H.F. Bhojani

H.F. Bhojani

Editorial Fellow

H.F. Bhojani is a Pakistani storyteller and poet who weaves narratives on those peering in from the peripheries—the misfits, and the marginalized; the underclass and the underdog. Get in touch @bhojanio or via hbhojani@motherjones.com.

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Meet the Artists Behind the Giant Poster Targeting Drone Pilots

| Wed Apr. 9, 2014 2:21 PM PDT
Two weeks ago, artists unfurled this giant poster of a drone-strike survivor in a field in northwest Pakistan.

On the night of August 23, 2010, an American drone destroyed a home in Danda Darpakhel, a village in North Waziristan, Pakistan. The strike was meant to target a Haqqani network compound, but also killed Bismillah Khan, his wife, and two of their sons, aged 8 and 10 years old. The family's two young sons and daughter, whose names and ages are unknown, survived.

Now Khan's daughter's face has become part of the first-ever art installation aimed at an audience watching from the sky: American drone pilots.  Two weeks ago, artists spread out a large poster of the girl in Khyber Pakhtunkwwa, the Pakistani province that neighbors North Waziristan. The image on the sprawling poster comes from a photo (below) taken by Pakistani photographer Noor Behram a few hours after the strike on the girl's home. 

The artists call their project #NotABugSplat, a reference to "bug splat," drone-pilot lingo for kills.

A girl and her two brothers after surviving a drone strike in August 2010  Noor Behram/ Reprieve

The artist collective, which includes artists from France, Pakistan, and the United States, set up the poster with the help of the British charity Reprieve  and a Pakistani NGO, the Foundation for Fundamental Rights. They hope that the poster will make drone operators empathize with the people who live under their gaze. "We were considering whether to put words in the poster, but decided against it, since the photograph already speaks a thousand words," one of the members of the collective, who asked to remain anonymous, told Mother Jones, "Her eyes say everything."

When the artists arrived in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, they were greeted by "warm, welcoming" villagers, who helped them unfold the gigantic image. The 90-foot by 60-foot poster took an hour and a half to unfurl. At ground level it looked like a bunch of pixels. But once the villagers saw a photo of the image taken by the artists' own remote-controlled mini-drone, they were ecstatic. 

Unfolding the image #NotABugSplat
Villagers with the poster #NotABugSplat.com
The poster as seen from the artists' own drone #NotABugSplat

To get a sense of the scale of the poster, it helps to look at the road winding besides it, dotted by miniscule people who are "about the size of bugs", says one of the artists.

The strike that killed most of the girl's family also destroyed or badly damaged five other houses, killing at least nine civilians who were part of a community of Afghan refugees that had been there for two decades. The girl and her brothers were taken in by family members on the other side of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

More than 100 days have passed since the last American drone strike in Pakistan. The #NotABugSplat artists hope there they won't have to make any more such posters. "But if the need is there, we will do more," says the collective.

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Quick Reads: "The Bargain From the Bazaar" by Haroon K. Ullah

| Sat Mar. 8, 2014 4:00 AM PST
Bargain From the Bazaar

The Bargain From the Bazaar

By Haroon K. Ullah

PUBLICAFFAIRS

Western discussion of Pakistan tends to focus on geopolitics and terrorism. In this refreshing break from the policy stuff, Haroon Ullah, a Pakistani American scholar and diplomat, tells the story of a middle-class family struggling to stay united as violence, political turmoil, and extremism threaten to tear the country apart. The book reads like a novel—whose rich dialogue, colorful characters, and vivid descriptions of Lahore blend seamlessly with historical context to offer glimpses of a Pakistan we rarely see.

This review originally appeared in our March/April 2014 issue of Mother Jones.

New Report Suggests Wedding Procession Drone Strike May Have Violated Laws of War

| Thu Feb. 20, 2014 6:32 PM PST
Saleh Mohsen al-'Amri of Yakla shows photos of a nephew and cousin who were killed in a December 2013 drone strike in Yemen.

