Aafia Siddiqui has been imprisoned in the United States since 2008 under false charges Photo Twitter/ @FawziaSiddiqui
Johannesburg – A star was born on 2 March 1972, in Pakistan. She was supposed to make her family and nation proud but before that could happen America kidnapped, brutalised and imprisoned Dr Aafia Siddiqui.
Siddiqui turned fifty this week and the support to get her free has grown stronger over the years. Sohail Yaqoob, dynamic sales, marketing professional and visiting faculty member at Mohammad Ali Jinnah University, explained that Siddiqui had a vision to change the education system all over the world.
“She wanted to bring revolutionary change in the education system of Pakistan and eventually the educational system for the entire third world and for all the developing countries. Countries like South Africa but then she was denied this opportunity and then she was taken away.”
Siddiqui was kidnapped in Pakistan with her three children in 2003. She was imprisoned in Bagram in Afghanistan until 2008. After illegal rendition to the US, she has been in prisons in the US since 2008. Since the United States lost the war in Afghanistan and has seemingly withdrawn after causing much ruin to the country, it surprises Yaqoob that Siddiqui has not been let go.
“You know the surprising part is that the war on terror in Afghanistan is over. The United States has gone back. They have handed over the government to the Taliban… they have released all the prisoners, the Afghan prisoners. I don’t know what sin she has committed, which is so far not even proven in court. Even the former Attorney General Ramsey Clark, himself declared her innocence.”
Her trial according to Yacoob was “mysterious” and the first judge chosen to handle her matter declined. He believes it was because the judge was told what sentence to give Siddique.
“Initially the first judge declined to proceed into that case because he was probably told that he will be required to give a certain kind of decision which he declined and eventually Judge Berman took up this case and then probably gave the verdict that he was directed because the entire proceeding was very mysterious, very dubious and I think a black spot on the judicial system of the United States of America.”
The blame doesn’t solely lie on the United States however, as Yacoob places blame on the Pakistani government for failing to retrieve Siddique when they had the chance and for failing her family.
“A very interesting thing I can tell you is on one particular occasion the United States government wanted to hand over the doctor back to the government of Pakistan, provided they make a formal request, but unfortunately the government of Pakistan did not make that request… another thing that I wanted to convey, the entire ruling elite of Pakistan, whether they are in opposition today or they are in the government they came to the house of doctor Aafiya Siddiqui, pledged their support to her family and gave a firm commitment that if they come into power, they’ll bring her home but unfortunately they use that to come into power and then they just completely forget that promise.”
In the Siddiqui house there is a room with pictures of those politicians who made promises to bring her home thereby “assuring their support to the family” but those were empty promises said Yacoob.
It is difficult, to the point of being impossible, to get updates on Siddiqui’s health. Prisoners are entitled to talk to their family over a certain amount of time but “she is not given that opportunity” and there has not been any communication between “her and her family in four years” which has caused even more pain to her family explained Yacoob.
The last time they had gotten any confirmation about her health was when Siddiqui was attacked by a fellow inmate who threw a mug filled with hot coffee at her which burnt her skin and left a scar on her cheek. The consulate general of Pakistan visited Siddiqui and that is how the family “was informed about her well-being as there is no direct communication,” said Yacoob.
Almost fourteen years have passed since she was abducted from Afghanistan to the United States. In all that time there has been no news of what happened to her baby, Sulaiman, who was only a few months old at the time. The family has been deeply worried and concerned for the child, expressed Yacoob.
“There is no news regarding baby Sulaiman. He was just a couple of months old when she was taken away. The other two children are doing well but you can imagine the trauma they are experiencing now that they are not with their mother.”
Her own mother had become extremely ill and was at one point on the verge of dying. Yacoob said that talks with her reveal that she blames her ill health on the Pakistani government because of “the false promises made by the successive rulers of Pakistan and because of their false commitment, her health has deteriorated.”
Yacoob extended his sincere thanks to the people of South Africa “for their continued support for the movement of Dr Aafiya Siddiqui,” and extended his thanks for the warm welcome that was given to her family and for always wanting updates on Siddiqui’s health.
* This article has been edited to correct figures and dates