Living Under Drones documents trauma from drone attacks even when there has been no physical injury to a victim.

“Drones hover twenty-four hours a day over communities in northwest Pakistan, striking homes, vehicles, and public spaces without warning.  Their presence terrorizes men, women and children, giving rise anxiety and psychological trauma among civilian communities.”

The report cites specific case histories:

“The mental and emotional impact of the strike has been lasting.  Faheem, a top student before the strike, told us he now feels uncomfortable and distracted when he studies: ‘(a)t the time the drone struck, I had to take exams, but…I couldn’t learn things, and it affected me emotionally…I became very short-tempered and small things annoyed me.  I got angry very quickly, small things agitated me.’

“He said that he had taken medicine at one point that had helped him to focus and resume his education. Recently, however, he has once again started having difficulties studying.  He plans to return to the doctor to see if he can help.  Despite battling significant challenges and frustrations, he still dreams of becoming a scientist.”

The Al Karama human rights organization’s extremely well researched report on the traumatic impact of drone attacks on entire communities in Yemen, released in 2015,  entitled Traumatising Skies: U.S. Drone Operations and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) found the civilians living in drone attack zones displayed numerous symptoms of  PTSD, including “deep emotional distress (94%), constant anxiety and fear (92%...), sleep-related issues (83%), as well as clear signs of depression.”

This must-read report says further:

“This study has shown that there is a heavy cost paid by the most vulnerable people living under drones in Yemen.  These civilians, who are already grappling with extreme poverty and are exposed to insecurities from diverse armed groups, are being further traumatized from the skies by a much more powerful actor… The most vulnerable people in the Yemeni society, namely women and children, are particularly at risk of suffering from severe psychological issues.  When children start fearing going to school and worry about playing outside because drones might cause devastation, the growth of a psychologically healthy society that is capable of reducing existing conflicts is under serious jeopardy.  Filled with anxiety, fear, depression, anger and frustration, both the young and old are craving justice and some for revenge against those operating the drones.”

And this does not take into account the lives of hundreds of thousands of people for whom daily life has been temporarily or permanently damaged by living under drones.  Consider this testimony https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jE824m_S9sA  (at 24:09) by a Yemeni drone attack survivor who lives in Canada speaking about the tragic way in which drone attacks have effectively destroyed the morale of his home village:

“Now I call home when I get the chance.  I ask if there were more drone strikes, how things are over there.  They tell you people have become used to it.  That scares me for the people that killing has become normal.”

Drone attacks have also led in some cases to disruption of normal governmental functioning simply because of people’s fear of meeting in groups, as noted in Living Under Drones:

“One of the most troubling community-wide consequences of the fear of gathering is, in several interviewees’ views, the erosion of the jirga system, a community-based conflict resolution process that is fundamental to Pashtun society.  Khalil Khan, the son of a community leader killed in the March 17, 2011 jirga strike, explained that ‘everybody after the strike seems to have come to the conclusion that we cannot gather together in large numbers and we cannot hold a jirga to solve our problems.’ Noor Khan, who father Malik Daud Khan presided over that jirga and was killed, confirmed this account:

“‘Everybody is scared, especially the elders…[T]hey can’t get together and discuss problems…[I]f a problem occurs, they can’t resolve it, because they are all scared that, if we get together, we will be targeted again...Everybody, all the mothers, all the wives, they have told their people not to congregate together in a jirga…[T]hey are pleading to them not to, as they fear they will be targeted.’

Malik Daud Khan, a senior tribal leader in Pakistan who dealt with community disagreements, was killed by a U.S. drone while he was participating in a jirga, a community governing meeting, March 17, 2011.  At least 40 were killed in the attack on the meeting, which was being held to settle a land dispute. Bureau of Investigative Journalism

Malik Daud Khan, a senior tribal leader in Pakistan who dealt with community disagreements, was killed by a U.S. drone while he was participating in a jirga, a community governing meeting, March 17, 2011.  At least 40 were killed in the attack on the meeting, which was being held to settle a land dispute. Bureau of Investigative Journalism

https://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/namingthedead/case-studies/?lang=en

http://www.cnn.com/2012/10/04/opinion/pakistan-drone-attacks-akbar/index.html

“The jirga is a vitally important part of Pashtun communal and political life, providing opportunities for community input, conflict resolution, and egalitarian decision-making.  Hampering its functions could have serious implications for the communal order, especially in an area already devastated by death and destruction.”