Dr. Aafia Siddiqui: A ‘Missing Person’ With A Name

Posted on August 5, 2008
Filed Under >Darwaish, Foreign Relations, Law & Justice, People, Politics, Women
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Darwaish

Aafia Siddiqui

Dr. Aafia’s Siddiqui story has been haunting most Pakistanis for months now. Famously known as ‘Prisoner 650’ at Bagram Base in Afghanistan, she is one of the missing persons of Pakistan, wanted by FBI on alleged links with Al-Qaeda.

Dr. Afia Siddiqui, a highly educated researcher who studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, US, for about 10 years and did her PhD in genetics, mysteriously disappeared from Karachi in March 2003 along with her three children. Since then, US and Pakistani officials have continuously denied any knowledge about her.

It was only after British prisoner Moazzam Begg mentioned her in his book The Enemy Combatant that Human Rights Organizations and activists, British journalist Yvonne Ridley and MP Lord Nazir in particular, raised voice for Dr. Aafia kept in solitary confinement and her three children. A specially disturbing part of this story is that fate of her three children, aged between one month and 7 years at the time of her kidnapping, is still unknown.

Aafia SiddiquiIn 2007, the media started giving Dr. Aafia’s case more serious attention and several reports were published about her tragic fate. Amnesty International included her on a June 2007 list as someone for whom there was “evidence of secret detention by the United States and whose fate and whereabouts remain unknown.”

Britain’s Lord Nazir Ahmed, (of the House of Lords), asked questions in the House about the condition of Prisoner 650. According to one news story, “He [Lord Nazir] said she is physically tortured and continuously raped by the officers at the prison.” Lord Nazir has also submitted that Prisoner 650 has no separate toilet facilities and has to attend to her bathing and movements in full view of the other prisoners.

And it was on July 6, 2008, when a British journalist, Yvonne Ridley, called for help for a Pakistani woman she believes has been held in isolation by the Americans in their Bagram detention centre in Afghanistan, for over four years. “I call her the ‘grey lady’ because she is almost a ghost, a spectre whose cries and screams continues to haunt those who heard her. This would never happen to a Western Woman,” Ms Ridley said at a press conference.

Ms Ridley, who came to Pakistan to appeal for help, said the case came to her attention when she read the book, The Enemy Combatant, by a former Guantanamo detainee, Moazzam Begg. After being seized in February 2002 in Islamabad, Mr. Begg was held in detention centres in Kandahar and Bagram for about a year before he was transferred to Guantanamo Bay. He recounted his experiences in the book after his release in 2005. Imran Khan, leader of Justice Party (PTI) has also been raising voice, held a joint press conference with Ms. Ridley on this issue, and criticised government of Pakistan for not doing anything and hiding facts about Prisoner 650.

After these reports in media, the US and Pakistani authorities were forced to admit just last week that Dr. Aafia was indeed in US captivity, the Prisoner 650 at Bagram Base.

CNN has released the official version of US Government today and according to Dr. Aafia’s attorney, Elaine Whitfield Sharp, “a lot of the allegations implausible” and argued that the charges “don’t pass the sniff test.” According to CNN:

A Pakistani scientist accused of shooting at U.S. officers while in Afghan custody last month was due to appear before a U.S. magistrate judge Tuesday morning in New York.


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Aafia Siddiqui-FBI Notice Aafia Siddiqui, whom the FBI had sought for several years for terrorism, faces federal charges of attempted murder and assault of a U.S. officer and U.S. employees, federal authorities said.

The 36-year-old American-educated neuroscientist is a suspected member of al Qaeda. If convicted, she faces a maximum of 20 years in prison on each charge. On July 18 Siddiqui shot at two FBI special agents, a U.S. Army warrant officer, an Army captain and military interpreters who unknowingly entered a room where she was being held unsecured at an Afghan facility, officials said.

Siddiqui was behind a curtain when she used an officer’s rifle to shoot at the group, officials said. She shot twice but hit no one, they said. The warrant officer returned fire with a pistol, shooting Siddiqui at least once. She struggled with the officers before she lost consciousness and was then given medical attention. The day before the shootings, Afghan police arrested Siddiqui outside the Ghazni governor’s compound where they found bomb-making instructions, excerpts from the “Anarchist’s Arsenal,” papers with descriptions of U.S. landmarks, and substances sealed in bottles and glass jars, U.S. officials said Monday.

