Wednesday the 10th of December 2014- Manchester, UK
Peaceful Vigil: Dr. Aafia Siddiqui
International Human Rights Day
Pakistani Consulate – Manchester, UK
Wednesday, 10 December 2014
As we observed International ‘Human Rights Day', we reflected deeply about those deprived of their civil liberties and freedom. It was a day to provide a voice for the voiceless. A day to stand up for the oppressed.
A group of about 50 activists, mainly women who braved the blustery gales, rain and icy sleet, stood for a peaceful vigil in support of Dr Aafia Siddiqui outside the Pakistani Consulate in Manchester, accompanied by a police presence. For Dr Aafia Siddiqui – a cause known all over the Muslim world.
At first glance of the group, one couldn’t help the feeling of disappointment that more people didn’t sacrifice an hour of their time for a woman that is seen by many, to have sacrificed almost everything – including her sanity. Another small delegation of supporters from one of the political parties of Pakistan, bolstered their voices who called for justice to be served in the case of Dr Siddiqui. Their combined passion and spirit made up for those who were not there. Many stayed throughout the afternoon to stand in solidarity for someone they view as a victim of injustice. One who’s case has been a great travesty.
Dr Siddiqui’s plight has also reached the ears of various Islamic groups dubbed as ‘terrorists’ in the West, as they have tried to negotiate for her release in prisoner swap deals. These negotiations have inevitably failed because, as we all know, the US doesn’t ‘negotiate with terrorists’.
So what is the deal in the ‘curious case of Dr. Siddiqui?’
Her story is one shrouded in mystery within the murky, shadowy world of secret rendition, extra judicial practices and covert extradition. Her disappearance in 2003 for 5 years along with her three children (one of which was a male infant at the time and is feared dead), have been a highly emotive topic of debate in Pakistan and beyond. Dr Siddiqui’s family stand behind her innocence and insist she was a victim of the secret rendition, torture and incarceration programs prevalent during a time that led to her detainment at Bagram Air Base.
Dr Siddiqui emerged in Afghanistan in 2008, allegedly found disorientated and confused, holding maps of American towns and bomb-making literature. Once taken into custody by the US, it is claimed that while waiting for questioning, she managed to overpower the security guard and snatch his rifle. Remember, this is a 5’3”, 40kg frail woman that had just endured 5 years of torture. It is reported that she tried to shoot the guard with their weapon but in fact, she was shot herself in the abdomen and in the head, which almost ended her life. She never shot the rifle but her injury caused brain damage.
All forensic evidence proves that the story did not corroborate with the evidence presented, nonetheless, the allegations, trial and subsequent court sentencing resulted in an 86 year prison sentence at the Carswell Prison in Texas. Dr Siddiqui was not allowed to hire her own lawyers and while she was never tried in court on allegations of terrorism, the court testimonies were littered with inconsistencies and she was appointed a biased judge. Judge Richard Berman continuously ruled in the prosecutions favor, allowing hearsay evidence and claims relating to terrorism charges to enter the court. She was convicted for holding the rifle and the case closed despite being wrought with inconsistencies and uncertainty, only further fueling public suspicion and controversy every time the press shed light on it.
After the ruling, Dr Siddiqui made an emotional statement asking the people not to take revenge or get emotional and said she will forgive those who have wronged her, including Judge Berman, the judge who even went as far as to overrule the jury’s determination that there was any pre-meditation and then proceeded to ask her, “Where is your Allah now?”
As Ramsey Clark, Former U.S. Attorney General, stated, “Dr. Aafia Siddiqui was victimized by the international politics being played for power. I haven't witnessed such bare injustice in my entire career! Neither did she kill anyone, nor did she attempt it. In fact, she was shot thrice! It was an open violation of the international laws. I regret that the US violated the rules. I would raise voice for her repatriation. I will gather people in America, for a one-point agenda of Dr. Aafia's repatriation. I hope significant peace and justice activists will join me in promoting this agenda. She is an innocent citizen of Pakistan who has been wronged and denied justice. Her trial in the US was illegal and unjustified. She is a mother and a daughter for which justice demands that she should immediately be released."
Dr Aafia has since become a symbol of humanitarian rights abuses and her long term incarceration only increases her appeal to the masses- many in Pakistan, who have dubbed her the ‘Daughter of Pakistan’.
The fact that she was convicted in a US court and the recent revelations of CIA ‘torture culture’ that appear to be just the tip of the iceberg in human rights abuses, to try and obtain intelligence under duress (and the failure of agencies to do so) can only add legitimacy to claims by human rights lawyers, friends and the family of Aafia Siddiqui that she has been the subject of a grave miscarriage of justice and that an open independent inquiry must take place in her case, as well as that of all other detainees kept in detention dungeons like Gitmo and Baghram by the US in collaboration with other governments including our own. By not allowing due process in many of these cases- those complicit in supporting rendition and torture interrogation programs alongside the US can only hide their skeletons in their expanding closets for a limited time. The can of worms that the brief report on the CIA has opened is just the start of this fiasco.
“Friends of Dr Aafia Siddiqi state that her family has had no contact with Aafia for more than 9 months, and have no ways of knowing if she is alive and if alive, in what mental state she is in now. Dr Aafia Siddiqui has been imprisoned in the US since 2008 after five years of secret imprisonment overseas.
Article 36 of the Vienna Convention clearly gives the Pakistani Consulate full access to Dr Aafia’s well being. The friends of Aafia Siddiqui are calling the Pakistani Consulate to do the following:
1. To allow an independent medical team into FMC Carswell Prison, Texas, US, to conduct a full examination of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui. The evaluation team should include her sister, Dr. Fowzia Siddiqui, a practicing physician in Karachi, Pakistan.
2. To engage in serious discussions on the repatriation of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui to her home country Pakistan, to allow her to serve out the remainder of her sentence there, under the appropriate international law.
3. Until such time as repatriation takes place, to ensure that Dr. Siddiqui’s human rights are respected by both U.S. and international law.
Dr Aafia Siddiqui has a fundamental right to life without discrimination under the constitution of Pakistan, USA and international conventions. She is entitled to humane treatment and deserves to have her civil and human rights observed, irrespective of the charges placed on her.
This year’s slogan, Human Rights 365, encompasses the idea that every day is Human Rights Day. It celebrates the fundamental proposition in the Universal Declaration that each one of us, everywhere, and at all times is entitled to the full range of human rights.”
Earlier this year, in conjunction with activists in the US and here in the UK, a petition was started to acquire 100,000 signatories demanding the repatriation of Dr Aafia Siddiqui back to Pakistan. Over 110,000 signatories were collected over the month of Ramadan and were submitted to the White House.
In October, Dr Siddiqui submitted an appeal to have her case retried, however, the same judge, US District Judge Richard Berman, presented a withdrawal statement and ordered the closure of her case. Dr Fowzia Siddiqui says, “Aafia is victim of international power politics; her captives will revert to any length to keep her behind bars.”
– Shameela Islam-Zulfiqar
FREE DR. AAFIA SIDDIQUI!
Official webpage: http://aafiamovement.com/