‘Drones Are All Over My Brain’: How the US Drone War is an Ongoing Nightmare for Pakistanis

A recently released report from the International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Clinic of Stanford Law School and the Global Justice Clinic at the New York University School of Law explores what it is like to live under drones and features firsthand testimony from civilians in Pakistan. The report, called “Living Under Drones,” is the product of two investigation missions to Pakistan and features firsthand accounts from those who have been impacted by drones employed regularly by the United States.

Part 1 on what the report details on strikes against rescuers and funerals was already published here at Firedoglake. Now, here’s Part 2, which examines drone surveillance, the effect that the presence of drones in the sky has on the mental health of Pakistanis and how drones breed distrust in Pakistani communities.

The constant presence of drones in the sky brings terror to the lives of the people of Pakistan. It is “harrowing” for children, grown-ups, women, and anyone who hears the sound of a drone and thinks they will be next. And in some respects, surveillance by drones is even worse than drone strikes because Pakistanis do not ever know for certain that a drone in the sky is just overhead to spy.

A humanitarian worker explained:

Do you remember 9/11? Do you remember what it felt like right after? I was in New York on 9/11. I remember people crying in the streets. People were afraid about what might happen next. People didn’t know if there would be another attack. There was tension in the air. This is what it is like. It is a continuous tension, a feeling of continuous uneasiness. We are scared. You wake up with a start to every noise.

One person told researchers, “God knows whether they’ll strike us again or not. But they’re always surveying us, they’re always over us, and you never know when they’re going to strike and attack.” Another interviewee who lost both his legs in a drone attack said that, “[E]veryone is scared all the time. When we’re sitting together to have a meeting, we’re scared there might be a strike. When you can hear the drone circling in the sky, you think it might strike you. We’re always scared. We always have this fear in our head.”

‘Drones Are All Over My Brain': How the US Drone War is an Ongoing Nightmare for Pakistanis

(Flickr Photo by Jared Rodriguez / t r u t h o u t; Adapted: jeditrilobite, david.evenson)

A recently released report from the International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Clinic of Stanford Law School and the Global Justice Clinic at the New York University School of Law explores what it is like to live under drones and features firsthand testimony from civilians in Pakistan. The report, called “Living Under Drones,” is the product of two investigation missions to Pakistan and features firsthand accounts from those who have been impacted by drones employed regularly by the United States.

Part 1 on what the report details on strikes against rescuers and funerals was already published here at Firedoglake. Now, here’s Part 2, which examines drone surveillance, the effect that the presence of drones in the sky has on the mental health of Pakistanis and how drones breed distrust in Pakistani communities.

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The constant presence of drones in the sky brings terror to the lives of the people of Pakistan. It is “harrowing” for children, grown-ups, women, and anyone who hears the sound of a drone and thinks they will be next. And in some respects, surveillance by drones is even worse than drone strikes because Pakistanis do not ever know for certain that a drone in the sky is just overhead to spy.

A humanitarian worker explained:

Do you remember 9/11? Do you remember what it felt like right after? I was in New York on 9/11. I remember people crying in the streets. People were afraid about what might happen next. People didn’t know if there would be another attack. There was tension in the air. This is what it is like. It is a continuous tension, a feeling of continuous uneasiness. We are scared. You wake up with a start to every noise.

One person told researchers, “God knows whether they’ll strike us again or not. But they’re always surveying us, they’re always over us, and you never know when they’re going to strike and attack.” Another interviewee who lost both his legs in a drone attack said that, “[E]veryone is scared all the time. When we’re sitting together to have a meeting, we’re scared there might be a strike. When you can hear the drone circling in the sky, you think it might strike you. We’re always scared. We always have this fear in our head.”

The fear makes anyone and everyone afraid of social gatherings. It makes people reclusive and afraid to leave their homes. As one man, who lost a cousin in a major drone strike on March 17, 2011, said:

We do not come out of our villages because it’s very dangerous to go out anywhere. . . . In past we used to participate in activities like wedding gatherings [and] different kinds of jirgas, different kinds of funerals. . . .We used to go to different houses for condolences, and there were all kinds of activities in the past and we used to participate. But now it’s a risk to go to any place or participate in any activities.”

As Umar Ashraf was being interviewed for the report, he gestured at the small group interviewing him and said, “We do not sit like this, like friends.” This does not happen anymore because people are afraid, “since [they] usually attack people when they sit in gatherings.”

“The Drones Are All Over My Brain”

Anticipatory anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder occurs as a result of the terror Pakistanis experience from drones in the sky. The presence causes “emotional breakdowns.” It leads people to run indoors and hide whenever drones are overhead. It makes people faint, causes nightmares, “hyper startled reactions to loud noises, outbursts of anger or irritability” and sometimes even loss of appetite. It makes people insomniacs too. (more…)