The controversy, which has dragged on for almost two decades, casts the long shadow of the global war on terror over Muslims at home and abroad. Caught in the underworld of military intelligence between the United States and Pakistan, Muslims, Arabs, and South Asians have been subjected to torture and imprisonment without dues process based on secret evidence.
The Dallas protest was part of a five-city mobilization to raise awareness of the plight of Dr. Sidddiqui and others wrongfully incarcerated stemming from the War on Terror.
Writer and activist Mauri’ Saalakhan, who serves as the President of Aafia Foundation, became involved in Dr. Aafia’s case in 2009, which was one year after she was brought back to the United States, clinging to life.
“If an injustice of this nature could be committed against someone like Aafia without challenge, none of us are safe,” Saalakhan said.
The series of events that led to the disappearance, capture, and sentencing of MIT-trained Dr. Siddiqui, draw attention to the fumbling efforts of American and Pakistani counterintelligence to target Muslims who oppose U.S. imperial ambitions and support jihadist causes. Dr. Siddiqui was swept up in the wide terrorist dragnet in the aftermath of 9/11’s U.S. War on Terror. Rumors have swirled that Dr. Siddiqui was turned over to the United States for a hefty bounty. Government agencies, including the CIA, have refused to properly respond to requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), according to those familiar with the case.
Bounties have been offered in the past. Other military detainees testified in military tribunals that they were sold to the U.S. military for bounties ranging from $5,000 to $35,000. The Associated Press obtained the military tribunal transcripts through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.
Aafia was not sentenced in connection to any terrorist-related offenses. Instead, she was convicted of an incident that allegedly occurred during her capture in Afghanistan. Eyewitness testimony and ballistic evidence were inconclusive in her case. Because of her disturbed mental state, she was not able to assist properly in her original trial.
Now Aafia’s supporters demand either compassionate release by the U.S. government or repatriation back to Pakistan, but the government in Islamabad, which is mired in economic strife, has failed to prioritize the case to take action through diplomatic channels. Yet as more Americans are recognizing the horrors of CIA secret sites and U.S. military prisons overseas, especially around the twenty-year anniversary of America’s War on Terror, momentum for the release and repatriation of Dr. Siddiqui are picking up steam. A new generation of American activists is organizing and demanding or her release despite the bureaucratic wrangling of diplomatic officials in the U.S. and the lack of concern by American officials.
Dr. Ashraf Abbasi, who attended the Dallas mobilization said, “I felt overwhelmed and grateful to see that it was not just me, but hundreds of other conscientious, peace and justice lovers at the protest gave more strength to my stance and conviction.”
“Dr. Aafia’s case is well documented and internationally known as the worse miscarriage of justice in the U.S. judicial system,” he added.
Former U.S, Attorney General Ramsey Clark’ once described Dr. Siddiqui’s case as “the worst case of individual injustice” he had ever seen.
In 2003, reports indicate that Dr. Siddiqui was kidnapped by Pakistani police as she was on her way to the airport in Karachi to visit her uncle in Islamabad. Evidence suggests she was handed over to the U.S. military. Rumors have swirled that she was offered to the Americans in exchange for a bounty. Yet all of these claims remain officially unsubstantiated without admissions from the U.S. military and intelligence services.
Researcher Caron Gentry wrote about this mysterious case, providing background facts, but noting gaps remain as to her actual whereabouts for five years whether she was in U.S. military custody or on the run with three children for five years. Dr. Siddiqui came to the United States in 1990 and earned a Bachelor of Science degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and a Ph.D. from Brandeis. In 2003, she left with her family for Pakistan under suspicious circumstances. Eventually, John Ashcroft named her as a wanted woman for her suspected involvement with al Qaeda. Much of the narratives that surround Dr. Siddiqui’s involvement in al Qaeda, created by the US government, media, her family, and her supporters, are based on the intersection of gender and neoOrientalism. These narratives situated her as an innocent Soccer Mom, the nefarious Lady al Qaeda, or the mentally confused Grey Lady of Bagram.
Investigative reporting and eyewitness testimony of other prisoners in secret U.S. military prisons suggests she was held in a secret military prison during the time of her disappearance.
Activist Faiz Ahmed has been following the case for a number of years and watching the broadcasts that Mauri Saalakhan posts about the case on Facebook. He said he noticed a shift in the public paradigm, not only around the case but the way that the American public responds to Muslim concerns.
“There is a new generation of Muslims who suffered under the War on Terror and are less servile. There is also a new generation of Americans who have seen law enforcement agencies doing horrific things to powerless people, just because they can get away with it.” Ahmed added.
By Nadia B. Ahmad