Look into her eyes!
In a heavily bombed region of Pakistan, a group of artists and villagers unveiled a huge picture of a child orphaned by drone strikes. Their hope is to finally make the drone operators face their victims.
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On the screens of drone operators, people look like tiny dots and killing them looks like smashing a bug. That, along with the obvious disregard for human dignity, is the reason military jargon refers to humans killed by drones as „bug splats“.
In an interview with Democracy Now, one of the co-creators of the project, Akash Goel, explained their motivation:
„We were very concerned about how dehumanizing this war by remote control is to begin with. When we heard about the language and the lexicon which was used – bug splat – we were appalled by the insensitivity to the issue.“
Now, when a drone operator looks down at the village, the eyes of a young orphan will look right back at him. The girl in the picture lost both her parents and two young siblings in a drone attack in 2009.
The project is a collaboration of artists, most famously French artist JR, and villagers from the KPK region of Pakistan. The picture is over 20 meters wide and over 30 meters long (70 x 100 feet) and was designed to be visible to satellites too.
Both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch say that drone strikes could amount to war crimes. The U.S. government has launched drone attacks on Pakistan, Yemen, Afghanistan and even famine-stricken Somalia. In Pakistan alone, more than 3700 people were killed, more than 200 of them children.
In addition to killing and wounding people, drones have a profound impact on the societies they target. For example, children are less likely to go to school for fear of getting killed. This keeps the communities in a vicious circle of poverty and powerlessness.
These people are not collateral damage, not pixels on a screen and not bug splats! The artists are putting a human face on human suffering – something that should be obvious, but is shamefully ignored in this remote-controlled war.