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Drones: The Danger of 'Clean War'

6 March 2013

On Saturday March 2, the International Film Festival and Forum on Human Rights (FIFDH) screened a short documentary by a Dutch team ‘Attack of the Drones’, followed by a discussion.

Drones, also called UAV (unmanned air vehicles), are aircrafts with no human pilot that are controlled by remote control of a pilot on the ground or can also be autonomously controlled by computers in the vehicle. There are dozens of different types of drones; however, they can be categorised as either those that are used for reconnaissance and surveillance purposes, or those that are armed with missiles and bombs.


The documentary, made by Vincent Verweij and Fred Sengers in the Netherlands in 2012, shows the imperceptible and inexorable use of drone missile attacks post 9/11. A statement that they are Obama’s favorite weapons opens the documentary.

YouTube video

It is indeed true that even though drones were already introduced under Bush presidency, their use increased significantly under the Obama administration. During Bush’s term, there were 52 military space satellite directed drone strikes, while there were at least 300 in Pakistan alone under Obama between 2004 and 2013. According to the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism, between 2,500 and 3,500 people were killed in drone attacks in Pakistan, between 400 and 800 of them were civilians, including around 170 children.

The documentary associates the use of drones with a playing a videogame. Drone operators, as a matter of fact, do not experience the physical side of war, because they work from locations far away from conflicts.This blurry line between the virtual world and the destruction that these weapons cause in reality raises the question about drone operators’ ability to distinguish between a game and reality.


DroneThe screening was followed by a panel discussion on the dangers of  ‘clean war’ of drones, during which many questions have been raised. How can the US and other states legitimise the use of drones under International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and International Human Rights Law (IHRL)? How can the killing of individuals, rather than capturing them and giving them a fair trial, be justified? How precise are the drones really? What about civil casualties and how many are there?

During the debate, it was said that the constant threat and attack of drones in Yemen ‘make life harder than death’ for many of the 50 % of the poorest Yemenis population, that live with less than one US dollar a day. The devastating economic consequences for the country, as well as the psychological stress of the people that are threatened, was also stressed.

The movie also depicted the ongoing technology developments of UAVs. The ETH in Zurich is developing drones that are able to build a wall by themselves. Other centres have developed drones with human-like legs. The new developments are laying out the increased risk of an arms race in UAVs.


In a public lecture on Friday March 1, Ban Ki Moon stressed the fact that the use of armed drones should be strictly regulated and controlled by International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and International Human Rights Law (IHRL).

The UN’s special rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism is leading a group of international specialists, who will examine CIA and Pentagon-covert drone attacks in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.


In response to a question from the audience about the future of drones, a panelist explained that he sees the ongoing arms race to significantly increase, however he does not think that courtiers will use them much in war against each other. In his opinion, the drones are still far too expensive and to easy to be shot down from other countries for they have no defense system. But another panelist, on the other hand, sees their use in a much broader sense by the police for surveillance and crowed control, for example.

Is this future of surveillance, were the police can use drones to film the inside of our houses and use the technology to eavesdrop conversations something we can look forward to? Will governments use drones to control regions where they cannot get as easily now, such as Xinjiang region in China?

To get more information regarding these issues, check Reaching Critical Will’s Fact Sheet on Drones.


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Melissa Torres


Prior to being elected Vice-President, Melissa Torres was the WILPF US International Board Member from 2015 to 2018. Melissa joined WILPF in 2011 when she was selected as a Delegate to the Commission on the Status of Women as part of the WILPF US’ Practicum in Advocacy Programme at the United Nations, which she later led. She holds a PhD in Social Work and is a professor and Global Health Scholar at Baylor College of Medicine and research lead at BCM Anti-Human Trafficking Program. Of Mexican descent and a native of the US/Mexico border, Melissa is mostly concerned with the protection of displaced Latinxs in the Americas. Her work includes training, research, and service provision with the American Red Cross, the National Human Trafficking Training and Technical Assistance Centre, and refugee resettlement programs in the U.S. Some of her goals as Vice-President are to highlight intersectionality and increase diversity by fostering inclusive spaces for mentorship and leadership. She also contributes to WILPF’s emerging work on the topic of displacement and migration.

Jamila Afghani


Jamila Afghani is the President of WILPF Afghanistan which she started in 2015. She is also an active member and founder of several organisations including the Noor Educational and Capacity Development Organisation (NECDO). Elected in 2018 as South Asia Regional Representative to WILPF’s International Board, WILPF benefits from Jamila’s work experience in education, migration, gender, including gender-based violence and democratic governance in post-conflict and transitional countries.

Sylvie Jacqueline Ndongmo


Sylvie Jacqueline NDONGMO is a human rights and peace leader with over 27 years experience including ten within WILPF. She has a multi-disciplinary background with a track record of multiple socio-economic development projects implemented to improve policies, practices and peace-oriented actions. Sylvie is the founder of WILPF Cameroon and was the Section’s president until 2022. She co-coordinated the African Working Group before her election as Africa Representative to WILPF’s International Board in 2018. A teacher by profession and an African Union Trainer in peace support operations, Sylvie has extensive experience advocating for the political and social rights of women in Africa and worldwide.

WILPF Afghanistan

In response to the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban and its targeted attacks on civil society members, WILPF Afghanistan issued several statements calling on the international community to stand in solidarity with Afghan people and ensure that their rights be upheld, including access to aid. The Section also published 100 Untold Stories of War and Peace, a compilation of true stories that highlight the effects of war and militarisation on the region. 

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WILPF Germany (+Young WILPF network), WILPF Spain and MENA Regional Representative

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WILPF uses feminist analysis to argue that militarisation is a counter-productive and ill-conceived response to establishing security in the world. The more society becomes militarised, the more violence and injustice are likely to grow locally and worldwide.

Sixteen states are believed to have supplied weapons to Afghanistan from 2001 to 2020 with the US supplying 74 % of weapons, followed by Russia. Much of this equipment was left behind by the US military and is being used to inflate Taliban’s arsenal. WILPF is calling for better oversight on arms movement, for compensating affected Afghan people and for an end to all militarised systems.

Militarised masculinity

Mobilising men and boys around feminist peace has been one way of deconstructing and redefining masculinities. WILPF shares a feminist analysis on the links between militarism, masculinities, peace and security. We explore opportunities for strengthening activists’ action to build equal partnerships among women and men for gender equality.

WILPF has been working on challenging the prevailing notion of masculinity based on men’s physical and social superiority to, and dominance of, women in Afghanistan. It recognizes that these notions are not representative of all Afghan men, contrary to the publicly prevailing notion.

Feminist peace​

In WILPF’s view, any process towards establishing peace that has not been partly designed by women remains deficient. Beyond bringing perspectives that encapsulate the views of half of the society and unlike the men only designed processes, women’s true and meaningful participation allows the situation to improve.

In Afghanistan, WILPF has been demanding that women occupy the front seats at the negotiating tables. The experience of the past 20 has shown that women’s presence produces more sustainable solutions when they are empowered and enabled to play a role.

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