Responding to these allegation, Elaine Whitfield Sharp told DAWN, Geo and CNN:

“This is a very intelligent woman. What is she doing outside of the governor’s residence? The woman is a Ph.D. Is a woman like this really that stupid? There is an incongruity and I have trouble accepting the government’s claims,” the attorney said.

“If she was carrying fluids and was considered dangerous, then why was she left unattended in a room behind a curtain? And this dangerous, hardened criminal picks up a gun and misses?”

Dr. Aafia’s sister, Dr. Fauzia, held a press conference today along with Human Rights Activist Iqbal Haider and she urged authorities to presume her sister is innocent and is demanding that the government be required to prove any charges against her “beyond a reasonable doubt.” She appealed to the government of Pakistan, all religious, political parties and human rights organizations to play their active role in bringing her sister back home. At least, they should immediately hand over the children to the family as no law on earth allows that. This is one of the most serious violation of human rights. “I fear a political prosecution to protect the United States from embarrassment, rather than from ‘terrorism,'” Fouzia Siddiqui said. Iqbal Haider severely criticised US and Pakistani Governments and said that they promoting terrorism by doing inhuman acts like this.

I don’t know if Dr. Aafia has done anything illegal or not but the way she has been picked and handed over to US authorities along with three innocent children is a violation of even basic human rights and human dignity. What happened to the moral values, respect for law and Human Rights? If she has done something wrong, she should have been held accountable in the court of law and punished. But why detaining her illegally, along with 3 children, with any charge whatsoever for 5 years?

It should not be forgotten that the missing persons case was a turning point in recent Pakistan politics where Pervez Musharraf had a severe falling out with the then CJP Iftikhar Chaudhry who was investigating this case. After much public agitation on the issue, the Chief Justice ordered that EVERYONE to be produced in court and then charged so that a free and fair trial could be held. Something which couldn’t be done at that time as many of the missing were already handed over to US authorities secretly.

Dr. Aafia’s case reminds us that how important the rule of law and justice is if we are to survive as a nation. Pakistan should immediately demand US Government to release 3 innocent children picked up with Dr. Aafia and hand them over to her family. Whatever the allegations on her may be, there is no justification whatsoever for kidnapping and detaining three innocent children and keeping them away from their family for 5 years.

Additional information about Dr. Aafia can be found here, here, here and here. For more info about Missing in Pakistan, watch these 3-part video by Ziad Zafar.

173 responses to “Dr. Aafia Siddiqui: A ‘Missing Person’ With A Name”

  1. Many years passed, she is still not back home and USA now wants Pakistan to forget her?

  2. Aslam Mian says:

    Here is her true face, described by her husband:

    Aafia Siddiqui : the other side of the story ..
    The News – Wednesday, February 18, 2009

    Claims most reports in the local media are false, suspects his two
    ‘missing’ children are in Karachi

    KARACHI : After six years of silence, Dr Muhammad Amjad Khan,
    ex-husband of Dr Aafia Siddiqui, has finally spoken up and says that
    most of the press reports that relate to his former wife as well as
    his children are false. In an exclusive talk with The News, he said
    that most claims are being propagated to garner public support and
    sympathy for Dr Aafia but are one-sided and in most instances untrue.

    Dr Aafia Siddiqui, suspected of having links to terrorist
    organizations, has been charged in a criminal complaint filed in a
    court of New York on account of attempting to kill US personnel during
    interrogation and on a charge of assaulting US officers and employees
    in Kabul, Afghanistan, on July 17, 2008. Subsequently Dr Aafia was
    imprisoned in Bagram for 18 days before being taken to the US for a
    trial.

    Due to pressure from Aafia Siddiqui’s family, the Pakistan government
    has been trying to secure her release from the US claiming her to be
    innocent. Although the US government has guaranteed Aafia the best
    legal assistance and a fair trial, her family is adamant that she be
    sent back on grounds that the US authorities have been consistently
    torturing her for years.

    “Aafia’s release cannot be secured by propagating stories based on
    falsehood and deception,” commented Dr Amjad Khan, in an interview
    with The News. Dr Amjad, who was married to Dr Aafia for seven years
    until their divorce in October 2002, said Aafia’s family and
    supporters should not believe that truth will not be revealed and mere
    lies will help in securing Aafia’s repatriation.

