To this story add water, then quickly spin (continued from pg. 1)
Your name is Aafia Siddiqui, and you have just been fingered (albeit under torture) by none other than Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. It is March 28, 2003. You have just left your mother’s house, with your three children, to visit your uncle in Islamabad. Only, you never arrive. Over the next several days, your names is broadcast in headlines around the world. According to a statement by the FBI, which had issued an alert for you only 10 days earlier, you were apprehended in Karachi, Pakistan and were being held for interrogation at an undisclosed location. A few days later, the FBI retracts this statement, saying that — despite their initial optimism — it was a case of mistaken identity. They had not captured you, after all.
The fact nonetheless remains: You and your three children seemingly disappeared into thin air. Over the next 5 years, your mother, sister and brother would search for you, traveling back and forth between the United States and Pakistan, demanding answers from authorities. Pakistani citizens joined humanitarian agencies and human rights groups the world over, waging protests on your behalf and demanding answers. The U.S. and Pakistani governments staunchly denied owning any information on your whereabouts, although, during 2004, Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller III announced that an informant in Africa had seen your picture (above) and fingered you as the diamond-smuggling woman from June 2001, which placed you on the FBI’s offical list of wanted terrorist suspects.
An attorney now working on your behalf says that she can prove that you were in the U.S. during June 2001. The likelihood of this evidence ever being presented at trial is, so far, slim to non-existent.
Your name is Aafia Siddiqui, just one in a long list of names of ghost detainees, being spirited from prison to prison, torture session to torture session; just one in a long list of terrorist suspects who have been fingered — under torture — by another terrorist suspect, who was perhaps fingered, under torture, by yet another terrorist suspect; just another body in another secret prison.
“Without a visible trail, it is difficult for the subject to form a picture or story.”
While the words Abu Garib and Guantanaomo Bay have been out of the closet for several years now, the words Dark Prison, Camp Slappy and the Salt Pit have yet to emerge in the American vernacular. These are but a few of the twenty or so secret prisons in Afghanistan — and a mere fraction of the total number of “dark sites” worldwide — where the Bush-Cheney Administration sent detainees for the explicit purpose of extracting information through torture. Part and parcel of these detentions has been the fullscale denial by the Bush Administration — and, now, the Obama Administration — that these prisons (and, by extension, the prisoners, themselves) even exist.
Pertinent to the case of Aafia Siddiqui is the word Bagram Prison, which has been alternately a stopping point and the ultimate destination of thousands of Bush Administration terrorist suspects (the distinction between a bona fide terrorist and terrorist suspect being a moot one, within the current framework of the U.S. justice system). Within this tortured system of justice, the only evidence that these prisons exist has come from the ghosts that inhabited these prisons — those terrorist suspects who were eventually released, and have since given testimony to the various forms of tortures they endured, some of which make the stomach wretch just to read about them.
It can be seen as a sign of progress that the word waterboarding, along with enhanced interrogation and extraordinary rendition, have now made their way into the daily dialogue of mainstream media, granting the average American citizen permission to discuss these words without being branded a nut-job. But these words are only the tip of the proverbial iceberg that is the Bush-Cheney torture program. Beneath the surface are so many other words — much-spoken elsewhere in the world, but yet to emerge in the American vernacular: hoods, electrocutions, whips, mock executions, sexual humiliation, solitary confinement, sleep deprivation, dog terror, starvation, hypothermia, the rapes (both threatened and consummated), the electric prods, the “dog box,” the rubber bands on the penis designed to stop urination for days at a time, the hot metal rods, the threats to harm a prisoner’s wife or child (some allegedly carried out), the razor cuts and pepper spray on the genitals — not to mention the full menu of “sanctioned” tortures that have also been inflicted on the thousands of human beings — including uncounted scores of innocents — chained and shackled at the mercy of their torturers, whose explicit job description was to extract information through whatever means were necessary.
Beneath the surface, still, are the numbers of detainee children (ages from infancy onward) who have been imprisoned and held for the cruelest ransom: a full confession from their parents. Further, still, beneath the surface are the stinging insects and the deprivation of food and water – two tortures which have been repeatedly alleged as being used on these children. And we have yet to learn the extent and nature of those “gruesome” forms of torture, such as “crushing the testicles of a person’s child,” that were approved by the Bush Administration for use on detainee children. In this vein, it must be remembered that, along with Aafia Siddiqui disappeared her three children — ages 6 months, 4 years and 6 years in March 2003.
It would be another five years before Aafia Siddiqui would see the light of day.
HEADLINE: The Female Osama bin Laden is Captured!
