On the eleventh anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, 31 American peace delegates representing the U.S. peace group CODEPINK joined political leader Imran Khan and Pakistanis at a rally against U.S. drone strikes in Hatala, Pakistan, near the border between D.I. Khan and South Waziristan. The delegates traveled to the tribal areas in solidarity with the people of Waziristan who have been terrorized by U.S. drone attacks since 2004. This was the first time that the Pakistani government has admitted foreigners into the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in nearly a decade.
The group’s initial destination was Kotkai, a town inside South Waziristan, but the government sealed off the border into the region and set up road blocks to block the caravan.
CODEPINK cofounder Medea Benjamin, flanked by members of the delegation holding anti-drone signs and pictures of children who have been killed in drone attacks, delivered an apology for the death and suffering caused by the drones. “We want you to know that these Americans you see here have been fighting for years against this drone policy, and will continue to do so until we put an end into to these barbaric attacks. We want to live in peace and harmony with our brothers and sisters in this region,” she said to the crowd that chanted, over and over, “You are welcome! We want peace!”
On the journey from Islamabad to Waziristan, the delegation received overwhelming support from Pakistanis who held processions along the route.”I think we were successful in showing people that there are Americans who care about their plight. The people we spoke with made a clear distinction between American government policies and its people,” said delegate Judy Bello from Rochester, New York.
While the delegates were disappointed that the Pakistani government prevented them from entered deeper into South Waziristan as planned, they feel they have been successful in putting the issue of drone warfare in the international spotlight. Back in Islamabad, they will continue to have meetings with US and Pakistani government officials and may embark on a fast to commemorate civilians who have died in the strikes.