Posted by on November 25, 2013 in Blog

Last week, AAI brought Faisal bin Ali Jaber, a Yemeni drone victim to Capitol Hill. In a piece for HuffPost, AAI's Government Relations Manager Yasmine Taeb and Legal Fellow Isaac Levey share their observations and Faisal's message. Faisal is a Yemeni engineer whose brother-in-law Salem and nephew Waleed were killed in a drone strike last year. Salem was a cleric who days earlier had delivered a sermon denouncing al-Qaeda's violent ideology. It wasn't the first of these sermons but regrettably his last. (Photo at left: Faisal bin Ali Jaber meeting with Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ)).

Here is an excerpt from the HuffPost piece:

"A Drone Victim's Message to the United States"

There is probably no foreign policy shift more associated with Barack Obama's presidency than the significant increase in targeted killings by the use of drones. Drones have become a major tool in America's anti-terror arsenal. In Yemen alone, the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) have carried out at least 81 targeted killings: one in 2002 and the remainder executed during President Obama's administration.

Despite these numbers, we have never had a real look at the human costs of our drone war, partly because until recently the administration wouldn't even acknowledge the existence of the program.

That's why the Arab American Institute and the UK-based human rights organization Reprieve have worked to add an essential voice to this debate. Faisal bin Ali Jaber, a civil engineer from Yemen, came to Washington this week to meet with members of Congress and administration officials in hope of finding out why a drone strike killed two of his relatives last year. Faisal's brother-in-law Salem and nephew Waleed were killed on August 29, 2012 in the province of Khashamir, less than twenty-four hours after a joyful family wedding.

To add irony to the tragedy of this story, Salem was an influential cleric who had long preached against al-Qaeda's violent ideology; he was one of few in Yemen with both the courage and platform to denounce violent extremism. Waleed was one of the village's police officers, trying to uphold the rule of law in Yemen at a critical time in the country's development. In an open letter to President Obama this August, Faisal wrote, "The Friday before his death, [Salem] gave a guest sermon in the Khashamir mosque denouncing al-Qa'ida's hateful ideology. It was not the first of these sermons, but regrettably, it was his last."

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