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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Aafiya's Pain is Our Shame

By Yvonne Ridley

Dr Aafiya Siddiqui cut a lone figure as she slowly turned her head around to survey the packed courtroom in New York a few days ago.

With her sad brown eyes, she peered beyond her off-white veil and olive green jilbaab which covered her frail body.

May be she was looking for a friendly face, but with the exception of one kind individual, she was to find herself completely alone - and not for the first time.

The brutal truth is we Muslims - and I include myself in this - have once again abandoned her in her hour of need.

With the exception of her closest family, Aafiya was almost completely forgotten as the years rolled by following her kidnap and disappearance from Karachi in Pakistan in March 2003.

Her cries for help from the dungeons of Bagram, home to some of the most unimaginable cruelty, were ignored by her American tormentors.

But the harrowing images and piercing screams of Aafiya, were eventually recounted by those who survived the Bagram experience.

Aafiya was brought back into our conscious by ex-Guantanamo detainee Moazzam Begg. Through his book Enemy Combatant and from the graphic accounts of other Bagram survivors who also heard her screams and by the few who saw her there we now know the mother-of-three was brutalised and tortured in Bagram.

One account comes from ex-Guantanamo and Bagram detainee Binyam Mohammed who has given me an irrefutable eye witness statement confirming Aafiya was held in Bagram.

We now know thanks to Binyam and other once lost souls, that Dr Aafiya Siddiqui is Prisoner 650, The Grey Lady of Bagram.

And as we edged closer to the truth about her detention Aafiya suddenly reappeared in Afghanistan where she was shot by US soldiers. The FBI concocted a story which fools no one but the US judiciary.

Despite the platforms we have shouted from, the letters we have written and the petitions we have signed, she is still in the hands of her tormentors.

And those Americans who are clearly responsible for her kidnap, torture, detention and shooting are hoping that we Muslims will eventually run out of energy and lose interest in the plight of Aafiya once more. And shamefully, they’ve just about got their wish.

As Aafiya interrupted court proceedings to firmly reject government allegations that she tried to kill American soldiers and FBI agents in Afghanistan, very few listened.

“I did not shoot anybody, and I did not fire at any body,” Dr Siddiqui, 37, told the District Court, which was holding the hearing to determine whether she is competent to stand trial.

Government psychiatrists claim she is faking symptoms of mental illness in the hope of avoiding a criminal trial set for in October.

But for this one account below, Aafiya’s court appearance would have gone unrecorded.

I want you to read his words, and be thankful there is still someone around who will stand up and defend his sister.

“Today, when Sister Aafiya came and sat covered in her off-white veil and a olive green jilbaab that covered her whole body except for her eyes, she turned back to see a court room filled with non-Muslims and only one Muslim. She glanced once past me and returned for a second look. Perhaps I was the only face she felt was not in there to harm her. That is how she feels towards everyone else including her own defense attorneys.

“As the proceedings went on, she broke her silence as well as the court rules and spoke in her own defense saying she never shot anybody, nor is she against America. America has been framed in a war because of a misunderstanding. She has knowledge of those who caused it and this knowledge she has is the reason that all this has happened to her, because they don't want anyone to believe what she has to say about them."

“She also complained about physical harm as recent as THIS MORNING in the form of ‘forced gynecological exams ordered by the court’ that left her ‘aching all over.

“Today's hearing was in order to determine whether she is fit to stand trial or not. While both sides argued back and forth, Dr. Aafiya broke in from time to time to correct misleading statements from the witnesses saying ‘I want the world to know this’ after she corrected the false information.

“One such outburst from her resulted in the judge being forced to break for 5 minutes so the defense is able to calm her down. When she came back, she said ‘this court is the worst court ever’. At one time she told the judge that she wanted to relieve her attorneys but the judge didn't take her seriously and asked the attorney speaking at the time to continue speaking.

“It's funny that the hearing is to determine whether Dr. Aafiya Siddiqui truly understands and comprehends what she says, but when she said I want to relieve my attorney now, the judge reacted as if she doesn't understand what she is saying and is psychotic. If that is the case then why not approve the defense's motion that she is in fact psychotic and as a result the case should be dismissed and she should be given medical help?

“We have 56 or so Muslim countries in the world but one Aafiya Siddiqui who has 5 years of her life declared "missing" sat in her chair surrounded by non-Muslims, sympathetic and non sympathetic HELPLESS.

“No one from the Muslim leaders is able to pick up the phone and give a stern notice along the lines of ‘hands-off Afia Siddiqui’. Perhaps this is because many of them are oppressors and crooks themselves, and if they say something, Americans will put them in their lowly place by reminding them of what the leaders themselves have done.

“It truly saddens my heart to see the helplessness of the Muslims that such an egregious thing is happening but no one who has power can take a stand against it.

(Muslims in America pave the power to do something about this; the only question is, will we? Time will tell. - MS).”

I really don’t know who is MS, but I am eternally grateful to the brother for being there for Aafiya, for standing by her while we have failed her so badly.

It is vitally important our dear sister knows that there are Muslims out there who do care for her and I would urge each and every one of you to write to her.

Avoid sending anything too detailed or political, just a little note or card to let her know we are standing by her.

And to those Muslim brothers and sisters in New York, I beg you please do all that you can for Aafiya.

New York is home to 1 million Muslims and more than 100 masjids. This is the city where Tableeghi Jamaat has strong footings, where Salafis and Sufis are active. This is the city where Shias have their huge centers and where Pakistani Americans have a population of more than 300,000.

Despite this only one brother showed up in court. Indeed the shame is on all of us. But it is not too late. Please, if you do nothing else today, do this ... send the sister a note, a card a letter and tell her she is not alone, that we will not abandon her, and that you love her for the sake of Allah Ta’ala for she is our sister in Islam.

Send your mail to:
P.O. BOX 329002

For the full story of Dr Aafiya Siddiqui