“I appeal to God and he hears me.” That was the reply of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui in response to Judge Berman telling her that she had a right to appeal her 86 year sentence in prison for the attempted murder of Americans serving in Afghanistan.
Almost 18 months since the sentence and prisoner number #650 sits alone in her cell in Carswell Federal Medical Centre, Texas, in the United States of America. Weighing less than 45,36kg, tortured and beaten mercilessly without any remorse from her jailers. Her mysterious five-year disappearance before her reappearance in Afghanistan in 2008, her subsequent trial in the US, and the confusion surrounding all these events, have made Dr Siddiqui’s a symbolic case in much of the Muslim world.
Born in Pakistan on 2 March 1972, Aafia Siddiqui was raised and educated up until her A-Levels in the country. After completing her initial education she moved to the US, Texas to be closer to her brother and in order to study at the University of Houston. She moved to Massachusetts Institute of Technology to study a BSc in Biology. During her time at MIT she was an active member of the Muslim Student Association (MSA) where much of her activity focussed on explaining Islam to non-Muslims for them to better understand the religion. Dr. Aafia earned the honourable status of committing the entire Qur-aan to memory. After her graduation she married and subsequently had three children, Ahmed (b. 1996), Maryam (b. 1998), and Suleman (b. 2002), the latter of whom remains missing to this day. In 2002 Aafia and her husband returned to the US after the 9/11 attack where they separated and were eventually divorced on 21 October 2002. She was eight months pregnant when Amjad Khan and Aafia divorced. An argument between Aafia and her husband at her parent’s home resulted in a heart attack of her father. Within a few weeks of this incident she gave birth to her youngest child, Suleman.
25 March 2003 – the FBI issued a ‘wanted for questioning’ alert for neuroscientist Dr. Aafia Siddiqui and her husband. He was detained and questioned but was then released soon after. 30 March 2003, Aafia Siddiqui was on her way to the airport to visit her uncle in Islamabad with her children when she was detained at Karachi airport. Journalist Najeeb Ahmed 9th December 2009 stated, “When Dr Aafia Siddiqui was picked up by FBI and Pakistan Army, this was reported (in 2003) in many newspapers and I was among them who reported this news and this is reality that our forces arrested Dr Aafia and handed her over to FBI, and as per my investigations and information I was able to get, she was interrogated here first in Army cells and then she was shifted to Afghanistan. After many years, when this secret was disclosed, she has been transferred from Afghanistan to USA on the basis of false accusation.” He died the very day that he disclosed this information.
Within a matter of days of her disappearance the family home was visited by a man who claimed that if the family raised any issue about the disappearance, they would never see Aafia’s children again.
During her disappearance, not much is known about where Dr. Aafia and her children were kept. Cage Prisoners reports “On 7 July 2008, Cageprisoners patron Yvonne Ridley and Director Saghir Hussain held a press conference in Pakistan regarding Aafia‘s case which resulted in mass international coverage and a renewed interest from Pakistani media and political figures. At this time, the former President of Pakistan, Pervaiz Musharraf, was still in power and was coming under much criticms for his role in the disappearance of Pakistani nationals and the removal of the judiciary. Within three weeks of the international press storm whipped up by the press conference, an FBI agent visited the Texan home of Siddiqui’s brother and informed him that she was arrested and being detained in Afghanistan”.
Aafia has been accused of many things, from smuggling diamonds from Africa, laundering money, planning attacks on petrol stations in Maryland, terrorist or “Lady Qaeda” as they put it. The concocted charge that she tried to kill a US marine while in Kabul is totally outrageous.. None with solid evidence, yet she remains imprisoned, tortured and mercilessly abused everyday of her life. About two years ago a man who had been held at the US facility at Bagram in Afghanistan was released, and he told a story about the only woman held there. Half mad and crying all the time; subjected to “harsh interrogation techniques” and “physical indignities”. He identified her as Aafia Siddiqui. She has also been described as “Prisoner 650, “The Ghost of Bagram”, and “The Grey Lady.” Aafia and her children were taken into custody in March 2003 and turned over to a series of intelligence agencies. There is at least one witness who can place her in Bagram in 2006.
The torture this woman has endured cannot be perceived. Aafia remained at the Metropolitan Detention Centre in New York after her arrest where she was forcefully stripped by six men and then subjected to repeated repeated cavity searches, prompting her to refuse legal visits on many occasions. She was not allowed to recite the Qur-aan but rather forced to walk on the Quraan which had been desecrated in her cell whilst naked. She described her five years of “disappearance” as a living hell. She described being given an injection and when she came to, she was in a cell. She said she was being brainwashed by men who spoke perfect English, who may have been Afghans. She did not think they were Pakistanis.
She described being forced to make false confessions and sign statements. She alleged that she had been tortured although she provided no details. She was also told by her captors that if she did not co-operate, her children would suffer. During her trial, Aafia alluded to being tortured in secret prisons, to being raped, her children being tortured, and being threatened to be “sent back to the bad guys” – men she described as sounding like Americans but could not be “real Americans” but “pretend Americans” due to the treatment they had subjected her to. (JFAC) She was bound to a bed, with her hands and feet tied whilst unspecified forms of torture were administered to the soles of her feet and her head injected with unknown substances. She was dragged by her hair and having her hairs pulled out one by one.
FMC Carswell is the only mental institution of its kind in the USA, renowned for medical misconduct and sexual abuse of prisoners by the prison chaplain, doctor and guards. May Allah save her!
Her lawyer, Elaine Whitfield Sharp described it beautifully when she said, “She was Detained for Five Years in a Black Site” and “Forced to Create Documents to Incriminate Herself “A rose isn’t a rose, the emperor doesn’t have any clothes on”, clichés of a government that has ingrained its poisonous talons into an innocent person…
Write to Aafia to remind her that she may be out of sight, but she is definitely not out of mind, heart or forgotten. She will be ingrained in our duas until the day she is released.
AAFIA SIDDIQUI # 90279-054
FEDERAL MEDICAL CENTER
P.O. BOX 27137
FORT WORTH, TX 76127
•Free Aafia Campaign•
Cii will be flying down Dr Aafia’s Sister, Dr Fauzia Siddiqui, from Pakistan who will educate and inform the South African Masses about the plight of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui.
Dr Fauzia will arrive in South Africa on the 16th or 17th of February and will be educating as many individuals as possible throughout South Africa.
A dinner will be held on the 17th of February after Maghrib at the Nirvana School in Lenasia, Johannesburg, South Africa. Pardah facilities available. Tickets can be purchased for R250 from Zaheera Bhyat on 082 468 2734.
We await the outcome of the appeal hearing currently in New York. May Allah grant our sister Aafia the freedom she deserves. Let’s help bring Aafia home!