Guest Post: U.S. Abuses a Females Human Rights - Repatriate Aafia Now
On Saturday 31st March 2012, human right campaigners rallied outside the U.S embassy in London, marking the 9th anniversary of Aafia Siddiqui’s abduction, rendition and false imprisonment. A video featuring her case, discussions with Asim Qureshi (Director of Cage Prisoners) discussing her legal battle, Pakistan’s role, her children and the issue of repatriation; speeches from the rally provided by Uthman Lateef & Adnan Rashid (Hittin Institute) who recently visited Aafia’s family in Karachi and Omar Deghayes (former Guantanamo detainee), can be viewed here.
I spoke to a solidarity campaigner who attended the rally and asked her why she was there. She explained, “It’s the second time I have been at the anniversary of this rally. When I heard about Aafia’s case I felt how ordinary she was and how similar she is to me. Like me she is a mother, educated, feeling attached to her deen and trying to live by it and not preach. I feel really strongly that what happened to her could have happened to me. It’s a frightening injustice what happened to Aafia and an awakening to me of the incongruity of the world and that being a good person doesn’t prevent you from suffering an injustice.”
Due to the corruption of the Pakistani regime, I suggest that you also please forward copies of your communications to ‘Aafia solidarity campaign groups’ (listed below), so they have an account of your support. The ‘Justice for Aafia Coalition’ have provided the names & contact details of a number of U.S. & Pakistani officials who they are asking you to contact to demand Aafia’s immediate repatriation (see below).
Much has been reported about the circumstances leading to Aafia’s 86 year prison sentence passed by the U.S. in 2010.
In brief, In 2003 Aafia and her 3 young children left their home in Karachi to catch a domestic flight, but failed to reach the airport. Shortly after, Aafia’s mother was warned to remain silent about their disappearance if she wanted to see them again. Their whereabouts was unknown for the next five years. Spokespersons for Pakistan’s Interior Ministry and unnamed US officials initially confirmed Aafia’s detention, but within days, officials from both governments denied Aafia was in their custody.
In 2004, the FBI placed Aafia’s photograph on their website as one of their most wanted suspects.
In 2008, the US administration reported that Aafia had been arrested by Afghan police with her 11 year old son, Ahmad, outside the governor of Ghazni’s compound, allegedly with handwritten notes referring to a “mass casualty attack”. Following her arrest, the US then alleged that Aafia ran out from behind a curtain, unshackled and fired at US officers and though they did not sustain injuries; Aafia was shot twice in the process.
Aafia said that the bag in which the evidence was found had been given to her, being unaware of its contents and that the handwritten notes were forcibly copied from a magazine whilst her children were threatened. She denies picking up the gun or attempting to shoot anyone. Though the alleged incident occurred in Afghanistan and Aafia is not a U.S. national, she was rendered to the U.S. in August 2008 and charged with assault and attempted murder of U.S. personnel. In September 2010, Aafia was sentenced to 86 years in prison. Much of this account has been sourced from the Justice for Aafia Coalition.
Declan Walsh reporting for the Guardian provides a more critical account of circumstances in this case, ‘The Mystery of Dr Aafia Siddiqui’ published in November 2009.
The FBI account
Conversely, an FBI press report published on their New York Field Office website in 2010, I believe, supports Aafia’s claim of injustice. Their report of the incident which led to Aafia’s conviction says:
‘On July 18, 2008, a team of U.S. servicemen and law enforcement officers, and others assisting them, attempted to interview SIDDIQUI in Ghazni, Afghanistan, where she had been detained by local police the day before. The U.S. interview team included, among others: three officers and employees of the U.S. Army; two officers and employees of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and two U.S. Army contract interpreters.
The interview of SIDDIQUI was to take place at an Afghan police compound in Ghazni. In a second-floor meeting room at the compound—where SIDDIQUI was being held, unbeknownst to the U.S. interview team, unsecured, behind a curtain—SIDDIQUI grabbed a U.S. Army officer's M-4 rifle and fired it at another U.S. Army officer and other members of the U.S. interview team. During the shooting, SIDDIQUI exclaimed her intent and desire to kill Americans.