    He added that he is disappointed with the government’s disregard for
    the law when officials handed over his eldest son, Ahmad, to his aunt
    Dr Fowzia Siddiqui on his return from Afghanistan last year instead of
    his legal guardian, his father. “The government made no effort to
    locate me despite the fact that I am Ahmad’s real and legal guardian.
    My address in Karachi has not changed for the past 30 years. Ever
    since I returned from the US after our divorce, I have been living
    with my family,” he said adding: “Both the Minister for Interior
    Rehman Malik and Dr Fowzia have been taking credit for obtaining
    Ahmad’s release even though there was not a stone I left unturned to
    locate my missing children and obtain their custody according to law.”

    Providing documentary proof of the legal agreement between him and Dr
    Aafia following their divorce, Dr Amjad said that he had been
    financially supporting his three children Ahmed, Marium and Suleiman
    until the family stopped accepting the cheques he had been mailing.
    “After the agreement they accepted my cheques till March 2003. After
    that my cheques were being returned from Aafia’s home and that got me
    worried. Soon after I learnt that in April 2003, Aafia and our
    children had been ‘picked up’ by agencies.” Meanwhile, he received
    disturbing reports from the family that Aafia chose to leave Karachi
    with her children as she feared an attack from him.

    Curious to locate the whereabouts of his children, Dr Amjad sought the
    help of the police and government officials to find them. “I was aware
    of Aafia’s violent personality and extremist views and suspected her
    involvement in Jihadi activities. My fear later proved to be true when
    during Uzair Paracha’s trial in the US in 2004, the real purpose of
    Aafia’s trip to the US (between December 23, 2002 and January 3, 2003)
    was revealed.”

    Elaborating, Dr Amjad disclosed that he later learnt from media
    reports that Aafia’s family claimed she made this trip to the US for
    job interviews in December at a time when universities were closed for
    winter holidays. “I also found it very odd that on the one hand Aafia
    insisted on leaving the US after September 11, 2001, claiming the
    country was unsafe for us and our children because the US government
    was abducting Muslim children, and on the other hand took the risk of
    travelling to that country again without fearing that she may be
    captured and may never see our children again.”

    While Dr Aafia was in the US , the authorities had been closely
    watching her, added Amjad. They soon issued the first global “wanted
    for questioning” alert for the couple in March 2003. “At that time,
    the agencies did not know we were divorced and I was also unaware of
    Aafia’s involvement with two other terror suspects, Majid Khan and
    Ammar Al-Baluchi. They wanted me to persuade Aafia to appear for the
    interview with them and clear the charges leveled against her just as
    I had done. That is when she went underground and it later became
    apparent why she chose to ‘disappear’,” disclosed Dr Amjad.

    Sharing details of his unsuccessful marriage with Dr Aafia, Dr Amjad
    told The News that since their marriage was arranged, he was unaware
    of Aafia’s violent behaviour. “She got hysterical fits when she became
    angry and would physically attack me, but I put up with it for the
    sake of our children.”

    Although Amjad and Aafia both were inclined towards religion, he found
    her opinion towards Jihad to be of an extreme nature that sometimes
    made him uncomfortable. He became particularly suspicious of his
    wife’s intentions when soon after the 9/11 attacks, she compelled
    Amjad to leave Boston (where Amjad was completing his residency) and
    move to Afghanistan where she claimed “he would be more useful”.

    The couple, however, chose to come to Pakistan instead for a vacation
    and discuss the matter with Amjad’s family. It was here that his
    parents noticed Aafia’s violent behaviour towards their son on several
    occasions, particularly when she openly asked for khula (divorce) when
    Amjad declined to go to Afghanistan . Therefore Amjad decided to file
    for a divorce as Aafia was adamant she wanted to go. “I tried my best
    to save our marriage, but divorce was inevitable,” he recalls.

    However, after mutual consent, the couple signed a legal agreement
    whereby the custody of the three minors was given to Aafia, while
    Amjad was required to pay for their education and maintenance.
    “Although the agreement says I am permitted to meet my children once a
    week, I was not allowed to do so,” claimed Amjad sharing a copy of the
    agreement during the interview.

    Based on his past experience, Amjad says he had reason to worry about
    his children. “I feared Aafia might pursue her political ambitions to
    the detriment of our children’s welfare so I couldn’t help following
    her case after her family claimed she had been abducted.” Amjad added
    that he was tempted to use other means to try and rescue his children
    in these past five years especially since he had evidence that were
    missing or kidnapped, he claimed. “But I chose to be patient and
    pursued the case according to the law.” He also filed a case in court
    against Aafia to obtain the custody of his children.

