April 9, 2011.
The Mobilization for Dr. Aafia.
by Andrew Purcell
Outside the Carswell Prison entrance, Westworth, Texas.
Not too far from Ft. Worth.
The calendar said it was still spring. The thermometer said otherwise. Still, over a hundred people gathered for two hours in a field under the Texas sun to speak up for a woman who is not allowed to speak for herself.
The purpose of the demonstration was to let the authorities know that Dr. Aafia has friends who are concerned about her continuing isolation by prison officials.
We knew we were being observed by prison security. Two uniformed officers in an unmarked car with heavily tinted windows. They never spoke to any of us, but they would occasionally get out of their car to confer with the officers of the Westworth police department.
The car would come and go at irregular intervals, park for a while and drive off again. One time the car stopped just beyond the area where the demonstration was being held. One of the uniformed security officers opened the rear door in a way that blocked the occupant, but I did see a professionally stylish high heeled shoe and part of a panty hose enclosed leg hit the street. Obviously not a uniformed security officer.
As I told this part of the story to a third party who had not attended the demonstration, he stopped me. Both the warden and the assistant warden are women who dress in a manner that could be called professionally stylish. If I had known that there was a chance that this woman was one of them I would have gone over and introduced myself and invited her to join us. We didn't have any food but we would have shared our bottled water with her.
We were not there to give her a hard time, but to express our concerns about our friend and our sister Aafia. We were not there to demand that the prison officials make right all injustice throughout the world, but to ask why Aafia was being denied her rights to contact her family and her lawyer. On this hot Saturday afternoon we may have made contact more successfully than we realized.
In this diverse crowd the only person who actually knows Aafia is a non-Muslim. This irony accidentally provided a high point to the demonstration. After it ended the Muslims all gathered to pray. This gave me the opportunity to check my e-mail. The first one I saw was from Aafia's sister Dr. Fowzia. She was responding to an earlier e-mail detailing my plans for the weekend:
You are great so is Mauri. Its friends like you who keep reminding me how lucky I am. How much I have to be thankful for. All my best wishes to you. Please take care of your self."
Mauri is Mauri Saalakhan, representing the Peace Thru Justice Foundation, the organizer of this event. I showed him the e-mail because I thought it was as much about him as it was me. He took a few seconds to collect himself and then he read it to the remaining people still at the site because he thought that it was about everyone who came. You could feel the reaction. If there had been any doubts about whether attending this demonstration was a good idea they vanished at that moment.