SIDDIQUI then assaulted one of the U.S. Army interpreters, as he attempted to obtain the M-4 rifle from her. SIDDIQUI subsequently assaulted one of the FBI agents and one of the U.S. Army officers, as they attempted to subdue her.’
What happened to Aafia and her children after their abduction in March 2003?
An intelligence officer spoke to Ahmad the moment he was released from US custody and Ahmad gave the following account:
‘I do not remember the date, but it seems a long time ago. I remember we were going to Islamabad in a car, when we were stopped by different cars and high roof ones. My mother was screaming and I was screaming as they took me away. I looked around & saw my baby brother on the ground & there was blood. My mother was crying and screaming. Then they put something on my face. I smelt & don’t remember anything. I woke up, I was in a room. There were American soldiers in uniform and plain clothes people.
They kept me in different places; if I cried or didn’t listen they beat me abd tied me and chained me. They were English speaking, Pashto & Urdu. I had no courage to ask who they were. At times for a long time I was alone in a small room. Then I was taken to a small children’s prison, where there were lots of other children.
An American consular that came to me in Kabul jail said your name is Ahmad; you are American, your mother’s name is Aafia Siddiqui & your younger brothers dead. After that they took me away from the kid’s prison.’ (Source - Yvonne Ridley, uploaded by ‘theislamicdawa’ on 24.09.11)
The Justice for Aafia Coalition provides that ‘Aafia and her children were apprehended by more than 15 agents. Aafia’s crying children were placed into one car, she into another, where she was immediately hooded and drugged. When she awoke she found herself tied was tied to a gurney in a place that, she said, could not have been Karachi as the air was very dry.’
In April 2010, a 12 year old girl was left outside the residence of Aafia’s sister’s home in Karachi by unidentified men, claiming she was Aafia’s missing daughter. Senator Talha Mahmood revealed that Maryam had been recovered from Bagram in the custody of an American official and that she had spent the past seven years in a “cold, dark room” at the base. Baby Suleman, was 6 months old when abducted from his mother and is believed to have been killed in custody, as American officials informed Ahmad, whilst in custody that his brother was dead and Aafia was also reportedly shown pictures of baby Suleman, lying in a pool of blood. Suleman’s whereabouts are unknown.
Sindh Province Police confirm their involvement in arresting and abducting Aafia and her three children in March 2003
In February 2011, Stephen Lendman published an article titled ‘Important New Information in Aafia Siddiqui’s case’ which discusses the collusion between Pakistan & Washington in Aafia’s case.
Stephen describes the mysterious death of Pakistani journalist Najeeb Ahmed who spent years investigating Aafia’s case. ‘On December 9, 2009, he told a public rally that government forces arrested, abducted, and handed her over to FBI agents. Interrogated initially in Pakistan, she was then transferred to Afghanistan and imprisoned. The day after speaking publicly, Ahmed mysteriously died, reportedly of sudden heart failure. His research files disappeared, were never recovered, leaving some observers to believe clear Washington/Pakistani involvement.’
Stephen refers to a report published by ‘The International Justice Network’ (IJN) (non-profit human rights organization, providing legal assistance): ‘It's new report explains titled, "Aafia Siddiqui: Just the Facts," saying: "IJN's preliminary investigation has revealed shocking new evidence that contradicts repeated (US/Pakistani) claims" of neither country's involvement until July 2008. Recorded witness testimonies and corroborating evidence showed they lied. In secretly recorded testimony, Superintendent of Sindh Province Police confirmed his personal involvement in arresting and abducting Siddiqui and her three small children in March 2003. Local Karachi authorities were involved, participating with Pakistani intelligence (ISI), CIA and FBI agents.’
See also counterpunch source.
