A group of artists have laid out a large poster in the Khyber Pukhtoonkhwa region of Pakistan, one of the key targets for American drones. The poster, which the artists made sure was large enough for even satellites to capture, depicts a young Pakistani child looking up at the sky. Which brings us to the purpose of the installation: When U.S. drone operators fly over the region, the artists want them to see the image of the young child, so the operators can see the victims their drones may be impacting.
The artist collective, which includes the French artist JR, created a hashtag to spread the word about this project: #NotABugSplat. The inspiration came from the term "bug splat" — the slang that drone operators use to describe the casualties, because, according to Rolling Stone, "viewing the body through a grainy-green video image gives the sense of an insect being crushed."
The poster installation is an attempt to make U.S. drone operators flying over the field confront the reality of what they're doing: Killing human beings, human children, as opposed to squashing a bug.
While the girl in the poster is unknown, according to Reprieve/Foundation for Fundamental Rights (which helped the artist collective launch the project), she lost her parents and two younger siblings in a drone attack. However, several Twitter users have circulated what appears to be the original photo that the poster was based on.
The artists were able to roll out the poster with the help of locals. While the artists haven't revealed which village the poster is located in, for the sake of protection, the website did provide a picture of villagers posing next to the poster.
The artists hope the project will "create empathy" in the drone operators and also impact U.S. foreign policy discussions. According to BuzzFeed, the locals can also eventually reuse the poster materials.
Statistics from Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International show that drone strikes have killed more civilians than the U.S. has disclosed, and in nine U.S. drone strikes between May 2012 and July 2013 in Pakistan, over 30 civilians were killed in four of the strikes.