A new report from Human Rights Watch outlines conflicting accounts surrounding a drone strike on a Yemeni wedding convoy that killed 12 people and injured at least 15 others.  

While the US government has not officially acknowledged any role in the December 12, 2013 attack, anonymous officials later told the AP that the operation targeted Shawqi Ali Ahmad al-Badani, an Al Qaeda leader, and maintained that the dead were militants.

But after interviewing witnesses and relatives of the dead and wounded, Human Rights Watch determined that the 11 cars were in a wedding procession. Although the organization concedes the convoy may have included members of Al Qaeda, the report concluded that there is evidence suggesting "that some, if not all those killed and wounded were civilians."

The report, titled "A Wedding That Became a Funeral," has renewed calls for the Obama administration to carry out a transparent, impartial investigation into the incident—and to explain how such a strike is consistent with both international laws of war and Obama's own rules governing drone strikes. Announced last May, the procedures limit the use of drones to targeting those who pose a continuing, imminent threat to the United States, where capture is not feasible, and there is a "near certainty" of no civilian casualties.

The report suggests the strike may have violated the laws of war by "failing to discriminate between combatants and civilians, or by causing civilian loss disproportionate to the expected military advantage."

Read the full investigation here.

10 Awesome Girl-Power Songs—Just Because

| Mon Feb. 17, 2014 4:00 AM PST

From mocking the sexist superficiality of our society to celebrating financial independence, here, for no particular reason other than that they rock, are 10 of the greatest feminist anthems of all times—inspiring, inquiring, and provocative. So plug in your iPod and go conquer the world. It's yours for the taking.

 

1. "Stupid Girls" by Pink — A fine critique of our image-obssessed culture and its effects on young women.

Best lyric: What happened to the dream of a girl president?/She's dancing in the video next to 50 Cent.

 

2. "I will survive" by Gloria Gaynor: The iconic representation of women's (and gay) rights in 1970s.

Best lyric: Do you think I'd crumble?/Did you think I'd lay down and die?/Oh no, not I, I will survive.

 

3. "Man I feel like a Woman" by Shania Twain: In this Grammy-winning single, Twain sings that the "best thing about being a woman is the prerogative to have a little fun."

Best lyric: We don't need romance, we only wanna dance/We're gonna let our hair hang down.

 

4. "RESPECT" by Aretha Franklin: This speaks for itself.

Best lyric: R-E-S-P-E-C-T/Find out what it means to me.

 

5. "Suggestion," by Fugazi: One of the most powerful anti-rape songs ever written, "Suggestion" blames not just on the rapist, but the culture that looks away.

Best lyric: There lays no reward in what you discover/You spent yourself, boy, watching me suffer (suffer your words, suffer your eyes, suffer your hands)/Suffer your interpretation/of what it is to be a man. 

 

6) "Bad Bitch" by Lupe: Weighing in on the B-word and how young people interpret it.

Best lyric: First he's relatin' the word "bitch" with his mama, comma/And because she's relatin' to herself, his most important source of help.

 

 

7. "Bloody Ice Cream" by Bikini Kill: In which Riot Grrrl Kathleen Hanna and her iconic band take on sexism in the poetry industry.

Best lyric: The whole damn thing!

 

8. "Independent Woman" by Destiny's Child: Who needs your money, man?

Best lyric: The shoe on my feet, I've bought it/The clothes I'm wearing, I've bought it/The rock I'm rockin', I've bought it/'Cause I depend on me.

 

9. "This is our emergency," by Pretty Girls Make Graves: Slamming a culture that makes us lack fulfillment and feel helpless. 

Best lyric: Baby you don't have to be a picture in a magazine/Sometimes you're too blind to see/Anything objectively

 

10. U.N.I.T.Y by Queen Latifah: QL's response to women being treated as sex objects.  

Best lyric: Every time I hear a brother call a girl a bitch or a ho/Trying to make a sister feel low...