This post is part of a series written by Amnesty USA’s National Youth Program Coordinator Kalaya’an Mendoza from the road of the Game of Drones tour.Follow the tour on Tumblr and take action to prevent extrajudicial killings with drones and other weapons.
When I shut the classroom door, the only sound left was the buzzing of the dim fluorescent lights overhead. We could no longer hear the theater students practicing their monologues in the hallway, or the voices of the Amnesty members in the classroom next door frantically flipping through the report on drones in Pakistan as they made signs for our action the next day. “You’re sure you have time for this?” I asked Sahare, as I slid into the desk and took out my phone to record her message.
“Yes, of course,” Sahare said. Her sad eyes held mine, unwavering. “I need to do this as a tribute to my grandmother. Without her inspiration, I wouldn’t be here.”
Sahare, a student activist coordinator for Texas, had recently received news that her grandmother was ill, and I knew that she needed to catch a train to go be with her family in what could be the final days of her grandmother’s life. Sahare had told me earlier about her grandmother’s life in Pakistan, and how she had done everything to ensure the best possible life for her children and grandchildren.
“The pain I’m feeling right now – I can empathize with Nabeela Bibi,” she told me.
Then eight-year-old Nabeela had watched as a drone strike killed her 68-year-old grandmother, Mamana, while she had picked vegetables in the family field.
“My own grandmother is about the same age as Mamana. When I read about her in the Amnesty report about drone strikes in Pakistan, and when I heard about Nabeela testifying before Congress, I knew I needed to speak up even louder than ever.”
For Sahare, and for so many young people I’ve had the honor to meet, human rights work is not something that just exists in a classroom or as a hobby; it’s a part of life. Along with other Amnesty members, she had spent most of her week working tirelessly to prepare for our arrival, balancing a full-time college course load on the side. She looked exhausted, but she had insisted that we needed to make this video.
Just before I turned on the camera, a resolve crept over her face that seemed to melt away her fatigue. The air seemed to get heavier, more concentrated as she began to tell her story, building up to her call to action.
“Tell Congress to investigate these cases, especially that of Mamana Bibi,” she pleaded. “Raise your voice. Because we do have the power to make change.”
It’s youth activists like her, with their precision, passion for human rights, and commitment to organizing, who are leading this movement. She gathered up her belongings, said goodbye, and ran to the train station.
As we near the end of the #GameOfDrones tour, Amnesty members around the country are standing up to join the chorus of calls for investigations into the killing of Mamana Bibi.
When Amnesty members at the Western Regional Conference made so many calls to Senator Feinstein (D-CA) that her office shut the phone lines down, we moved to Twitter, and made so much noise that #AmnestyUSA began to trend.
The very same day, 200 Amnesty members marched through downtown Washington, D.C. to take the message directly to President Obama that we will not back down until we have answers!
From Steamboat Springs, Colo., to Charlottesville, Va., we’ve seen art installations, die-ins, and write-a-thons. The passion of our membership is undeniable, and the creativity of our movement is on display. We are mobilizing, we are effective, and we are growing stronger every day.
At this crucial time, we have to take the fight directly to members of Congress on the Intelligence Committee and on the Armed Forces Committee. Send emails. Make phone calls. Write letters. Plan face-to-face meetings. Tell them that we need impartial, independent investigations into the killing of Mamana Bibi, and into all allegations of unlawful drone strikes.
Don’t stop there. As we make the final push on the #GameOfDrones tour, continue to organize on your campus. Each new member you recruit is a new leader in the movement for human rights, and as more voices join our call we will become a cacophony that cannot be ignored. United we make a difference. Together, we can end the #GameOfDrones.