Celebrating Feminists’ Voices, Inspiring Global Peace

“Just Point and Click”: New Documentary "Drone" Leaves You with a Haunted Feeling

10 March 2015

Last week, the UN Human Rights Council began its 28th session in Geneva. At the same time, the International Film Festival and Forum on Human Rights (FIFDH) has been screening a host of movies and documentaries across the city. WILPF has been covering both of these events, and today we publish this report from the screening of the documentary Drone, as it made its Swiss premiere on Sunday 1 March.

A new form of warfare

“The defining weapon of the War on Terror,” some people call them; a claim that is getting truer by the day. Drones – unmanned aircrafts controlled by an operator sitting in front of a screen far from the scene – are becoming a more and more common feature in modern warfare, especially in U.S.-operated attacks in countries such as Afghanistan and Pakistan. As the use of drones grows, they are being increasingly questioned by the international community.

Norwegian director Tonje Hessen Schei takes on this burning issue in her documentary Drone, produced by Flimmer Film in 2014. The movie has a clear ambition to shed light on the topic of drones from all perspectives; from the people manufacturing and operating the drones, to the people who live in their threatening presence and fight for the rights that these drones have taken away from them.

“It’s only when it’s cloudy that we don’t hear the drones”, we hear a boy saying in the movie. He lives in Waziristan, the Pakistani region most frequently subjected to drone strikes by U.S. forces. “As soon as the sun comes out, the drones are back.” We learn that having drones hovering over their heads not only keeps children from attending school, but also paralyses everyday life for everyone in the area.

The myth of precision

Using drones is claimed to be a cheap, low-risk and effective way of waging war. Despite being promoted as a means of ensuring precision and efficient targeting with minimal collateral damage, there have been alarming reports on increasing numbers of civilian casualties caused by the use of armed drones.

In the movie, we meet Pakistani lawyer Shahzad Akbar who is working for the families of some of these victims. He says he often gets asked how many innocent people have died in the drone strikes, and as he rightly points out, the question of innocence is completely irrelevant when the killings themselves are illegal.

The international community has stressed that drone strikes involve killings without due process that are violating international law and human rights, most importantly the right to life. There have been strong concerns that drone operations do not gather sufficient information to establish legal targets, resulting in indiscriminate killings. The precision of drones, so fondly asserted by their supporters, is a myth.

Killing from behind a screen

Someone who knows all about this crude reality is Brandon Bryant, a former US Air Force drone operator diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, who is now speaking out to the world on what he experienced during his time flying drones. In the documentary, he describes the light-hearted, often nonchalant, atmosphere in the control room, half a world away from the people they were targeting, and how he himself grew more and more jaded for each strike: “You just point… and click.”

Only the start of the development

As the screen at Théâtre Pitoëff in Geneva fills with the images of children in Waziristan using their slingshots to shoot rocks at the drones flying overhead, the viewers cannot help but ask themselves what the true results of “the defining weapon of the War on Terror” really are. Can the so-called “War on Terror” ever be won on a battlefield filled with destroyed homes and shattered lives?

We learn that drone technology development is still in its early stages, and that today 87 countries have drones in some form, with more states seeking to procure them. The movie also raises the inevitable question of what happens when different non-state groups manage to acquire these weapons.

Drone makes us realise that we are only at the very beginning of a worrying development.

WILPF is monitoring the development of the use of drones and is participating in the debate. Read our publication Sex and Drone Strikes, where we express our concern about the use of maleness as a signifier of militancy in drone strike targeting. To learn more, you can also read our statement on armed drones and international law and our 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. 

IPB Congress Barcelona

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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