    “When the Court was unsuccessful, I requested the HRCP to include my
    children’s names in their missing persons petition in the Supreme
    Court and also appealed to the Chief Justice for Suo Moto action as
    this was the only case where three minors were involved.”

    However, after Ahmad was released and handed over to Dr Fowzia last
    year, Dr Amjad requested her to allow him to visit his son, but she
    refused. “At first she said Ahmed was mentally unfit to talk, and then
    claimed that he was not my son but an orphan adopted by Aafia and US
    reports that his DNA matched Aafia’s were also ‘cooked’. I refused to
    accept any of that as I had identified my son as soon as I saw a
    report on the electronic media of his arrest in Afghanistan .”

    When questioned on what basis was Aafia’s family†denying a meeting
    with his son, Amjad stated that the family is punishing him for
    divorcing Aafia. “Aafia’s mother and Dr Fowzia had warned me at the
    time of our divorce that they would take revenge†by not letting me
    meet the children,” he said adding “But now they are discouraging a
    meeting with Ahmad because they fear Ahmad will reveal the truth about
    Aafia’s activities and whereabouts of his siblings over these years.”

    He added that Dr Fowzia had similarly threatened him several years ago
    by taking a picture of Aafia while she was asleep after she injured
    her upper lip (by a milk bottle)†in an accident. Dr Fowzia warned
    Amjad that if he tried to divorce Aafia, she would use the picture
    against him alleging him to be an abusive husband. “It was made to
    appear in the picture that Aafia was badly injured. Today, the same
    picture is being circulated in the media to claim that Aafia was
    tortured for years in Bagram,” he revealed.†

    Furthermore, Amjad listed the several allegations leveled against him
    over the years to justify his not meeting his children: First they
    accused him of kidnapping his three children soon after his divorce
    with Aafia. To deny this accusation, he lodged a complaint against the
    family with the Sindh Police and requested officials to help him
    locate his children, but to no avail.

    Later, Aafia’s family accused him of being an abusive husband and
    father preventing the children from meeting their father. “Aafia’s
    mother has also accused me in the media of changing the children’s
    names whereas in reality they had resorted to these tactics to conceal
    the children.”

    He alleged that Dr Fowzia also used the Asian Human Rights Commission,
    an NGO based in Honk Kong, to mislead the government about his two
    missing children. “The AHRC received the information about my two
    missing children being in an orphanage in Afghanistan from Dr Fowzia,
    who was diverting attention away from the place where the children
    really are.” claimed Amjad.

    Earlier, when Aafia’s father died, the family held Amjad responsible
    for his death too claiming he suffered a stroke after he saw the
    divorce document. “That is simply not true because I mailed the
    document two days after Aafia’s father died and that too because I was
    unaware of the unfortunate incident. Their family never kept me posted
    on anything in the six-week period between our verbal and written
    divorce. I was just as shocked at his death.”

    Moreover, the family alleged that Aafia was in trouble and had been
    kidnapped because her former husband (Dr Amjad) handed over her
    personal diary to the FBI. “After this, false reports about Aafia’s
    arrest and Pakistani government’s involvement in handing her over to
    the US despite repeated denials by the Minister of Interior and other
    officials, started making headlines” claims the doctor, who has now
    re-married.

    It is the whereabouts of his two children ñ Marium now aged 10, and
    six-year-old Suleiman ñ that worries him now, said Amjad. Like the
    coordinates of Dr Aafia Siddiqui remained a mystery after she was
    allegedly ‘picked up’ in March 2003, Dr Amjad believes Aafia’s family
    may be using the same tactics in the case of his two children, who are
    reportedly ‘missing’.

    “I am sure they are around Karachi and in contact with their maternal
    family as both Aafia and the children were seen around their house
    here and in Islamabad on multiple occasions since their alleged
    disappearance in 2003. They may be living under an assumed identity
    just like Aafia and Ahmed had been living [as Saliha and Ali Ahsan]
    for five years before they got arrested,” believes the father. He said
    Dr Fowzia’s claim that the children are missing after being removed
    from the Bagram prison in Afghanistan ‘may be an attempt to attract
    sympathy of the government and the people and distract its attention
    from the real location.’

  3. Abdullah Shaikh says:

    This story again gives evidences, information and real picture of americans, their so called justice system, reality of american civilized and human rights provocative face, strength, services and loyalty of so called pakistani defense and intelligence institutes to their american bosses, poor performance /capability of pakistani foreign office. If aafia can be proved guilty on charges raised in her case then all false stories, lies and blunders on evil grounds becomes justified.

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