Aafia Siddiqui ‘reappeared’ in the summer of 2008. She was promptly arrested, and — even as she was dubbed “the female Osama bin Laden,” with her capture deemed to be “the most significant break in U.S. intelligence in 5 years” — her story drew only small mention in the mainstream U.S. media before disappearing completely off the radar.
Given the seriousness of the accusations waged against her, it’s astonishing that few American have even heard her name, much less know her story. What’s even more astonishing is the utter absence of natural or professional curiosity by those U.S. media outlets that did cover her arrest in the summer of 2008. More astonishing, still, is the menu of accusations wages against her in the court of the U.S. media — in which she was essentially tried and convicted — and with much relish by one ABC anchor (seen in the video, below), as he recited the laundry list of allegations against Aafia Siddiqui, as if they were fact:
What has made her capture so important is what the FBI says it found in her handbag: maps of New York City and information on subways, Time Square, the Statue of Liberty, and the nearby Plum Island Animal Disease Center, run by the Federal government. Also discovered, according to court documents, information on explosives, chemical weapons, and other weapons involving biological material and radiological agents being researched by al Qaeda….”
Perhaps the most important discovery, says the FBI, is a computer thumb drive, packed with emails to what she called ‘her units’ — a possible roadmap to plots in the works…
Among the many plots authorities say she was connected to was a reported effort to assassinate former presidents Carter, Bush and Clinton using chemical or biological agents. While her friends and family say she is an innocent woman being persecuted by the U.S., when she was captured, she was discovered to have a large quantity of cyanide in her possession, perhaps prepared to take her life to avoid capture…..
She was also told by leaders “Have lots of babies. Raise little jihadists.” …. She was ideal to have more little jihadists.” ,
Those well-versed in the talking points of human rights’ abusers might have noticed, in the above news segment, the heavy-handed treatment given to Aafia’s children, as they were pre-emptively dehumanized. See, these are not real human children, folks. They are “little jihadists.” Don’t let their size fool you. Pint-sized Miriam (who, at six months of age, was likely just learning to sit up and could, perhaps, even say the word, “coo” and wave goodbye) was a full-fledged terrorist, in miniature. And don’t be swayed by the fact that her older siblings, Suleman and Ahmed (ages 4 and 6 years of age, respectively) were both American-born citizens. This was no doubt part of the global terrorist plot to infiltrate America and destroy our way of life.
With Aafia Siddiqui’s children thusly dehumanized, we Americans could go on with our lives (rent a flick, buy a new pair of stilettos, plan a trip to Vegas) with a clear conscience. No need to give a second thought to the fate of those three children — two of whom are still missing, with Miriam believed to have died in captivity.
The Story of Aafia Siddiqui
The most comprehensive and — by virtue of its source — the most compelling account on Aafia Siddiqui was given just last month, in April 2009, by her brother, at the Muslim Legal Fund of America’s annual fundraising dinner. The full text of his speech is given below (following the asterisks).
Beyond her brother’s account, we can add only what has been published, the links to which are also provided, below, in approx. chronological order. We hope that, whether or not you find the time to read her story, you will at least add your voice, in whatever way you can, to those who are demanding that President Obama fulfill the promises made by Candidate Obama.
Namely, his pledge for transparency; his pledge to restore the integrity of the U.S. Constitution; his pledge to respect international treaties and laws; his pledge to restore the values and ideals of this country; his pledge to reverse the Bush Administration’s abuse of executive power that allowed them to evade — for 8 years and counting — judicial scrutiny of their extraordinary rendition and torture programs. Add to this the growing demand that those who committed war crimes be prosecuted.
In the announcement of his executive order to close Guantanamo Bay, made only 2 days after his inauguration, Obama said: “This is following through not just on a commitment I made during the campaign but an understanding that dates back to our Founding Fathers, that we are willing to observe core standards of conduct — not just when it’s easy but also when it’s hard.” What Obama didn’t mention is that closing Guantanamo is not so hard. After all, we still have Bagram Prison, along with the scores of other secret prisons in a dozen or more countries around the globe — each notorious among former detainees for its signature mode of torture. So long as these secret prisons and secret prisoners remain our government’s dirty little state secret, closing Guantanamo is, in the big picture, little more than window dressing.
What Obama also failed to mention is that his executive order also preserved the CIA’s rendition program. Under Obama’s plan — which aspires to elevate “extraordinary rendition” to “ordinary rendition” — prisoners are no longer being sent to secret prisons in foreign countries but, rather, to “criminal justice systems” in foreign countries. And suspects will no longer be sent (sweet Lord no!) to countries that torture.
It’s deja vu all over again: “We do not render to countries that torture,” Bush insisted in 2005. “That has been our policy, and that policy will remain the same.”