Below is insight from a Pakistani national, Asim Ghani, Senior Assistant Editor, the News Karachi:
Q: What are your views on Aafia's case?
Regardless of the doubts over the American account of her alleged attack on the Marines, for which she was sentenced for 86 years by what Cindy Sheehan described as a “kangaroo court,” in my view the main element to the controversial case is the ceaseless pressure on Pakistan, its pliable governments and its military to toe the U.S. line in the region.’ Her case ‘is definitely a murky affair but her punishment is far too severe; even if the U.S. version of that incident is correct. Compare this to the infuriating leniency shown to, say, Bales, who killed 17 Afghan civilians, most of them women and children.
A colleague, Lubna Jerar Naqvi, who is secular and often writes articles on women's issues, made this comment when I asked for her views (not her exact words): Rather than punishing Dr Siddiqui, the Americans should have punished for their laxity the Marines who allowed a diminutive, 100-pound woman to snatch that rifle.’
Q: In your view, where do you think Pakistani public opinion lies in relation to Aafia's case? What are the Pakistani public calling for and who are they making these demands to? Since Aafia's conviction in U.S. in 2010, Aafia Campaign networks are calling for her repatriation to Pakistan. What steps have the Pakistani public made to support this call?
Pakistani public opinion is against her sentencing, not only because of its controversial nature and the element of Islam, but because of Pakistanis’ deep resentment against the United States. This resentment is not confined to Muslims: the most anti-US Pakistani I know is a Christian colleague, who describes the United States as “the Genghis Khan of our times.” He has family living in the US but refuses to join them.
But this public resentment is yet to take the form of a nationwide campaign to demand her release. The main reason for this failure is that the political parties, most of whom (including the mainstream religious parties, their fiery rhetoric apart) are eager to maintain workable relations with Washington - refuse to make any real effort for Dr Siddiqui’s release.
Q,Is it well known and documented, that Pakistani authorities over the past 10 years have been complicit in handing over their citizens to the U.S. without due legal process and whether money has been exchanged for this? Any examples of well known cases? Any links to this being reported by mainstream Pakistani press? Is this practise known to be still happening?
This is well known and documented and their complicity goes beyond ten years; even before the “War on Terror.” I do not believe the practice has ended.
Two links shared:
-Farhat Taj, in February 2012 wrote: ‘The Pakistani military authorities have not only been killing, capturing and handing al Qaeda militants based in Pakistan to the US but have also been taking pride in doing so. Former dictator Musharraf admits in his book (In the Line of Fire, pg 237) that his government captured and handed over 369 al Qaeda militants to the US. He also writes that Pakistanis received ‘millions of dollars’ as prize money from the CIA for capturing those militants.’
-Blog: Mr. Nawaz Sharif Handed Over Mir Aimal Kansi to the US of A!
Q: What steps have the Pakistani authorities taken to effect Aafia's repatriation to Pakistan & when were these steps taken? Has the U.S. responded and if so how? Aafia has still not been repatriated to Pakistan. What further steps do you feel the Pakistani authorities need to take, to effect Aafia's repatriation?
Rhetoric apart (e.g. the Pakistani Prime Minister’s describing her as a “daughter of the nation” in reaction to her sentencing), the Pakistani authorities have not made any effective efforts for her release and repatriation. With the present Pakistani government probably being the most pro-American government in the country’s history, I do not think it is even willing to seek her release, and thereby risk Washington’s annoyance.
Q: It is alleged that the Pakistan authorities are complicit in the abduction of Aafia and her children. Aafia's mother has suggested that whilst the Pakistani authorities show their public support for Aafia, in reality they have done little. Do you believe that the Pakistani authorities are now sincere in supporting Aafia and her family’s solidarity campaign?
Yes, they are complicit and thereby lack any sincerity of effort.
Q: Politically, two different leaders have been in power in Pakistan since Aafia's abduction in 2003. Do you see any difference in relation to their behaviour and intent towards Aafia and their support of the American 'War of Terror'?
