A Pakistani school teacher and his children will be the first drone victims to testify before Congress on Tuesday, October 29. Their lawyer, however, has been prevented from entering the US.

Last October, Rafiq ur Rehman was out visiting his sister when a drone missile struck near his home, killing his mother, Momina Bibi, 67, and injuring his three children.

The family’s journey to Capitol Hill has not been a smooth one.  In September, their lawyer (also a fellow with UK human rights group, Reprieve) Shahzad Akbar had his visa to enter the US delayed for what he believes were political reasons.

But now Rehman’s family — including his children — and their lawyer are ready to share their story with Congress, having arrived in D.C. over the weekend to prepare for Tuesday. Their story is one among a host of civilian tragedies that call into question the Obama administration’s description of drone programs as highly targeted kills.

The Rehmans were invited to the United States by Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.), who said it’s important to hear from those living under the eye of the country’s controversial drone program.

“When it comes to national security matters like drone strikes, it’s important that we hear not only from the proponents of these attacks, but also from the victims,” Grayson said in a statement. “They have a unique perspective to share with Congress, and I hope that my colleagues will attend this important event.”

Originally, the Congressional briefing was scheduled for last month, but the State Department declined to issue a visa to the Rehmans’ attorney, Shahzad Ahkbar.

According to Akbar, his travel restrictions prevented him from speaking at a human rights conference in Washington last April, and most recently he was also absent at a “Life Under Drones,” part of a drones conference at New York University.

Despite Akbar’s absence, with Rep. Grayson’s help the Rehman family was able to secure travel arrangements for the October 29 meeting.

The Rehmans, however, would like to get some answers during their visit to the U.S. The family says it still has no clue why Momina Bibi was targeted and killed in her garden last year. In the account given to the Guardian, Nabeela said she was picking okra in the garden with her grandmother when she suddenly heard a loud noise

“I was scared,” she said. “I noticed that my hand was hurting, that there was something that had hit my hand and so I just started running. When I was running I noticed that there was blood coming out of my hand.”
“I had seen my grandmother right before it had happened but I couldn’t see her after. It was just really dark but I could hear scream when it had hit her.”

For its part, the Obama administration says it has an official tally on civilian casualties as a result of drone strikes, but it refuses to share the number for national security reasons. It claims the count is significantly lower than the numbers floating around in public (ranging anywhere between dozens to hundreds of deaths).

source: voice of russia