What Obama did mention is this: He plans to continue, indefinitely, the Bush-Cheney policy of holding prisoners, indefinitely, without charges. The only difference is in the semantics. Exit the unpopular term, “enemy combatant,” and insert in its place the euphemism, “preventative detention,” — both words meaning the same thing: illegally imprisoning people, without charges, because they’re scary, or they’re inherently scary, or they might one day do something illegal. According to Human Rights Watch, at Guantanamo, alone, 60 of the 244 prisoners are still without charges and could have been released years ago, but for the fact they cannot be returned to their home countries. No, it is not our imagination: the long arm of Bush-Cheney law has, indeed, reached from the political graveyard, like some hideous corpse-hand, into the present.
Turns out, President Obama is not the tall drink of water we hoped for at the end of that long summer drought. He is, instead, just another candidate on Capitol Hill. And his arrival has accomplished little more than spinning the round-robin pageantry of lies to such a dizzying speed, that it’s difficult for even the most conscientious of Americans to focus on a single target. Where to direct our attention in this overwhelming arcade game of shape-shifting targets, being run by the slickest shysters to ever come down the pike? Should we focus on the economy? The dismantled U.S. Constitution? The illegal wars? Illegal detentions? Extraordinary rendition? Torture? Global warming? Health care? All of the above? Think fast, because it’s hard to take aim at a moving target.
Maybe some day someone in the mainstream U.S. media will take aim at the story of Aafia Siddiqui. Perhaps, if her story were told in the full light of day, it would be legitimized and could thereby be removed from the minions of so-called conspiracy theorists (like me) and the so-called terrorist appeasers (like Amnesty International, the Center for Constitutional Rights, Cageprisoners, the ACLU and Human Rights Watch, to name a few). Maybe, then, all the other stories could be told, too. Because the truth — which is not so foreign outside of the U.S. — is that Aafia Siddiqui is not the only one. (Here is another. And another. And another….)
The stories of these prisoners make clear that — no matter how much Obama and Cheney protest that these torture incidents are mere aberrations, committed by a small handful of “a few bad apples” — the U.S. torture program is, by design (and a clever one, at that) as elusive as it is systematic. And, even as there are many Americans who fully condone torture — saying yes, “Hell yes!” to torture — surely, surely no one would condone torturing a child, even if her mother were, indeed, guilty of the most heinous crimes.
Surely, the American soul has not succumbed to such putrid rot. Or has it? Those of us who voted with our consciences this past fall (even as our audacity for hope was nearly strained to the breaking point) are waiting, with bated breath, for the answer to the question, which is now in Obama’s hands.
* * * * *
THE TEXT OF THE SPEECH GIVEN BY AAFIA SIDDIQUI’S BROTHER ON APRIL 25, 2009
Thank you for the opportunity to share with you information about my little sister, Aafia Siddiqui’s case. I especially want to commend you for your courage and support in that you are here tonight.
I have been given the difficult task of presenting a short briefing regarding the facts surrounding Aafia’s case.
However, a brief explanation will not allow me delve into all the angles involved in the case so I will try to focus on the core points from my perspective.
So much has been claimed about my sister. So many labels have been applied to Aafia that unfortunately her humanity has been lost. In order to put the case in context, I will have to digress slightly, and perhaps the best place to start is the beginning – the beginning for me was our upbringing.
Aafia was the youngest child in our small family of three. She was always an accomplished student, who treasured education and it was this pursuit of education that lead her to the U.S. at a young age. When she came here, she lived with me before getting her scholarship to MIT. During this time, my little sister devoted herself to her studies and Muslim student activities. She always had a soft spot for helping people and dawah work.
Aafia also had a passion for children, which sounds nice to say; however, proof was in the fact that she dedicated her education at MIT and Brandeis towards the developing of creative and easy techniques for teaching children. Her own dream was to start a school where her techniques could be put into practice. And when she had children of her own, she was totally devoted to them.
Here is one of the many cruel ironies of Aafia’s life in that someone who dedicated her life to children would end up losing her own.
It was just over 6 years ago that my family’s nightmare began.
In March 2003, my little sister and her three small children all disappeared from Karachi.
It was Aafia, her oldest, Ahmad, who was 6 at the time, Maryum who was 4 and Suleman, who was only 6 months.
After many attempts by my family to find out what happened, we heard reports from both the Pakistani & U.S. press that Aafia had been picked up by security officials and handed over to the U.S. for questioning.
Then nothing… Silence. We could get no official word.
As we started to raise questions, my family was “advised” to stay quiet and told we would be left alone…
I am sure you all remember the atmosphere of the time. There was a tremendous climate of fear… and many reports of people just disappearing, especially overseas. Over time, we made discreet inquiries but as hope began to fade we resigned ourselves to the belief that she and her children were probably dead. My mother would search burial sites as not a single day went by that we forgot her but we kept our pain private as we struggled to move on.
