United States – Dr. Aafia Siddiqui’s continued unjust incarceration by the United States of America is well known across the world. Many have heard of Siddiqui’s abuse by US officials but few have had a chance to see her after her imprisonment. There have been many efforts to try and have her released from prison but none have been successful so far.
Siddiqui is serving an 86 year imprisonment term for various crimes the United States alleges she committed. This past week, Clive Stafford Smith, co-founder of Reprieve, was granted permission to visit Siddiqui at The Federal Medical Center, Carswell where she is currently being held.
Aafia Siddiqui and her condition
El-Hajj Mauri Saalakhan, Salaamedia presenter, spoke to Smith about his meeting with Siddiqui and what he had learnt. Saalakhan shared the details of the conversation that took place on his broadcast on Salaamedia. After leaving Guantanamo Bay, Smith headed to Texas to see Siddiqui. It took Smith three hours before he could see Siddiqui but his patience earned him an 80 minute conversation with her, said Saalakhan.
“He was deeply alarmed by what his country has done to Aafia and many others in the name of a so-called war on terrorism. Aafia has clearly been traumatised by her experience, he said. While FMC Carswell is supposed to be a Federal Medical Center, that’s what the FMC stands for, it’s a maximum security prison with all that that entails. He had to visit with Aafia through a glass barrier which inhibits human to human contact. His visit debunked the rumours that Aafia had passed away.”
Saalakhan explained these rumours of her death circulate whenever a protest or something major is being planned for Siddiqui in the United States. Smith told Saalakhan that Siddiqui did most of the talking which is unusual. She spoke of the abuse and told Smith she felt like she was alone. Smith assured her that she was not.
In today’s @salaamedia broadcast Brother @MauriSaalakhan intimated what @CliveSSmith informed him about his meeting with #AafiaSiddiqui. He said Dr Aafia did most of the talking, she shared with him the abusive treatment she receives. He assured her that she hasn’t been forgotten pic.twitter.com/VT2Um06YBa
— ᗰᗩᒍIᗪ • ماجد (@MajidN88) January 22, 2023
Before Siddiqui was incarcerated, she was one of the brightest minds on the planet. A woman who did tremendous good work in every community she visited. A smile and soul that made everyone feel safe and secure. Now however, she is a shell of her former self. Smith explained Siddiqui doesn’t have “any of her front teeth left” which he thinks “goes back to a physical incident some time ago”. Physically, Smith could not make out much as she was wearing a headscarf and a prisoner’s uniform. However, he had a strong impression of her trauma and believes “she has suffered immensely. She’s been through so many hard things that she’s not in her right mind”.
@CliveSSmith further informed Brother @MauriSaalakhan that Dr Aafia was wearing a full prison uniform & headscarf, so he couldn’t get much impression of her “physicality”, although she seemed to walk OK when coming in and out of the room, but Clive knew that she was traumatized. pic.twitter.com/AlGzPe7UQF
— ᗰᗩᒍIᗪ • ماجد (@MajidN88) January 22, 2023
Smith explained how some prisoners in Guantanamo Bay Prison have shown great mental fortitude through by the abuse and torture they have suffered. However, a great number have been significantly traumatised and Siddiqui is unfortunately part of the latter.
The condition of Aafia Siddiqui’s family
It is not only Siddiqui who has suffered mentally but also her family. With her being away for so long, having no contact with her family, it has taken a great mental toll on her daughter. Dr. Fowzia Siddiqui, sister of Aafia and Aafia Movement Pakistan leader, explained how these three things have impacted Mariam’s, Aafias daughter, mental health. When the news broke that Smith had visited her mother, she could not believe it. To Siddiqui, this shows the level of trauma Mariam has had to suffer.
“I think the degree of paranoia that is developed because of the false news. The rumours that have been spread that you even weigh the truth with a lot of paranoia and doubts. I said I don’t see any reason why not. I gave her the contact number for Clive Stafford Smith and I said “you ask yourself.”
The legal issues haunting the family and how to help them
Siddiqui is ashamed at how the government of Pakistan has treated her and her family. With the Aafia case still not resolved since 2015, the Foreign Ministry has dragged its heels in getting answers for the Siddiqui family. Siddiqui mentioned how she applied for a US visa back in 2015 and to date her application is still pending. The lack of enthusiasm or care from the Pakistani government to help the family is shocking to say the least.
In an effort to get the US to allow her to speak to her sister, Siddiqui has called for everyone to protest outside of the US embassy in their countries on March 30. It was on this day in 2003 that her and her children were abducted, said Siddiqui. There are many who campaign for women’s rights but now they need to show their support for Aafia.
“There are these organisations who are bickering about the women in Afghanistan. How they’re being treated. They’re not being abused, they’re not being separated from their families, they’re not being beaten and their teeth have not been taken out of their mouths. If that is so bad then what about Aafia? Is she not a woman?”
Siddiqui is hoping the mobilisation will raise enough awareness and force governments to hear the cries of their people. Siddiqui also hopes the people of Pakistan can shake up their government and make them finally act and demand justice for Aafia.
Aafia was arrested in Afghanistan in 2008 and was transported to the US to face charges including attempting to kill US nationals outside the United States and six additional charges. She always proclaimed her innocence but in 2010 she was sentenced to 86 years in prison. There have been multiple talks to try and get her released. In July last year she was attacked in prison. The attack left her unable to walk and had to be taken by wheelchair to the medical unit in the prison.
To hear what Dr. Fowzia Siddiqui said about the case with Aafia that is currently taking place in the Pakistani high court listen to the podcast here: