Hamza Hassan Bin Dahaman, drone inflicted trauma, a crime against humanity
(Article first appeared on Radical Sister blog March 22nd 2014)
There is no other word for it… I am outraged at seeing the photo of Hamza Hassan Bin Dahaman, a Yemeni youth so traumatized at witnessing a drone strike that he never recovered from the experience. The image above speaks volumes as do the words of Haykal Bafana, a lawyer friend in the region, who clearly distressed, posted the photo alongside a message stating, “I’ll be offline for the forseeable future. Need time to think, to reflect, and to decide on what’s what.”
The young boy (known as Hassan) had been at the scene of a devastating US drone attack on 5 alleged Al Qaida militants in 2012 in the port city of Shiher, Hadramout province. According to the father, his son was never the same again, diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Omar Abdullah Al Najjar, a friend of Hassan spoke to the the Gulf Times stating,
“we were sitting in the street when a big bang occurred. Most of my friends quickly returned home, except Hamza, my brother and I.
Out of the blue, Hamza shrieked in terror when he saw the bodies. My brother snuggled him and I recited some verses of Quran on his head and immediately sent him home. The next day, I heard that he became sick.”
According to the report, after watching bodies burn, Hamza’s symptoms included, talking gibberish and spending a long time watching himself in the mirror, throat falling into his stomach, sleep disorder, sleeping long hours and refusing to leave his bed. He was also on medication after “inhaling gases”. It would be interesting to see if theses gases relate to “fall-out” material from the drones. I have long raised concerns about this after talking to doctors in Peshawar, Pakistan that claim they are seeing locals from drone hit areas with strange illnesses. Could there be carginogenic material within the drones? The full article on Hamza by Saeed al Batati can be read on the following link,
A year ago I considered giving evidence on drones to Ben Emmerson, UN special rapporteur on counter -terrorism and human rights. However, after exchanging initial emails my gut feeling was that whatever report came out it would be unlikely to recommend the cessation of drone strikes but rather more accurate targeting to avoid civilian deaths. Anything less than recommending that drones strikes halt entirely would be to ignore and negate the effects of strikes on those living under drones, seeing the devastation first hand and the subsequent traumatizing effect. Also, I did not wish to participate in any investigation that might sanction the targeting of “alleged” insurgents (however accurate) that had never been through fair judicial process.
As someone that has acted as an “expert witness” at other inquiries into the action of states in the past, I have experienced how they often operate as a damage limitation exercise for governments and official bodies without promoting truly effective change.
Last year, I was distressed myself to receive photos of unidentified body parts after a drone strike in Yemen. It was only months later that by chance I discovered the tangled remains belonged to civilians, a teacher and young friend whose vehicle had been hit after giving locals a lift (a common practice in some areas). Imagine seeing bodies blown apart and incinerated right in front of your eyes, not only visual but the sounds of impact and smell of burning flesh.
Sara Jamal, a Yemeni activist tweeted on 23rd April 2013, from a number of witnesses at a drone hearing, these were some of the messages I received;
“father of Wafaa 5 year old who was killed by a US drone is asking what have we done to have drones kill our children?
“we have to deal with panic and fear of US drones’ sounds hovering over our heads and women having miscarriages due to that”
“my brother was hurt with a US drone and when people tried to rescue him another drone hit and killed 11 men and a pregnant woman”
Colum Lynch of Foreign Policy highlighted a Pakistani resolution that nations “ensuretransparency” when discussing drone strikes and “conduct prompt, independent and impartial investigations whenever there are indications of any violations to human rights caused by their use.”
Residents of Yemen and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan (FATA) undergo human rights violations day after day subjected to the fear and trauma caused by not knowing if their families and homes might be next to be hit by a drone strike.
The United Nation Rights Council has called for an independent investigation of drone attacks but how many investigations do we need to state the obvious wasting time and money when there is enough evidence now to show the physical and psychological damage caused by drones. Humanity and common sense appear to have gone out of the window, it takes seconds to look into the eyes of a child that has witnessed a parent annihilated to see the colossal impact on a young life.
I recall a message sent from a father begging me to inform the US that drones were turning the children of FATA into killers. This was echoed by community leaders. The man’s own son, once a dedicated university student had given up his studies and joined insurgents after seeing a friend blown apart and his community decimated by a drone strike. He later went on to carry out a devastating “martyrdom operation” killing many including himself in Afghanistan. As Kat Craig of legal charity Reprieve states,
“In Yemen, Pakistan and elsewhere, the US, assisted by its European allies, is carrying out devastating attacks with total impunity – a practice that is terrorizing local communities, and creating far more extremism than it has ever eliminated.”
Hamza, the latest victim of drones, was buried on Thursday. My heart goes out to his family, yet more traumatized secondary victims of drone strikes. One thing for certain, the anger built up by the thousands attending the funeral in Yemen will be needing an outlet.
Faisel bin Ali Jaber, 55, a Yemeni government engineer travelled to America in 2013 seeking U.S. government compensation for his village and warned of increasing radicalization with every drone attack. He described the missile strike on his own community as being akin to “a mountain falling on us” and seeing legs, arms and a head strewn on the ground. He conveyed his message to members of Congress, that the attack had only made Al Qaeda ‘more popular’ and that young people in his village were ‘infused with anger’. He told listeners that locals including two teenagers had left to join the terrorist group, never to be heard from again, stating such was their fury that “they would join Al Qaeda or any other group that would be able to get them revenge.”
The US and other countries must be condemned by the international community in the strongest terms and held to account by appropriate legal bodies for their actions against civilian populations… What they are practicing by their use of drones is none other than state terrorism!
Carol Anne Grayson is an independent writer/researcher on global health/human rights/WOT and is Executive Producer of the Oscar nominated, Incident in New Baghdad. She is a Registered Mental Nurse with a Masters in Gender Culture and Development. Carol was awarded the ESRC, Michael Young Prize for Research 2009, and the COTT ‘Action = Life’ Human Rights Award’ for “upholding truth and justice”. She is also a survivor of US “collateral damage”.