Dr. Aafia Siddiqui
“Aafia is my baby sister. She is a loving mother, daughter, sister, and she is a devout Muslim woman. She is not a terrorist.”
Mata Hari of al-Qaeda, otherwise known as the “Grey Lady of Bagram”, she was once declared the world’s most wanted woman.
In 2003 she mysteriously vanished and remained missing for five years. Both the Pakistan government and US officials in Washington denied any knowledge of Aafia’s location.
According to Aafia’s mother, her daughter left home in in a Metro-cab on 28th March 2003 to catch a flight to Rawalpindi. She never made it to the airport.
In February 2010, Aafia’s eldest son returned to the scene and described how, when he, his mother and siblings came out of their home, fifteen to twenty people, including a ‘white lady’ and members of the ISI, were waiting in three to four vehicles on the next street and subsequently kidnapped them.
Pakistani papers reported that a woman had been taken into custody with terrorism-related charges. This was confirmed by a Pakistan Interior Ministry spokesman. The media then reported that Aafia had been picked up in Karachi by an intelligence agency and shifted to an unidentified place for questioning. A year later, the press quoted a Pakistani government spokesman who said that she had been handed over to US authorities in 2003.
In 2008 Aafia reappeared as mysteriously as she had disappeared five years earlier, and was accused and charged in the United States with assault and attempted murder of American personnel in Afghanistan.
“It looks like a botched attempt to cover up the kidnapping and torture of an innocent woman, the kidnapping and torture of her two American-born children, and the murder during the kidnapping of her Pakistani-born infant.”
“There was no forensic evidence that my sister either held or fired the rifle, the witnesses contradicted each other, and Aafia is the only one who got shot.”
“Nothing made sense, especially an 86 year sentence for a crime that was never committed, for someone who never harmed anyone, with no mention of the years of torture and abuse to her and her innocent little children. Where is the justice in that?”
How did Dr Fowzia respond to the allegations that Aafia and her husband Amjad Khan had purchased body armour and 45 military-style books including, The Anarchist’s Arsenal and $10,000 worth of night-vision goggles?
“Aafia’s ex-husband, Amjad Khan, had purchased some military style equipment while they were married and living in the US. These purchases were and still are legal in that country. The FBI interviewed both of them about this and determined that there was neither a crime nor a threat involved. They would not have walked away from that interview if there had been a crime committed or a threat made.”
“We do not know why the Americans wanted to talk to her after that interview.”
“Aafia did participate in Islamic events. This is public record. We deny all allegations that she had any sympathy for any terrorists and we deny that she aided any terrorists.”
“She was active in raising funds for Islamic charities, dealing with children in Bosnia during the war in the 1990s. She brought Korans and other reading material to local prisons and participated in events that promoted Islam.”
“We know Aafia was an educationist and an intellectual, she detested violence. The distorted profile that the western media try to portray is a figment of their own imagination, definitely not the real Aafia.”
“Aafia’s five year disappearance, torture, and missing children were not addressed during the court case. Aafia was never charged of any terrorism-related charges. In November 2009, during pre-trial hearings, the judge of the US federal court made it clear that Aafia was not being charged with terrorism offenses. No evidence of any connection with Aafia, Al-Qaeda or any other terrorist elements were found.”
The trial was portrayed differently in the US to and in Pakistan.
“Except for a few lower class newspapers in New York City during the trial, the Americans have covered it only in passing, on the inside pages of their newspapers. It is as if they don’t want anybody to know what they have done to my sister and her children. In Pakistan she is treated as a living symbol of everything that has gone wrong with the war on terror.”
Was there any truth in the allegations that Dr Fowzia’s sister opened a post box in the name of Majid Khan, an alleged al-Qaida operative, and that she later married Ammar al-Baluchi?
“Based on various investigations, Aafia did not open a post office box for anyone. Aafia has been married only once, to Amjad Khan, the father of their three children. The only sources for the story of a second marriage are people who spoke to American investigators after they were taken into custody in 2003. They haven’t been seen since.”
“Aafia’s case reveals the power of the American security services and American estrangement from the rest of the world. The checks and balances that have made the United States such a symbol of freedom, liberty, opportunity and prosperity seem to have become derailed. The United States seem to be adopting many of the tools of the Soviet Union to defend itself, special courts, secret evidence, kidnappings, torture and show trials. The irony is that those tools ultimately didn’t work for the Soviet Union and I don’t see how they can be made to work for America.”
Prison officials have kept Aafia in solitary confinement since 2008. Page 29 of the sentencing memo record from the courthouse in New York reads:
“Defence Attorney Dawn Cardi, to the Court : Will she spend the rest of her life in a prison in solitary confinement? I don’t know if you have seen the prison cell in which Aafia has been living in for the last many years.”
“The Court: I have.”
Dr. Aafia Siddiqui at graduation; Photo Credits: Countercurrents.org
“Ms. Cardi: Right. It is a small concrete cell block, no light, no windows, a toilet, nothing on the walls. Whenever I go to see her, I leave that prison cell and think I would go mad being in that cell 23 hours a day. She’s let out for one hour of exercise. She is fed her food through the cell. It is a horrible, horrifying existence…”
Aafia disappeared in 2003 and remained missing until July 2008. The question whether the ISI or CIA abducted Aafia remains unanswered.
In May 2004 the US attorney general, John Ashcroft, listed Aafia among the seven most wanted Al-Qaida fugitives. The New York Post called her the Al-Qaeda Mom.
But Dr Fowzia says, “Witnesses put her in Bagram Prison in Afghanistan at different times between 2003 and 2008. Prisoners released from Bagram tell stories of a ghostly figure screaming for her lost children, and how they went on hunger strike for her.”
British journalist Yvonne Ridley, has described Aafia as the “Grey Lady of Bagram” who kept fellow prisoners awake “with her haunting sobs and piercing screams.”
Aafia’s lawyers, Elaine Sharpe and Elizabeth Fink, stated publicly that she had been through years of detention, that her interrogators were American, that she endured treatment fairly characterised as horrendous, and that she had been tortured.
Dr Fowzia insists the Islam her sister practices is concerned about the individual’s obedience to God.
“This is a discipline that is not to be enforced by threats and coercion. It has to come from within the individual, that following this path must come from a belief, that this is the right way.
“This must be a choice we must make for ourselves. There is a verse from the Koran (Sura 2, verse 256) that states plainly that there is no compulsion in religion. Aafia would always be willing to raise her voice for the less fortunate, the oppressed regardless of race, religion, or creed. That is probably why so many people around the globe feel her pain as she has felt theirs.”
“Imagine the agony of having lost a loved one, imagine a sister being stripped and tortured locked in a dark dungeon for 23 hours a day for one day and multiply by 3666 days. That is our pain. May God protect us all and free Aafia. This is how she is… Sorry it hurts. It hurts how she is treated and how her human rights are violated and neither the courts of law nor the people in power even raise an eyebrow.
“Aafia has not been allowed the regular prison communications privileges with her family. Telephone calls are sporadic and infrequent. Family visits are even more rare. Her mail is not delivered to her. One prison guard turned our brother away by telling him that their normal rules don’t apply to Aafia.”
On September 23rd 2010, Aafia was sentenced to 86 years in prison, making her eligible for release in 2094. She would be 122 years old.