By Al-Hajj Mauri Salakhan
Aafia Siddiqui came to the United States of America from Karachi Pakistan in 1990. She resided with her older brother, Muhammad, in Houston (Texas), and distinguished herself as an outstanding freshman at the University of Houston, earning a full scholarship in 1991 to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Boston, Massachusetts.
Aafia Siddiqui graduated with honors from MIT, and later enjoyed an equally successful academic career at Brandeis University – where she graduated (again with honors) with a PhD in cognitive neuroscience. In addition to her academic prowess, Dr. Siddiqui was known for her commitment to dawah (teaching and spreading the message of Islam), and her humanitarian relief work – particularly after the political crisis erupted in Bosnia in the early to mid-90s.
In 2002, after 12 fruitful years in the United States, Dr. Aafia Siddiqui and her family decided to return home to Pakistan. By this time she was married with two American-born children (Ahmed and Maryam) and pregnant with a third child (Suleman). Tragically, it appears that her academic achievement, activism, and commitment to Islam, caused a post 9/11 cloud of suspicion to accompany her and her family on that fateful journey home.
In March 2003, Dr. Siddiqui and her three young children (ages 6, 4, and six months) got into a taxi in Karachi, Pakistan, bound for the airport to visit a maternal uncle in Islamabad. They never made it. The taxi was stopped, all four were forcibly removed, and then they disappeared for the next five years. The day after the kidnapping, Aafia’s family received an ominous visit from a mysterious biker who bore a threatening message. When Aafia’s mother answered the door he warned, If you ever want to see your daughter and grandchildren again, be quiet!
In the summer of 2008, following disclosure that a Pakistani woman was being secretly held prisoner at the Bagram Detention Center in Afghanistan, Dr. Siddiqui was released from captivity in a weakened and disheveled state; reunited with her son (Ahmed), and then set up to be killed. She ended up being shot by an American soldier in Afghanistan under highly questionable circumstances. Following emergency treatment she was brought back to America, barely clinging to life, and charged with attempting to murder US personnel (i.e. soldiers, FBI, CIA) in Afghanistan.
During the trial that took place in a U.S. District Court in New York City in 2010, the most compelling evidence was in Dr. Siddiqui’s favor, and the government’s star witnesses contradicted themselves, and each other, so much (under oath) that they should have been charged with perjury. Regrettably, the unrelenting pre-trial propaganda against “Lady al-Qaeda,” as some of the media dubbed her, coupled with a federal judge (Richard Berman) who was openly biased against her from start to finish, made a “fair trial” virtually impossible.
The five missing years (2003-2008) were ordered off-limits during the trial; the forensic and circumstantial evidence was ignored; and Dr. Aafia Siddiqui was found guilty and given a sentence of 86 YEARS. She is currently imprisoned at FMC Carswell – an institution located on a military base in Fort Worth, Texas – completely cut off from the outside world. It should also be noted that Judge Berman has officially closed her case to the appeals process.
Dr. Aafia Siddiqui does not enjoy the same visitation rights as other prisoners; even mail that is sent to her gets returned. There are credible reports that her health (both physical and mental) is not good. Her family and supporters have asked the government to allow an independent medical team into FMC Carswell to examine her (so far without success).
Her two oldest children (Ahmed and Maryam) were returned to the family home in 2008 and 2010, respectively. The youngest child (Suleman) is still missing to this day and presumed dead. Aafia’s father passed away years ago, and as one would expect, an increasingly frail mother grieves over her missing child and wonders if she will ever be able to see her again.
In July – August 2014, over 110,000 people from all over America – Muslims and non-Muslims – signed a “We The People” Petition on the White House website that called for Dr. Aafia Siddiqui’s release and repatriation. Among her supporters is the former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, who has described the case of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui as, “The worst case of individual injustice I have ever witnessed.”
Dr. Aafia Siddiqui has become a growing symbol of concern and grievance for Muslims and non-Muslims of goodwill around the world. Why should we care? Because if such a monstrous injustice could happen to a woman like her, and continue for as long as it has, none of us are safe!
For additional background information: www.aafiamovement.com
To connect with activists in the United States, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org