Meanwhile, my sister Aafia, the human being, the mother of three was lost in her own abduction. Her story made her fair game. She was transformed into a flash point, a talking point for all sorts of allegations and speculations in the press, while legends evolved around her from parties with their own interests and agendas.
While we were silently grieving, many human rights groups added Aafia’s name to the growing list of missing persons. It seems Aafia’s was not an isolated case. There were hundreds…
Some of you may recall the time when the issue of missing persons became a hot button in Pakistan. It was during this time, when the Chief Justice started asking about the missing persons, that he was sacked.
In early 2008, Moazzem Beg, a former detainee at Gitmo identified Aafia among the women prisoners at Bagram. By early July, a prominent Pakistani politician, Imran Khan and British reporters released reports about Aafia being a detainee in one of the secret prisons.
Then suddenly, in late July 2008, we learned directly from the FBI that Aafia had been shot in Afghanistan and was being brought to the US on charges of attempting to shoot U.S. servicemen.
We were in total shock – on the one hand my family was overjoyed to learn that Aafia was alive… yet at the same time she faced such extraordinary charges and allegations that we feared for her future.
In an instant, we experienced simultaneous joy and horror; hope and despair, a miracle and an extraordinary test.
And the children – Only one of her children is accounted for. The others, to this day are still missing.
I have often wondered what it must have been like for her and I cannot imagine … just imagine what you would do if somebody took your children? Or, rather what would you not do?
It is important that you understand this, because unless you grasp this, you will not grasp the enormity of this case and what it represents. Why Aafia is where she is and how she acts. Why so many feel for her and why others may feel threatened by her case.
Officially she is charged with the attempted murder of U.S. soldiers. She has categorically denied these charges. Several journalists, including one of the first foreign journalists from Reuters who visited the scene and interviewed eye witnesses have disputed the official version, echoing Aafia’s account.
The charges are hard for me to understand because my little sister loved this country (The U.S.), where she earned an outstanding education. She disliked violence and respected the American work ethic and the value placed on merit and self achievement. Her own life exemplified this. She completed her education at MIT by working campus jobs and earning scholarships. She balanced her religious faith with a desire to forge a modern education. – And here is another one of those cruel ironies – as that very education is being used to vilify her.
Currently, the court proceedings are lingering. This adds to all the confusion and hype surrounding the case, not to mention challenging her physical and mental well being and even the ability to build a proper defense.
Then, there is the atmosphere of fear that we still live in today as those who would rise up and speak boldly are few and far between. I hear many private testimonials from people who knew her and still speak highly favorably about her but most fear speaking out publicly.
Aafia has alleged that she was held captive for over 5 years. The government’s response was to initially send Aafia for a mental evaluation and their own doctors determined she was incompetent to stand trial and may have post traumatic stress disorder.
The prosecution, not liking this, decided to get outside experts to overrule the findings (their own original findings) and currently the original doctors are revising their findings so she can stand trial.
Meanwhile, so much time has passed and Aafia continues to linger in prison. But despite all these challenges, she remains spiritually strong and her faith is undiminished although I do find myself questioning my own at times.
Aafia does have court appointed lawyers. But we learned over the past few months that court appointed lawyers have severe restrictions. For example, in 9 months not one defense lawyer has visited the scene of the crime nor interviewed a single witness or even made a motion for bail.
Court appointed lawyers are paid low fees, and even then, the lawyers constantly struggle get funds pre-approved from the judge. In this system, the other side knows everything you are doing.
Appointed lawyers do not even have to have expertise or experience in the area of charges relevant to the case of Aafia.
So, how can Aafia build a trusting and confidential relationship without a lawyer of her own choosing?
The case is complex and requires independent investigation and a team of capable and experienced lawyers.
This is why are teaming up with MLFA. They have experience in getting a solid legal team in place and are set up to do proper fund raising and accounting for cases like this. They have access to the best legal minds and experts and the ability to negotiate the best fees.
I never thought anything like this could ever happen to my family… I mean this is, or this was, something that only happens to other people…. We were professionals going about our daily lives and yet, here I stand before you after 6 years, 6 long and painful years that have taken a very heavy toll on all our lives, the lives of our children and on our community.
But I stand here because I want to thank you for your courage, your support and your prayers. In spite of, or perhaps because of all the contradicting reports, you are here tonight. Help us help Aafia.
I believe that perhaps the most striking duality about my little sister’s case is that while justice has eluded her, perhaps she can help establish justice for others.”
* * * * *