The goal is to put a human face on what drone operators are said to call ‘bug splats’
By Dylan Stableford
In an attempt to put a face on civilian victims of U.S. drone strikes, a group of artists has installed a massive portrait of a girl facing up from a field in Pakistan.
The poster, measuring 90 by 60 feet and made of vinyl, was unrolled with the help of locals two weeks ago in a village in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region in northwest Pakistan, where residents say attacks by the pilotless aircraft are a part of daily life.
“Although there is awareness for drone attacks, it’s rarely humanized,” a representative for the artist collective wrote in an email to Yahoo News. “This installation is our attempt at showing that.”
As many as 900 civilians may have been killed and 600 seriously injured, including children, in more than 330 strikes since 2004, according to an Amnesty International report on the U.S. drone program in Pakistan released last fall. On the ground, that’s created a culture of fear.
The White House has downplayed the number of civilian deaths associated with drone strikes while highlighting the number of militants killed. But those who live in Pakistan’s tribal region say that is subterfuge.
According to the group, the project “was inspired after learning that drone operators refer to kills as ‘bug splats,'” since “viewing the body through a grainy video image gives the sense of an insect being crushed,” says a post on the project’s website, NotaBugSplat.com. “Now, when viewed by a drone camera, what an operator sees on his screen is not an anonymous dot on the landscape, but an innocent child victim’s face.”
The unidentified child in the poster “lost both her parents and two young siblings in a drone attack,” the website says.
The installation was designed to be captured by satellites, however, “We don’t know if it is still there or not,” the representative wrote in an email. The villagers were encouraged to “use the fabric for roofing and other useful purposes. The art was always meant to be utilized and not discarded after it was photographed.”
The collective declined to reveal the identity of its members — comprised of artists from the United States, France and Pakistan — out of concern for their safety.
“Some of our team members are in Pakistan and we want to be sensitive to their safety over the next couple of days,” the representative wrote. “This area is pretty dangerous.”