I see no difference at all; if anything, the situation has sharply worsened in the four years since the present government took over. Pakistanis have still not forgiven the United States for pressuring Pakistan into releasing Raymond Davis, who murdered two Pakistani young men with his Glock. Why? Because he was "our diplomat," to quote President Obama. The same "diplomat" was involved in a crime in Colorado in October. (The Independent's story on the latter incident described Davis as a CIA killer).
This article will ‘give you some ideas what American diplomats have been doing in Pakistan.
Q: As a Pakistani citizen do you believe that letters sent from people globally requesting Aafia's immediate repatriation to, Asif A Zardari, Syed Y R Gilani, Rehman Malik and Makhdoom Qureshi will have an impact in relation to Aafia's calls for repatriation (as requested by the Justice for Aafia Coalition)? How do you feel that International efforts should be best directed to assist Aafia's repatriation and generally?
The letters could be effective only if they are accompanied by, say, frequent protests outside Pakistani embassies and consulates abroad. And these two should be backed by more intensive use of alternate media in a campaign for her release.
America funding Political Demonstrations in Pakistan:
Washington gave $36,607 to the Sunni Ittehad Council (organised anti-Taliban rallies) in 2009. The Council was created in 2009 ‘to counter extremism. It groups politicians and clerics from Pakistan’s traditionalist Barelvi movement, often referred to as theological moderates in the Pakistani context. The American money was used to organise nationwide rallies against militants and suicide bombings, the embassy official said. The demonstrations received widespread media coverage, and were some of the first against extremism in the country. The rhetoric at the rallies was mostly focused on opposing militant attacks on shrines.
Another example of the U.S. working to pay indigenous communities to serve their own political agendas and then no doubt, display photographs of these people demonstrating, as evidence that their 'War of Terror' is one of support & liberation of local communities.
Muslims are depicted by western media as a collective mass, with no differentiation.
Dr Uthman Lateef, Director of the Hittin Institute speaking at the rally on Saturday shared some important observations:
“There are some people who are humanised and then there are others who are dehumanised, there are some people who are personalised and some people who are depersonalised; there are some people who are remembered & there are some people who are reminded to be forgotten & it’s our sister Aafia Siddiqui that in some respect represents an inversion… with this respect. In the western world you will find that western citizens are often times defined by way of their exclusive attributes, by way of their individuality, by way of their exclusive uniqueness but those of the east & particularly the Muslims are defined in metaphoric terms that simply emphasises their indistinguishability, and the narrative of the western media discourse is what? It’s to represent us as a collective mass and not through singularity but what makes this event as its continuing every year … unique, is in some respect it…represents a reverse of that inversion, it’s not about the mass, it’s about the singularity of a single Muslim women called Aafia Siddiqui but what makes all of that even more important, is that, that single women represent the whole of the ummah. By way of the singular we understand the whole.”
It’s easy to understand Dr Uthman's reasoning when you reflect on any one of the numerous reported cases. Take 911 for example, a horrendous list of almost 3,000 (CBB’s website) people murdered and contrast that to the violence created by the ‘War of Terror’ in Iraq, where a mortality study conducted in 2006, reported approximately 600,000 deaths between 2003-2006.
Further clarity; whilst the CBB’s website reports the deaths of 911 with a clear title ‘how many people were killed on 911?’, when I attempted to search the site for ‘how many people have died in Iraq War’, there was no corresponding report. Instead the search engine linked their report on Iraqis (Muslims) murdering other Iraqis.
‘At least 200 people have been killed in a number of explosion in northern Iraq. A further 200 people have been hurt after at least four blasts, which targeted a group of people who follow a religion different to most in Iraq. The attacks happened in the villages of Al-Khataniyah and Al-Adnaniyah, in the north of Iraq near Mosul. The attacks are some of the worst to have happened in Iraq since the war there four years ago. The people targeted are part of a group - also called a sect - called the Yazidi. Most other people living in Iraq are muslims. There have been problems in the area between the Yazidi sect and muslims recently.’
