Letter to a drone

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2 a.m., 27 November 2017
Abdelkareem Acklok Street
Dair Albalh, Gaza Strip

Dear friend,

I didn’t want to write you this letter, but I was provoked—you could say I was driven to it by your incessant nagging, keeping us up all night long. I have known you for a long time, since 2008. I remember when I saw you for the first time. You were terrifying—tiny, but terrifying nonetheless. It was just days after the launch of what would become a 22-day war on Gaza. When I heard your low, persistent whine, I had no idea what you were. Your sound alone caused chills to go up and down my spine. Then, seeing your sleek, silvery shape in the sky filled me with wonder and fear.

I know you aren’t human, but you are controlled by one. We have seen in the news that the people who control you sip coffee while they shoot us leisurely and remotely. When I first saw the pictures, it looked like the soldiers were only playing games. The handle they use to control you looks just like the joystick for a video game. It’s indeed like they are playing, and we are the game pieces they manipulate.

Rumors circulated wildly after your first visit. People said you are the most dangerous war machine ever invented. Some said you can read our minds and when we dream of freedom, you’ll shoot. Comedians said you can see into our very homes, closely enough that you can tell if we are eating fresh or frozen meat at our meals.

An Israeli drone is seen over Gaza city on Oct. 31, 2011. An Egyptian-brokered truce failed to take hold on Sunday to halt violence between Israel and Gaza militants in which more than ten Palestinian gunmen and an Israeli civilian have been killed. (Photo: Majdi Fathi/APA Images)

I apologize for these inhospitable reactions of my people. I know you are pissed at my friends on Facebook, who have been writing sarcastic posts about you all evening long as you settle in to spend the night with us:

The sound of drones is so much a part of Gaza life now that I tell my students to stop buzzing like drones.

If you can see this post, then you are a doomed Gazan and very bored, who can’t sleep because of the sound of the drones.

Dear drone, my greetings: I am trying to sleep, so please stop buzzing in my brain. Zzzzzzzzzzzzz.

The drones aren’t guests anymore. They are family members. They should have dinner with us.

Maybe I should write a book titled, “I Married a Drone and She’s Living with Me.”

Dear drone, could you please just go ahead and come in our house? It is not appropriate to leave you stranded alone on the roof, in the cold. On second thought, may you lose your sound and go to hell.

Is there any drug good for a drone headache?

These people are ignorant, believe me; you should forgive them. But let’s be honest; they are fed up. And so am I. You’ve been hovering over our heads for more than 15 days now.

We are fed up because you haven’t just destroyed many of our homes, but you also haunt our dreams.

We’re fed up because you killed hundreds of Gazans since 2008, including my brother and five close friends.  

We’re fed up because people all over the world sleep to the ordinary sounds of car horns and trains passing, while we try to sleep with your unpleasant buzzing—and with one foot almost out of the bed, ready to flee.

We’re fed up because you don’t limit your buzzing to wartime only; you’re with us even during so-called “peace.” You think it’s your job to watch us 24/7. We need some privacy, some rest.  

We are all fed up. Tonight, we’ve forgotten about our dreams of traveling, of having a good job, of receiving visitors like residents of normal countries. Tonight, we want only one thing: Just leave us and let us have a peaceful sleep. Let us dream of blue skies without your shadow, of birds singing without your whining chorus. Let us dream tonight, even if you kill us tomorrow.


Ahmed Alnaouq
Gaza project manager, We Are Not Numbers

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Thank you very much for this, Ahmed Alnaouq. Readers might also try the book ‘The Drone Eats with Me: A Gaza Diary’ by Atef Abu Saif. “In this luminous account of Israel’s 2014 invasion of Gaza, Atef Abu Saif creates a literary equivalent to Goya’s ‘Disasters of War’. ‘The Drone Eats with Me’ deserves to become a modern classic of war literature.v But for all the surrealist absurdity of the horrors Abu Saif chronicles, the… Read more »

“of receiving visitors ”

that was great, if no one else sees it, that was brilliant, i feel it.

“know you aren’t human, but you are controlled by one”

you see look at Ahmed, what did he, in the sights of these munitions, dehumanize, are you not ashamed Americans.

Ahmed, thanks for sharing your human experience with us. The world should bear witness.

Gaza under attack again right now. F16s, north and central.

During a war, a drone might be said to be an aspect of war-fighting. But during non-war, the drone seems closer to torture of an entire people. Flying drones in a time of non-war presumably has a claimed principal effect, surveillance, but evidently has a substantial other (or side-) effect, torture. When the side-effect of an action (torture) out-weighs the (claimed) principal effect, surveillance, it becomes the (actual) principal effect. Torture should be and has… Read more »