YEMEN: Yemeni artists take their work to Sanaa’s streets, spraying graffiti on the city’s walls in a bid to express public outrage over U.S. drone strikes in the country
Yemeni artists have turned a Sanaa wall into a canvas for their artwork, to express their outrage over U.S. missile attacks in their country. Spray-painting drones and war motifs on the wall, the artists said they were speaking out against the killings of innocent civilians. “American aircraft enter Yemen in order to fight terrorism – at least that’s what they say. But in reality, they themselves are the terrorists, killing innocent people inside Yemeni territory,” said artist Hadeel al-Mowaffaq, as she painted a drone flying over a peace dove. U.S. officials say that any drone strikes in Yemen are very carefully targeted and that civilian casualties have been kept to a bare minimum, possibly in the low dozens. But the artists said the killings were unjustified. “Drones have killed dozens of innocent people: children, women and men. They had nothing to do with any terrorism,” said Murad Subai. Last month, human rights groups accused the United States of breaking international law and perhaps committing war crimes by killing civilians in missile and drone strikes that were intended to hit militants. Human Rights Watch said they had found violations of international law when civilians were “indiscriminately” killed in Yemen. In a September 2, 2012, attack, the target – an alleged al Qaeda militant, Abd al-Raouf al-Dahab, – was “nowhere in sight” when the United States hit a passenger van and killed 12 people returning from the market, they said. Similarly, on December 17, 2009, an attack by as many as five U.S. Navy cruise missiles struck a Yemeni hamlet, killing what the Yemeni government initially described as 34 “terrorists” at a training camp. However, Human Rights Watch said a Yemeni government inquiry later established that although 14 fighters for al Qaeda’s Yemeni affiliate were killed in the attack, so were at least 41 civilians, including nine women and 21 children. One man who has first-hand experience of such attacks is Mohammad al-Qawli, whose brother Ali was killed by a drone strike. “Now, we see them (the drones) as horror and murder tools. Every time we hear them buzzing, the children run for shelter, fearing an air strike,” said al-Qawli as he took a photograph of the motifs painted on the wall. Local human rights groups say the attacks are counter-productive, and only serve to fuel a rise in al Qaeda recruits. “On the security side, they (drone strikes) outrage society and leave people wanting revenge against the government and against the U.S. authorities. Also, dozens of young men in fact joined al Qaeda after air strikes in some areas,” said Mohammad al-Ahmadi of the al-Karama rights watchdog. U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen increased dramatically after President Barack Obama took office in 2009, and the pilotless aerial vehicles became a key part of the fight against al Qaeda. More recently, the number of strikes has slowed. The United States has also used drones over Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya, and Iraq, and this year received approval to base drones in Niger.
SANAA, YEMEN (OCTOBER 31, 2013) (REUTERS) PEOPLE WATCHING AS ARTISTS PAINT WALL ARTIST PAINTING DRONE VARIOUS OF ARTISTS PAINTING ON WALL PEACE DOVE MOTIF (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) ARTIST, HADEEL AL-MOWAFFAQ, SAYING: “American aircraft enter Yemen in order to fight terrorism – at least that’s what they say. But in reality, they themselves are the terrorists, killing innocent people inside Yemeni territory.” ARTIST SPRAY-PAINTING MOTIF WALL ARTWORK ON WALL SHOWING DRONE IN SKY, CHILD BELOW AND SLOGAN (English and Arabic): ‘WHY DID YOU KILL MY FAMILY?’ DRONE PAINTED ONTO WALL (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) ARTIST, MURAD SUBAI, SAYING: “Drones have killed dozens of innocent people: children, women and men. They had nothing to do with any terrorism.” PEOPLE GATHERED ROUND AS ARTISTS PAINT WALL VARIOUS OF ARTIST PAINTING CHILD PLAYING PAINTING SHOWING MISSILE HEADING TOWARDS CHILD CROWD WATCHING ARTISTS PAINT WALL SANAA, YEMEN (NOVEMBER 2, 2013) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF PEOPLE WALKING IN OLD CITY OF SANAA WALL COVERED IN PAINTINGS VARIOUS OF MAN TAKING PHOTO OF DRONE PAINTING DRONE MOTIF PAINTED ON WALL (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) BROTHER OF MAN KILLED BY DRONE STRIKE, MOHAMMAD AL-QAWLI, SAYING: “Now, we see them (the drones) as horror and murder tools. Every time we hear them buzzing, the children run for shelter, fearing an air strike.” WALL COVERED IN PAINTINGS TRAFFIC ON STREETS (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) SANAA RESIDENT, AHMAD AL-SHARAFI, SAYING: “Those American drones are interfering in the internal affairs of the country, and we reject this interference, we reject it because they strike civilians.” MEN STANDING IN STREET, TALKING (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) LEGAL COORDINATOR OF AL-KARAMA RIGHTS WATCHDOG, MOHAMMAD AL-AHMADI, SAYING: “On the security side, they (drone strikes) outrage society and leave people wanting revenge against the government and against the U.S. authorities. Also, dozens of young men in fact joined al Qaeda after air strikes in some areas.” VARIOUS OF PEOPLE WALKING IN OLD CITY OF SANAA