It’s been almost a year since I traveled to Pakistan to investigate, film, and interview drone victims and their families. While there, I met Rafiq ur Rehman and his two children, who shared with me the story of how Rafiq’s 67 year-old mother, the children's grandmother, was killed by a drone strike. Not only did Rafiq lose his mother that day, but his daughter Nebila, 9, and son Zubiar, 13, were also injured.
Rafiq’s situation moved me deeply. It was clear that this was no abstract instance of collateral damage. As a father of four, I am haunted daily by the stories of children being injured or killed by drone strikes. The story of Rafiq and his children was so powerful that I wanted to be sure that Congress heard it from Rafiq and his heroic lawyer, Shahzad Akbar. All applied for visas to enter the U.S., to share their story with members of Congress and the American public. Reprieve, an international organization fighting for justice across the globe, has been working tirelessly to get the necessary documents so that we in the U.S. can hear first hand from a family whose loved one was killed by a U.S. drone strike.
While Rafiq and his children’s visas were approved, the visa request for their lawyer, guide, and mentor, Shahzad Akbar, has been held up in “administrative processing.” This means that their ad-hoc hearing has been indefinitely postponed, as the Department of State has delayed approval of his visa, despite Congressional interest. Without Shahzad, Rafiq and his family will be unable to come to DC, and their story will never be heard. You can help Rafiq speak with members of Congress – but we need you to act today.
Is the State Department delaying approval of Shazhad Akbar's visa to try to silence drone victims? Shazhad used to regularly travel to the United States and was even a consultant with USAID. It wasn’t until 2010, when he began representing drone victims and their families, that the Department of State began holding up his visa requests.
The State Department needs to hear from us now, here are three simple ways to help with the campaign:
Call the State dept. directly at 202-647-4000
Congressman Alan Grayson issued this statement: "I encourage the State Department to approve Shahzad Akbar’s visa immediately, so that Rafiq ur Rehman and his family can share their stories with Congress and the American public." The time for Rafiq and his family to speak in front of Congress is running out. Sign the petition and join with others to urge the Department of State to immediately approve Shazhad Akbar’s visa. Without it, the Rafiq and his children won’t be heard.