Hafsa Ammar is a student of the Department of Peace and Conflict Studies at the National Defence University, Islamabad. Her areas of expertise are hybrid warfare, narrative building, and nuclear deterrence in South Asia.
Who is Dr. Aafia Siddiqui?
Aafia Siddiqui is almost a household name of sorts in Pakistan. Dr. Siddiqui is a neuroscientist hailing from Pakistan. She is married and has mothered three kids: two sons and a daughter. She was a resident of America and had completed her schooling at some of the most prestigious American educational institutions i.e. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Houston, and Brandies University.
Born in 1972, she moved to America as a resident in 1991. It is believed by a majority of Western scholars that the tragedy of 9/11 ‘radicalized’ her and aided in her being recruited by the ‘Al-Qaeda’ terrorist organization. By March 2003, she had been officially put on the watchlist of the FBI for a suspected association with terrorist activities. The following year, she had been firmly placed on the American ‘Most Wanted List.’
What is She Accused of?
As the year 2008 rolled around, Dr. Aafia had been tracked back to Afghanistan where US military officials detained her in July, for questioning regarding her activities. The law enforcement officials claim that they found handwritten notes in her possession that detailed not only the construction of ‘dirty bombs’ (explosives that have radioactive chemicals used in their making) but also a list/mention of different potential sites for bombing located in America. This knowledge made her a threat to American security.
The military personnel moved to arrest her but apparently, the police compound where they were questioning her had a curtain separating her from them. According to the American officials, Dr. Aafia somehow managed to get her hands on an M-4 rifle and tried shooting at them but in the end, it was only she who emerged from the situation injured, with a bullet wound in her abdomen.
Details of her detainment and eventual arrest are still blurry to this day. Some claim that her notes were on biological weapons rather than dirty bombs and instead of random sites selected on American soil for detonation, the areas mentioned in her notes were prominent US landmarks. Her 11-year-old son was with her at the time of the arrest.
When was she Incarcerated?
After two years of incarceration, Dr. Aafia was officially convicted by the court in 2010 on charges of seven counts of assault and attempted murder of American citizens on foreign soil. 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.
After 9/11, Dr. Aafia allegedly divorced her first husband and father of three kids, Amjad Khan, and married Ammar Al-Baluchi. The American forces determined that Ammar was the nephew of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed thus directly tying her to the terror group Al-Qaeda. It is said that Dr. Aafia was in Karachi with her three kids when she was last seen.
Her ex-husband Amjad Khan was picked up by the FBI in Sindh and questioned but eventually, let go. It is a common line of thought that she spent the missing five years working directly for Al-Qaeda and by extension, for Usama Bin Laden.
There is significant weight in the Western belief of her just incarceration as her name was also given by Sheikh Mohammed when he was being tortured and waterboarded for information. Global media villainized her to the point of anointing her with the title ‘Mata Hari of Al-Qaeda’ or ‘Mother of Al-Qaeda’.
Dr. Aafia’s family settling in Karachi paints a reality that is the polar opposite of American claims. Her sister Dr. Fowzia denies Aafia’s second marriage to Ammar thereby negating the major link to Al-Qaeda. Her family stated with absolute certainty and grief that five years of her disappearance represented half a decade of torture for her in the Bagram Detention Center situated in Kabul, Afghanistan.
“This is one of the most egregious and outrageous cases that shows the US government’s violation of human rights and international law. We can’t go anywhere on the globe and kidnap anyone,” Stevan Kirschbaum, the vice president of the Boston chapter of United Steelworkers, a labour union, told Al Jazeera. “Our resolution aims to highlight and bring the case of injustice done to Aafia Siddiqui to living rooms across the US,” he added.
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). Dr. Fowzia said the last time she ever heard any report about her imprisoned sister was in 2016.
There have been many protests, activist movements, and televised programs advocating for her innocence and freedom. 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.”
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