A Yemeni activist and writer gave an emotional testimony to members of the Senate on Tuesday afternoon, expressing the anguish he felt after the country he had grown to love became the country that terrorized his home.
“Just six days ago, my village was struck by an American drone in an attack that terrified the region’s poor farmers,” Farea Al-Muslimi said during a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee hearing on drone strikes.
Al-Muslimi explained he owed many of the happiest years of his life to the United States. He grew up in the small Yemeni village of Wessab, where his father earned less than $200 a month farming. Thanks to U.S. State Department scholarships, Al-Muslimi was able to attend a California high school and later attended American University in Beirut.
“I could never have imagined that the same hand that changed my life, and took it from a miserable to a promising one, would also drone my village. My understanding is that a man named Hameed Meftah was the target of the drone strike. Many people in Wessab know Al-Radmi and the Yemeni government could have easily found and arrested him,” he said.
“In the past, what Wessab villagers knew of the U.S. was based on my stories about my wonderful experiences here. The friendships and values I experienced and described to the villagers helped them understand the America that I know and that I 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.”
Al-Muslimi described drone strikes as the “face of America” in Yemen and warned they were creating anti-American sentiment. He gruesomely described how civilians were often killed by drone strikes on small villages.
“I believe in America, and I deeply believe when Americans know about how much pain and suffering the U.S. airstrikes have caused… they will reject this devastating targeted killing program,” he concluded.
Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) held the hearing on Tuesday to investigate the use of drone strikes against suspected terrorists in Pakistan and Yemen. At the hearing, Durbin called on the Obama administration to release information about its drone strike program. He also warned the United States “may undermine our counterterrorism efforts if we do not carefully measure the benefits and costs of targeted killing.”