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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. 

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(L-R) Zone Five Camera Club (ZVCC) Program Committee Head and Secretary Leys Masangcay, ZVCC President Cha Pagdilao, ZVCC Special Events Committee Head and Board Director Angela Panlilio, ZVCC Exhibit Committee Head and Board Director Bern Wong, ZVCC Member and Assumption Development Foundation (ADF) Graduate Ruben Castor Ranin, ADF President Dr. Micorazon Olango, ADF Academic Relations Officer Marvin Senobio, ADF Graduate Oyo Bunag, ADF Public Relations Officer Carmina Camua, and ADF Person-In-Charge Minda Kelly.
(L-R) Zone Five Camera Club (Z.V.C.C.) Program Committee Head and Secretary Leys Masangcay, Z.V.C.C. President Cha Pagdilao, Z.V.C.C. Special Events Committee Head and Board Director Angela Panlilio, Z.V.C.C. Exhibit Committee Head and Board Director Bern Wong, Z.V.C.C. Member and Assumption Development Foundation (A.D.F.) Graduate Ruben Castor Ranin, A.D.F. President Dr. Micorazon Olango, A.D.F. Academic Relations Officer Marvin Senobio, A.D.F. Graduate Oyo Bunag, A.D.F. Public Relations Officer Carmina Camua, and A.D.F. Person-In-Charge Minda Kelly.

Proceeds from the sale will benefit the Assumption Development Foundation (A.D.F.), a non-profit organization dedicated to the learning development of select youths of Sapang Palay, Bulacan.

For more than 40 years since its formation, Zone V has grown in membership numbers and craft skills, with many among its members receiving local and international acclaim in photography competitions.

The Club is passionate in its pursuit of photography as a pure art form and firm on the belief in the medium as a conduit for making a positive difference in people’s lives.

The A.D.F. is one of many advocacies.

by Noel Casaje - ethereal
by Noel Casaje – ethereal

Helping the cause of education

Established in 1966, what would become A.D.F. was borne out of necessity: a community of 20,000 informal settlers relocated from Manila to Bulacan.

Thrust into no man’s land and lacking the most basic of needs, a Carmelite Missionary and Assumption College San Lorenzo set up a school to provide, at the least, schooling for Grade 1 to 6 children.

A.D.F. later became a foundation in 1995, whose mission is to “help disadvantaged children by breaking the cycle of poverty through education.”

by Manny Inumerable - Ang Mga Pag asa Ng Bayan
by Manny Inumerable – Ang Mga Pag asa Ng Bayan

An A.D.F. website post (from November 2009 data) said that more than 586 high school students and 162 college students have graduated from the program.

‘Images of H.O.P.E.’ aims to sell 200 prints and raise at least P300,000, which will be used to buy computer equipment for A.D.F. scholars.

The prevalence of remote learning in the new normal makes computers a critical and indispensable education tool.

Z.V.C.C.’s ultimate goal is to build a learning hub at A.D.F. Earlier in the year, the Club partnered with P.L.D.T. to connect the A.D.F. facility with fiber connectivity.

With the coming addition of the computer sets, A.D.F. scholars soon have a fully functioning digital learning center.

by Jun Bongat - Dried Sapsap
by Jun Bongat – Dried Sapsap

The transition to virtual

Z.V.C.C. members stay sharp by holding friendly competitions as a way of recreation and of challenging one another every month.

From its regular meetings and photo contests held at the Old Swiss Inn at Makati, the Club reached an impressive milestone when it transitioned onto online platforms in the first quarter last year due to pandemic lockdowns.

The onset of COVID-19 shifted most everything to the virtual world; thus, Zone V developed ZHub, the Club’s website

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