The Injustice in Aafia’s case
Things that shout out to me on brief observation.
Why would a single women attempt to take a gun from Americans, who kill allies with friendly fire. This would reasonably be attempted suicide. These men are trained to shoot to kill. If a suspected terrorist is aiming a gun at them she would have been killed; make no mistake in that. The interview team consisted of 7 people.
Pakistan is known to abduct the children of parents it wishes to elicit confessions from. Any confessions obtained are likely to have been under duress, not just in relation to the welfare of Aafia’s children, but also the horrendous treatment that Aafia herself has been subjected to at the hands of her captors.
I do not think it a coincidence that Aafia’s children were returned separately. Aafia has still not returned home. This continues to put duress on those who can speak out against her captors, to not do so, whilst she is still in their hands.
No incriminating forensic evidence exists. It’s my understanding that her fingerprints were not found on the gun, no bullet holes to evidence that she fired a gun, no independent eye witnesses to say they saw her hold a gun.
You cannot abduct a person illegally and then claim to bring them before a court to administer legal justice. It’s a mockery to the very name ‘Justice’. Asim Qureshi explained that Aafia was not extradited from the U.S to Afghanistan, it was a rendition.
Investigative journalist, Yvonne Ridley provides further examples of injustice in this case:
‘The alleged crime happened in Afghanistan, a country with its own judicial system and - unless it is under official US occupation - the trial should have been held there. The defendant, born in Pakistan and a citizen of that country, was denied access to consular officials in Afghanistan or New York for more than 30 days after being shot in July 2008 - this is a complete violation of the Vienna and Geneva conventions.
The defendant was interrogated by the FBI while heavily sedated hours after major surgery was performed in Bagram - this is in complete contravention of US and international laws.
One independent Afghan witness, a transator/guide for the FBI, was bribed with a green card and the promise of US citizenship to lie under oath in court.
Spent bullets removed by US investigators from the prison cell where the alleged crime took place, were subsequently lost while other crucial evidence was tampered with.
Evidence from a secret court hearing held in the USA in 2003 about Dr Aafia Siddiqui was not allowed to be introduced in Berman's kangaroo court. This evidence would have documented that US intelligence knew exactly where Dr Aafia Siddiqui was being held after her disappearance in 2003.
Berman refused to allow any evidence which would have shown that Dr Aafia Siddiqui was set up and subsequently shot in a bungled US intelligence operation in July 2008.’
U.S. RELATIONSHIPS WITH PAKISTAN ARE NOT ROCKY. THE U.S. MAY BE IN BED WITH PAKISTANS POLITICIANS; BUT U.S. TERROR CRIMES EVIDENCE THEY ARE AT WAR WITH PAKISTANS' CIVILIANS
When I heard about the case of CIA agent Raymond Davis, another American who murdered two Pakistani’s in Lahore in cold blood on 27th January 2011, I was shocked, but not surprised to learn that after initially being jailed and charged by Pakistani authorities with double murder and the illegal possession of a firearm, he was then released on March 26th 2011. Judges acquitted him of all charges and he immediately departed Pakistan for the U.S. A third Pakistani man was also killed in the incident in a ‘hit & run’ by a car coming to assist Davis while speeding on the wrong side of the road.
‘Davis was freed from a jail in Lahore after relatives of the Pakistani victims received as much as $2.3 million in “blood money” compensation…Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton expressed gratitude to the victims’ families in Pakistan and said that the Justice Department has begun an investigation of the shooting that led to Davis's arrest in Lahore on Jan 27.'
