'Free Aafia' rings out at US Consulate
Clad in purple scarves and carrying white roses, protestors picketed for the freedom of Dr Aafia Siddiqui.
GLOBAL Free Aafia Day was marked by residents of Lenasia and surrounding areas at a demonstration outside the US Consulate in Sandton.
Clad in purple scarves and carrying white roses, March 30 saw the group of demonstrators, mostly women, demand the release of Dr Aafia Siddiqui.
Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist and educationist, went missing nine years ago on March 29. She is currently serving an 86 year jail sentence in solitary confinement in America for allegedly attempting to shoot at an American soldier, but missing. Despite the court ruling, many believe that the charges are trumped up.
Protestors at the Consulate shouted slogans in support of Siddiqui, before eleven white doves and 500 purple and white balloons were let into the air as symbolic gestures of peace.
Wings of freedom: A white dove is let out as a symbol of peace. Photo by Daphney Mnguni
A memorandum was handed over by the organising committee of the Free Aafia Campaign to US Consulate public relations official, Melissa Clegg-Tripp.
According to co-convener of the event Shamshad Sayed, the Consulate was “very co-operative” in receiving the memorandum and promised that it would be sent to Washington.
Calling for her release, the memorandum highlights the “injustice” faced by Siddiqui, and the USA’s alleged violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The US Consulate referred the Rising Sun to the US Embassy for comment. Spokesperson Elizabeth Kennedy Trudeau said, “We support the rights of all South Africans to make their voices heard on issues important to them. As in the case of all petitions, we take these submissions seriously and immediately forward all petitions to our leadership in Pretoria and to Washington DC. While we cannot (comment) on the nature of any specific action, we do reiterate that we take these petitions seriously.
“I’d also add that we appreciated the peaceful nature and sincerity of those who made the petition on Friday.”
Also present at the picket, was Siddiqui’s friend Shaista Abdullah. Stating that “we came in peace, on humanitarian grounds”, Abdullah, urged that Siddiqui’s case be “re-looked” at
Originally from SA but having grown up in Pakistan, Abdullah attended Arabic lessons with Siddiqui years ago. She describes Siddiqui as a “most intelligent” person, who was “humble and soft hearted”, adding that the allegations against her are “mind boggling”.
According to the website, www.freeaafia.org, March 30 was commemorated in Siddiqui’s name across 15 countries, South Africa being one of them.
Siddiqui’s story was recently highlighted in local and national media, after Cii Broadcasting hosted her sister Fowzia in the country.
According to organising committee member of South Africa’s Free Aafia Campaign, Inayet Wadee, much awareness has been created around Siddiqui’s plight, with many of the misconceptions around her case having been dispelled.