Aafia campaign grows
An initiative has been organised across the country to highlight the plight of Dr Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani prisoner in the US that was sent imprisoned for a crime which she did not commit. The Free Aafia Campaign is on-going, but a major initiative of the campaign is the march which takes place on 30 March, in Sandton, Johannesburg.
According to Inayet Wadee, she is one of the most highly educated women in the world, and has a PHD in Cognitive Neurosciences which is related to Education. “Aafia Siddiqui was abducted nine years ago, and March 29th will be the anniversary of her abduction in Pakistan. She was taken over to Afghanistan for five years, and no one knew what happened to her and her three children, who were aged six, three and six months at the time.”
He explained that reports of her surfaced around 2008, when journalist Yvonne Ridley, uncovered her as the ‘Grey Lady’ or ‘Prisoner 650’. “She was then taken to the US and tried unjustly for a crime that she did not commit, which was the attempted murder of US Army personnel. Aafia was sentenced to 86 years in prison; she is currently languishing in the Carswell Prison, which is an institution for the most extreme cases in the US. Aafia is currently in a very bad condition, and we have heard reports that she has cancer. She has been cut off from family, friends and everyone else around the world.”
Wadee explained that there are a few initiatives which will be running under the Free Aafia Campaign, which gained momentum after Channel Islam International (CII) invited Aafia Siddiqui’s sister Fowzia to SA. “It has then been embraced whole heartedly, by people seeking justice for her and seeking an end to oppression around the country.”
He said the week, Fowzia was in SA they were totally overwhelmed and humbled by the tremendous response they received across the country. “Many organisations, schools and universities embraced and welcomed her to SA and pledged their support to her and the campaign.” Wadee said they engaged with the Palestine Solidarity Alliance (PSA), Universal Movement for Change, the SA National Muslim Women’s Forum and also Crescent International who are supporting the initiative as well.
“There are many fundraisers taking place across the country and in small town especially. Ladysmith in Kwa-Zulu Natal is one of them who have planned a march next week.” He said they are planning a peaceful picket at the Consulate of the United of States of America. “The aim and objective of the picket is to highlight the plight of Dr Aafia Siddiqui and will take place in Sandton at the offices of the US Consulate on Friday 30th March from 2pm to 3.30pm. The organisers endeavour that the picket will be held in accordance with South African Legislation governing public protests, and will ensure conformance to such legislation.”
Wadee said the organisers will be handing over a memorandum to a senior United States Consular official at around 3.15pm. “We request all organisations, schools, institutions and individuals to support the initiative and where possible to attend the picket in Sandton.” He said the organising committee requested that the day be dedicated “Aafia Day”. “We ask that the ladies identify with the cause by wearing a purple or pink scarf on the day, which is Aafia’s favourite colour.”
Wadee said her family has decided to raise funds to apply for an independent appeal in the US Supreme Court, considering that she was not allowed to choose her own legal team to defend her. “The team was appointed by the US government, and paid for by the Pakistani government. The family now requires about 2 to 3 million US dollars for the entire process.”
He said the SA ummah decided that they would kick start the process of appeal and the initiatives have gone extremely well thus far, reaching beyond the expectations that they initially anticipated. “We hope to get around 5,000 people attending this picket, considering that we are being supported by so many organisations across the country.”
Wadee added that they hope to get the message across, and also get the mainstream media interested in the cause. “At this point in time, it is sad to note that although SA has a history of injustices and unwarranted incarcerations, we are still hoping that the mainstream media would identify with the plight of Dr Aafia Siddiqui.” VOC (Aqeelah Bawa)