still don’t have an answer to that question. Instead, all they have is the psychological fear and terror that now occupies their souls. They fear that their home or a neighbor’s home could be bombed at any time by a U.S. drone.”

hen his village was bombed, Farea Al-Muslimi said, “I was devastated for days because I knew that the bombing in my village by the United States would empower militants. Even worse, I know it will make people like Al-Radmi look like a hero, while I look like someone who has betrayed his country by supporting America.” 

Human, international costs of U.S. 
killer drone attacks

“In some areas of Yemen, the anger against America that results from the strikes makes it dangerous for me to even acknowledge having visited America, much less having given testimony as to how much my life changed thanks to the U.S. State Department scholarships. It is sometimes too dangerous even to admit that I have American friends.”

[Psychological torment] “Late last year, I was with an American colleague from an international media outlet on a tour of Abyan. Suddenly, locals started to become paranoid.

Yemenis rally against
U.S. drone attacks
“They were moving erratically and frantically pointing toward the sky. Based on their past experiences with drone strikes, they told us that the thing hovering above us – out of sight and making a strange humming noise – was an American drone. My heart sank. I was helpless. It was the first time that I had earnestly feared for my life, or for an American friend’s life in Yemen. I was standing there at the mercy of a drone.”

 [Cruelty, threat, violence the only direct experience] “In the past, most of Wessab’s villagers knew little about the United States.

“My stories about my experiences in America, my American friends, and the American values that I saw for myself helped the villagers I talked to understand the America that I know and love. Now, however, when they think of America they think of the terror they feel from the drones that hover over their heads ready to fire missiles at any time.

“I personally don’t even know if it is safe for me to go back to Wessab because I am someone who people in my village associate with America and its values. I don’t know whether it is safe to travel to visit my mom because the roads are dangerous.

There is nothing villagers in Wessab needed more than a school to educate the local children or a hospital to help decrease the number of women and children dying every day.

Had the United States built a school or hospital, it would have instantly changed the lives of my fellow villagers for the better and been the most effective counterterrorism tool. And I can almost certainly assure you that the villagers would have gone to arrest the target themselves.” 

Ending his testimony before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee
Farea Al-Muslimi said ─

“I have access to ordinary Yemenis [and], [f]or me, helping the people of my country understand and know the America that I have experienced is a passion and not a career.

[However], the drone strikes and the targeted killing program have made my passion and mission in support of America almost impossible in Yemen.

“…As someone who has lived and worked on this issue very closely, I cannot help but feel that the American and Yemen governments are losing the war against AQAP.

Even when drone strikes target and kill the ‘right’ people, it is at the expense of creating many strategic problems.…”

People in solidarity
Cease and desist, construct, mend and make amends
 Farea Al-Muslimi’s five recommendations
  • Stop all targeted killing strikes. 

  • Build a school or hospital in every village where there has been a targeted killing, so that villagers’ only experience with America [is] not the death and destruction caused by an American missile. 

  • Issue an official apology to the families of all civilians killed or injured by targeted killing strikes. 

  • Compensate the families of innocent civilians killed or injured by strikes conducted or authorized by the United States. 

  • Announce the names of those already on the ‘kill list’ so that innocent civilians can stay out of harm’s way.

Sources and notes

“Drone Wars: The Constitutional and Counterterrorism Implications of Targeted Killing” Statement of Farea Al-Muslimi, United States Senate Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights, April 23, 2013, http://www.judiciary.senate.gov/pdf/04-23-13Al-MuslimiTestimony.pdf


Primarily active in Yemen and Saudi Arabia, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is believed to have been “named for al-Qaeda and is subordinate to that group and its leader (deceased) Osama bin Laden, a Saudi citizen whose father was born in Yemen. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al-Qaeda_in_the_Arabian_Peninsula

“WATCH: Yemeni tells US Senate ‘drones are fuelling anti-Americanism’, April 24, 2013, by Alice K Ross, Published in All Stories, Covert Drone War, Drone strikes in Yemen, http://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/2013/04/24/watch-yemeni-tells-us-senate-drones-are-fuelling-anti-americanism/

“Yemeni Activist Farea al-Muslimi Urges U.S. to Stop the Drone War on His Country,” April 25, 2013, http://www.democracynow.org/2013/4/25/yemeni_activist_farea_al_muslimi_urges


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