By Nisa Islam Muhammad
(FinalCall.com)-Women’s History Month ended in the nation’s capital with a protest in front of the Bureau of Prisons that called for the release of political prisoner Dr. Aafia Siddiqui.
“This is the worst case of individual injustice I’ve seen,” said Mauri Saalakhan, head of the Peace through Justice human rights organization, March 30 as he recounted the words of former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark.
“We are demanding an independent medical team to include her sister, a respected physician, to examine Aafia to determine her mental and physical condition,” he said.
Concern is growing about her physical and psychological status since she hasn’t been seen or heard from by family or friends in nearly a year. They are calling for an independent medical team to be allowed to conduct a full examination of Dr. Siddiqui.
She is being held in Fort Worth, Texas, at the Federal Medical Center Carswell, a prison for female inmates of all security levels with special medical and mental health needs.
Dr. Siddiqui is an MIT and Brandeis University educated neuro scientist who has been called everything from Prisoner 650 to Lady Al-Qaeda after being captured in 2003 and imprisoned in Afghanistan at what many believe was one of America’s torture chambers.
She was released in 2008 with what she says was a bag that her captors gave her that contained U.S. maps and bomb making materials. Moments later she was arrested. During her interrogation she was accused of grabbing a rifle and firing. She was charged with attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon.
Dr. Siddiqui was flown to America and while imprisoned her health deteriorated so that at her trial she only weighed 90 pounds. She denied all of the charges, was denied the lawyer of her choice and was eventually sentenced to 86 years in prison, say supporters.
“I had the chance to eat in her home, hold her child and speak with her husband,” Imam Abdullah Faaruq from Boston’s Mosque for the Praising of Allah told the crowd. “If this can happen to her, it can happen to you.”
He read a statement from the Muslim Alliance of North America under the leadership of Imam Siraj Wahhaj. “We last saw Sister Aafia five years ago in court in New York City. We listened to the fervent petition for justice by this woman whose advocates include former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, a man of principled dedication.”
“We of MANA encourage those providing the closest legal and social justice advocacy for Sister Aafia to raise the issue of her health and well-being on every political level beyond demonstrations, though gathering today is necessary and good.”
“Further, we urge the Bureau of Prisons to take the health of this courageous woman seriously and to cooperate with those expressing humanitarian concerns regarding her health … . It is a time not only to celebrate the accomplishments of women but to highlight their plights and suffering as well. Today we call upon all Americans to remember Aafia Siddiqui and all female political prisoners,” he said.
While the numbers of protesters were not what the organizers hoped for, support is growing and the story of Dr. Siddiqui’s unlawful imprisonment is spreading, say her defenders. “The numbers were sufficient for us to be able to make our point. More importantly, the quality and diversity of the crowd that showed up was very, very encouraging,” said Mr. Saalakhan.
“There were Sunni and Shi’a, Muslim and non-Muslim supporters of Aafia at the demonstration. Two prominent members of New York’s Majlis Ashura were present, Imam Aiyub and Cheikh Ahmed, to affirm that leadership council’s concern for Aafia,” he noted.
Steve Downs, executive director of the National Coalition To Protect Civil Freedoms, spoke forcefully in defense of Dr. Siddiqui. “We’ve been following several cases of people who are true political prisoners. Aafia’s case is the most troubling. Her case is saturated with lies. Information has been withheld, there were cover ups and misinformation given. After 12 years we need to know the truth. We need to demand this from our government. What happened to her those missing five years?”
Marjan Asi, a former journalist with Press TV, spoke. “As a journalist I’ve covered many cases and stories. This is a deep dark case of injustice that even the government is trying to bury,” she said.
Mr. Saalakhan felt the most memorable address was the speech delivered by well known and highly respected Washington area educator Salahudeen Abdul Kareem. “He walked the crowd through some of the ‘law’ and operating principles and procedures that were being violated by the BOP in its treatment of Dr. Siddiqui and other political prisoners; while challenging the Black director of the BOP (Charles Samuels) to honor the legacy of the people who’s shoulders helped elevate him into that high office, by doing the right thing.”
Her supporters insist Dr. Siddiqui has done nothing wrong. “On March 30, 2003, not long after her return to Pakistan, Dr. Siddiqui and her three young children (ages 6, 4, and six months) were the targets of a rendition operation carried out by Pakistani and American agents, based on nothing more than suspicion. In 2008, after public discovery that Aafia was a secretly-held prisoner at the American controlled ‘detention center’ in Bagram, Afghanistan, she was mysteriously released in a weakened and disheveled state, reunited with her son Ahmed, and set up to be killed,” according to freeaafia.org, a website set up to support her cause.
“Aafia was shot and seriously injured by an American soldier while awaiting re-interrogation in an Afghan police compound. She was subsequently brought back to the United States and put on trial in a federal courthouse in New York City (2010). Found guilty of ‘attempting to murder U.S. personnel’ in Afghanistan (despite all of the evidence proving otherwise), she was given a sentence of 86 YEARS (Life without the possibility of parole),” the website said.