Thursday, September 26, 2013

US State Dept. denies audience to victims of illegal drone warfare

This is the same Pakistani lawyer that helped coordinate the CodePink Peace delegation to Pakistan last year. He represents drone victims in Pakistan and was invited to speak to Congress re:  drone killings.
The State Dept. is denying him a visa....

"My family has been destroyed since my mother was killed"
2013-09-23 message from []:

This week should have been one for the history books. On Wednesday, victims of a drone strike were scheduled to stand before Congress and share the horror of their experience. But the hearing never happened.
Rafiq is a school teacher from Pakistan, whose 67 year-old mother was killed by a United States drone strike on October 24, 2012. His children were injured by the drone strike and witnessed their grandmother's horrific death. Therefore, Representative Alan Grayson, D-FL 9th District, has invited the family to testify before Congress. However, the Department of State has blocked their lawyer, Shahzad Akbar, from appearing before a Congressional ad hoc hearing with the family. Without Mr. Akbar, Rafiq and his family will be unable to come to DC, and their story will never be heard. Mr. Akbar works closely with Reprieve, the human rights organization; both Shahzad and Reprieve were instrumental in arranging for me to meet with and interview Rafiq, his children and other drone strike victims when I was in Pakistan interviewing for and filming my upcoming documentary []. 
By refusing to grant Shahzad a visa, the US government is silencing drone strike victims and families. Rafiq's family wants legal justice, NOT VIOLENCE. The time for Rafiq and his family to speak in front of Congress is running out. Please join our campaign by:
* Calling the State Dept. directly at 202-647-4000
* Following up with an email demanding Shahzad be issued a visa
* Signing our petition with
Join Rafiq and his family in urging the Department of State to immediately approve Shazhad Akbar’s visa and allow the survivors to speak with the American public and Legislature. 
Your voice is invaluable in this effort to end the brutality of the drone wars, and we can't thank you enough.
Robert Greenwald and the War Costs team

My Mother Was Killed by a U.S. Drone
By Rafiq ur Rehman
To be delivered to:  U.S. Department of State
Petition Background -
 My name is Rafiq ur Rehman and I am a schoolteacher from Pakistan. In 2012, a United States drone killed my 67 year-old Mother, Momina, while she was working in the field picking vegetables. The drone that killed my mother also injured my children. After sharing my story with Robert Greenwald for his upcoming film, Unmanned, I was invited to testify in front of members of Congress about the impact that drone strikes have had on my family and the people of Pakistan. My two children and I were issued visas within days of applying, but our lawyer and liaison, Shahzad Akbar has been placed in ‘administrative processing’ and is not being issued a visa.
Mr. Akbar is a UK trained barrister who represents my family in our drone case as well as over 100 other civilian victims of US drone strikes in Pakistan. While working with Reprieve, Shahzad has done heroic and critical work encouraging us to use the rule of law to settle our grievances. Before he began representing civilian victims in 2010, he used to travel regularly in the United States. In 2008, Mr. Akbar had his visa quickly approved - it took only three days. It was not until he began standing up for drone victims in Pakistan that he became a problem to the U.S. government and began having his visa approvals delayed. In 2011 his visa was delayed for 14 months. Now, I need your help so my children and I can travel to the United Sates to tell our story.
Our hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, October 1st 2013. Without legal representation and accompaniment of our lawyer, Mr. Akbar, we cannot come to the U.S and share our story with Congress and with the people of this country. Please urge the Department of State to immediately approve Shahzad Akbar’s visa so that he may escort my family to the United States and allow Congress to hear the first hand account of what it is like living under drones.

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