I had a chance to be part of this excellent, inspirational and thoughtful conference organized by Pakistani scholars and activists in Toronto:
What does it mean to be haunted by loss? Since the drone attacks began in 2004, the borderlands between Pakistan and Afghanistan have been the subject of heated discussion by journalists and pundits. Yet, the people who actually live there and survive the aftermath of American policies are rarely heard from.
Wounds of Waziristan, a short documentary by filmmaker Madiha Tahir, tells the haunting stories of those directly impacted by US drone attacks in Pakistan. Wounds gets beyond the legal debate to focus on drone survivors, ordinary people who persist in extraordinary conditions. In their own words, the drone affectees narrate what it is to live with loss and among the rubble left in the wake of a drone attack. Wounds injects the voices of those who have been labeled as “militants” or dismissed as “collateral damage” into the public debate on the US ‘war on terror.’
Madiha Tahir is an independent journalist and a doctoral candidate at Columbia University working on liberalism, media narratives and war in the context of US drone attacks on Pakistan. Her journalistic work has appeared in several media outlets including PRI/BBC’s “The World”, Foreign Affairs, VICE, Democracy Now!, The New Inquiry, Guernica, The Wall Street Journal, Caravan, The National(UAE), Global Post, Left Turn, and The Columbia Journalism Review, among others. She has also co-edited a volume of essays Dispatches from Pakistan with Vijay Prashad and Qalandar Bux Memon and is one of the founding editors for Tanqeed.org.
Co-Sponsored by the Social Science Research Council and New York University
NYU Co-Sponsors: The Gallatin School of Individualized Study; Department of Media, Culture and Communication; Hagop Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies; Center for Media, Culture and History; Asian/Pacific American Institute
Re-presenting Pakistan: Journalism, Justice and the “War on Terror”
Pakistan has been called a failing state and the most dangerous country on earth. Yet, stories about the Pakistani victims of the “war on terror” remain scant even though thousands of Pakistanis have been bombed, disappeared, detained and displaced. This panel will examine the relationship between representation, media and war in the context of Pakistan. It will discuss alternative models to pursue and publish ethical journalism.
PLACE: Columbia University | Journalism School | 3rd Flr, Lecture Hall
TIME: 7pm – 8:30pm
MODERATED by: Steve Coll, author of Ghost Wars and dean of Columbia Journalism School
Madiha Tahir is an independent journalist who recently produced a short documentary, Wounds of Waziristan, about survivors of drone attacks in Pakistan’s Tribal Areas. She is co-editor of a collection of essays, Dispatches from Pakistan and a Ph.D. candidate at Columbia University.
Asim Rafiqui is a photojournalist who has been investigating human rights issues in Pakistan. His most recent project covers the lives and stories of Pakistani prisoners in the US prison at Bagram. Rafiqui is also a fellow at the Open Society Foundation
Sarah Belal is a prominent Pakistani human rights lawyer who has been working to get Bagram prisoners released. Her organization Justice Project Pakistan has been litigating on behalf of families of prisoners. Belal is also a fellow with the UK based human rights organization, Reprieve.
Saadia Toor is the author of State of Islam: Culture and Cold War Politics in Pakistan. She is an associate professor of sociology at CUNY and works on populist movements and feminism and religion, in Pakistan.
Presented by The Sevellon Brown Fund, Columbia Journalism School Photojournalism Dept., & Center for International History
The liberal arguments about the War on Terror, especially about the formerly covert wars waged under its regime, have tended to center around the legality of the actions of the US and other actors under international law. These arguments are based on the un-interrogated assumption that law equals justice, while ignoring the fact that the ‘Law’ can often be a tool that is deployed in the services of power structures. That the doctrine of equality-under-law has been routinely violated is evident in the construction of spaces of “exception” such as Guantanamo, Bagram, and the Special Administrative Units in the US prison system, where the law has determined, paradoxically, that the law will not apply to a certain category of people. The War on Terror has successfully rendered many of its victims invisible through the tactics of labeling entire categories of people as ‘militants’ or ‘terrorists’, killing them through drone strikes, incarcerating them in Guantanamo, Bagram, and increasingly the federal prison system, and preventing their voices and stories from surfacing in the media or in other forms of public discourse through various legal and other measures. This panel attempts to explore the ways in which the War on Terror, both at home and abroad, corrupts justice through its rhetoric of law and legality. It seeks to make the victims of this war visible and ask what justice for them might look like.
Sarah Belal is a prominent Pakistani human rights lawyer who has been working to get Bagram prisoners released. Her organization Justice Project Pakistan has been litigating on behalf of families of prisoners. She is also a fellow with Reprieve, the UK-based human rights organization.
Faisal Hashmi is the former Executive Director of the Muslim Justice Initiative. He has been an activist in the area of Civil Liberties for Muslims in America, advocating on behalf of terror defendants caught up in the dragnet of cases in the federal criminal justice system post 9-11 .
Arun Kundnani is the author of The Muslims are Coming! Islamophobia, Extremism, and the Domestic War on Terror (Verso, 2014) and teaches in the Media, Culture, and Communication department at New York University.
Asim Rafiqui is an photojournalist who has been investigating human rights issues in Pakistan. His most recent project covers the lives and stories of Pakistani prisoners in the US prison at Bagram. Rafiqui is also a fellow at the Open Society Foundation.
Madiha Tahir is an independent journalist who recently produced a short documentary, Wounds of Waziristan, about Pakistani survivors of drone attacks. She is co-editor of a collection of essays, Dispatches from Pakistan and a Ph.D. candidate at Columbia University.
Saadia Toor is the author of State of Islam: Culture and Cold War Politics in Pakistan. She is Associate Professor of sociology at the College of Staten Island, CUNY and works on people’s movements in Pakistan.
Co-sponsored by the Center for Place, Culture and Politics and the Pakistan Solidarity Network