‘US officials have reiterated their concern about Lahore's Kot Lakhpat jail where Davis is being held, saying he had been moved to a separate section of the prison, that the guards' guns had been taken away from for fear they might kill him and that detainees had been previously killed by guards. They are also concerned about protesters storming the prison or that he might be poisoned, and that dogs were being used to taste or smell the food for poison. However, the authorities in Pakistan stressed the stringent measures they have put in place to protect Davis in Kot Lakhpat following angry public rallies in which his effigy was burned and threats from extremist clerics.’
Not only did the U.S. manage to have their national returned within 3 months of him murdering Pakistani citizens, they also managed to change security procedures in the jail where Davis was held and receive words of assurance from Pakistani officials about the safety and welfare of their citizen. The U.S. military are known to commit massacres of civilians abroad in their 'War of Terror', including the murder of women, children, the sick and elderly. The U.S. is known to torture and degrade detainees (we have the photos to prove it); yet how many authorities of other nations have raised such concern over the treatment of their nationals detained at the hands of the U.S. and received such warm assurances from the U.S. about the welfare of their detained citizens in response?
All speakers at the rally spoke about the need for a united front & solidarity.
“The judge who released Davis murdered law and justice,” said Sen. Khurshid Ahmad of Jamaat-e-Islami, the nation’s largest religious-based political party. He said that federal, provincial and security officials had connived to free Davis, and that “blood money was taken not just for two men, but the whole country was sold.”
In this instance, I recalled Nelson Mandela’s quote: ‘Only free men can negotiate; prisoners cannot enter into contracts. Your freedom and mine cannot be separated.’
I reflect on whether the families that accepted compensation for their loved ones who were murdered by Davis could be considered free people?
Money cannot free us and though I realise I am fortunate not to live in poverty; until we unite together in solidarity we will never be free of this oppression & brutality by terrorist regimes.
When you look at the facts, it’s like much of what is apparent; reality disguised by words and systems that boast to soothe and provide freedom; yet work to enslave, torture and silence.
No law can legitimise ‘state’ terrorism, due to a simple fact of reality, morality, righteousness and truth are above all their laws.
We need a global revolution to remove and jail politicians that support and instruct the murder and terror of civilians (including those who fight to defend civilian rights against the same).
In the UK, I feel our focus must be directed towards our own government and attempting to prevent its acts of terror both nationally and internationally. We need to do more and clearly attendance at the annual stop the war march is not enough.
Asalamu alaikum, peace be upon you.
You can write to Aafia: AAFIA SIDDIQUI # 90279-054, FMC CARSWELL, FEDERAL MEDICAL CENTER, P.O. BOX 27137, FORT WORTH, TX 76127, U.S.A (Justice for Aafia Coalition)
Email a message of support to her - family email@example.com
Contact details of those the ‘Justice for Aafia Coalition’ are asking you to contact, to ask for Aafia’s immediate repatriation:
Eric Holder: Attorney General, U.S. Department of
Justice, 950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Washington,
DC 20530-0001, Tel: 202-353-1555, Email:AskDoJ@usdoj.gov
Hilary Clinton: Secretary of State, U.S. Department of
State, 2201 C Street, N.W. Washington DC 20520, Tel:
+1 202 647 4000, Fax: +1 202 261 8577, Email:firstname.lastname@example.org
Mr. Asif Ali Zardari: President of Pakistan, President’s
Secretariat, Islamabad, PAKISTAN, Email:email@example.com Tel
92-51-9204801-9214171, Fax 92-51-9207458
Mr. Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani: Prime Minister of
Pakistan, Prime Minister House, Islamabad, PAKISTAN,
Fax: + 92 51 9221596, Email:firstname.lastname@example.org
Mr. Rehman Malik: Minister of Interior, Room No. 404,
4th Floor, R Block, Pak Secretariat, Islamabad,
PAKISTAN, Fax: +92 51 920 2624, Tel: +92 51
99212026, E-mail: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org,email@example.com
Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi: Foreign Minister,
Ministry of Foreign Affairs Islamabad, Pakistan, Tel: +
92 51 921 0335, Fax: +92 51 920 7600, Email:firstname.lastname@example.org
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