Aafia Siddiqui (al Jazeera Article)

by Benazir Shah | 16 Jul 2015

Born in Karachi, Pakistan, Aafia Siddiqui moved to the United States for school in 1990 and left for Pakistan in 2003, after attending the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and marrying a Pakistani man in Boston.

Shortly after returning to Pakistan, Siddiqui disappeared while en route to Islamabad with her three children – her family members say they believe she was abducted by the Pakistani intelligence agencies.

Little is known about what happened to her until she surfaced five years later in Ghazni, Afghanistan, when Afghan police arrested her  on suspicions of being a suicide bomber.

As FBI agents and US military personnel arrived to interrogate her, they said she gained control of a rifle belonging to one of the army officers. In the struggle that ensued, the service member fired on Siddiqui , hitting her at least once in the torso.

For the next few days, Siddiqui underwent surgery, after which she was transferred to a prison in the United States – where she has been ever since.

A family ‘mystified’

The last that was heard from the 43-year-old came in July 2014, when, in a surprising turn of events, Siddiqui withdrew what would likely have been the final appeal against her conviction.

In the letter she wrote to Judge Richard Berman, she stated that she had no faith in the American legal system and that she refused “to participate in this system of total injustice that has punished and tortured me repeatedly”.

Her family and lawyers fear the worst.

“Letters have not gotten through,” said Stephen Downs , her new defence attorney, who took over from Tina M Foster in January.

“Her family is mystified as to what is happening. There is a concern that she may not be alive,” Downs told Al Jazeera.

The alleged jihadi has a pattern of looking askance at her legal team, which is paid for by the Pakistani government. Ever since her trial began, Siddiqui has gone through a number of lawyers, leery of some due to their Jewish ancestry.

Siddiqui’s sister, Fowzia, a Harvard-trained neurologist now living in Karachi, has been relentlessly heading a campaign seeking her sister’s release, but she said she is now losing hope.

Fowzia spoke to her younger sibling over the phone for the last time in April 2014.

“Then Aafia had agreed to the appeal,” said Fowzia.

“I remember her telling us that she would never refuse any chance to talk to her family or anyone who could help her. She said we have no idea what goes on at that prison. The doctors are wolves disguised as sheep,” Fowzia said.

Further unnerving the family were reports from two consular visits that the Pakistani embassy made to the prison this year.

On both occasions, a woman enveloped in a burqa sat with her back to the embassy officers. She refused to show her face and did not utter a word, making it difficult for the embassy officials to say they had definitely met Siddiqui.

“We are being presented with a person who is represented to be her, but we don’t know if that really is the case. Maybe it is not her we are seeing,” suggested Downs.

‘I have met Siddiqui recently’

But US officials dispelled any suspicions of Siddiqui dying in American custody.

“I can confirm that Aafia Siddiqui is still alive,” was the single-sentence email that Patrick Rodenbush, a Justice Department spokesman, sent on July 6, 2015 in response to Al Jazeera’s queries about Siddiqui. Rodenbush divulged no additional details.

Authorities at the Federal Medical Centre, Carswell in Texas, where Siddiqui has been held since 2010, contend that the inmate is free to make her own choices.

“I have met Siddiqui recently,” Patricia Comstock, the public information officer, told Al Jazeera.

“She has the capability to refuse or accept a correspondence, if she wants to. That is all we can disclose about her,” Comstock stated.

Yet, it is still unclear why Siddiqui is unreachable.

Early in the trial process in November 2008, a court psychiatrist said she was hallucinating and unfit to stand trial – a determination the psychiatrist later retracted.

“Aafia has now essentially been in solitary confinement for the last 12 years, and tortured for part of that time. And we know that this kind of confinement and torture can do a lot of things to the human mind,” said Downs.

Siddiqui’s children, who are now   17 and 19 years old, and living with their aunt in Karachi, have never travelled to the US to visit their mother.

The Afghan government handed over Ahmed, Siddiqui’s son, to her sister in Karachi in 2010. The same year, Siddiqui’s daughter, Maryam, mysteriously appeared outside the family home.

Siddiqui’s third child, Suleiman, who was six months old at the time of her disappearance, is still missing and presumed dead.

Prisoner exchange?

Siddiqui is a high-profile prisoner whose detention has been a divisive issue.

Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani has called her the “daughter of the nation”, requesting her release.

Her name has also repeatedly popped up as a bargaining chip. Armed groups including the Afghan Taliban, al-Qaeda, and the Islamic State have requested her release in exchange for American captives in their custody.

According to 2012 media reports, there have been talks between Pakistani authorities and the United States to swap her for Shakil Afridi , the Pakistani doctor who helped the CIA track down Osama bin Laden, and who is currently serving a 23-year prison sentence.

There are several reasons why the prisoner exchange never materialised. First, the recently drafted extradition treaty between Pakistan and the United States is still awaiting approval from Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

Second, Pakistan may not be very keen on giving up Afridi, who is viewed as a scapegoat for the Pakistani military’s ignorance of the US raid on bin Laden’s compound.

In 2012, Pakistan’s then-intelligence chief,  Lt-Gen Zaheerul Islam, categorically denied media reports of a possible deal, adding: “Afridi will never be bartered for Dr Aafia Siddiqui.”

US authorities insist that Siddiqui is an al-Qaeda sympathiser, based on evidence that her family and lawyers dispute.

She was said to have been in possession of documents describing how to make explosives and chemical weapons at the time of her arrest. It has also been reported that she married Ammar al-Baluchi, the nephew of al-Qaeda mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, after her divorce in Pakistan.

But her defence team, as well as Siddiqui’s sister, deny the nuptials ever took place and argue that there is a lack of scientific and forensic evidence linking her to the documents and the shooting.

Although all legal proceedings are closed for now, Siddiqui’s new team of lawyers is hoping to bring new evidence by the end of this year and have  the case reopened – they declined to go into further detail.

[From al Jazeera, by Benazir Shah | 16 Jul 2015]

Special Forum on Imam Jamil Al-Amin

DHUL HIJJAH 1437 A.H.
(September 15, 2016)

 Special Forum on Imam Jamil Al-Amin

 @

 Prince Georges Muslim Association (PGMA)

9150 Lanham Severn Rd.

Lanham, MD. 20706

 

Friday, September 16, 2016

Immediately Following the Evening Prayer @ 7:30 PM

 

Co-sponsors

The Aafia Foundation

Prince Georges County People’s Coalition 

Jericho 

 

For Information:

(301) 441-2300 or (202) 246-9608

E-mail: peacethrujustice@aol.com

For background on the case and the “National Day of Action”

www.imamjamilactionnetwork.com


Panelists for PGMA Forum

Zarinah Shakir

Zarinah Shakir was born in Trenton, New Jersey. She is the Producer/Host of the award-winning Perspectives of Interfaith, a television program taped and aired at the Arlington Independent Media studios in Arlington, VA, for over twelve years.   It now airs at DCTV, Washington, DC and in other markets as well. 

She is the former Producer/Host of Islamic Perspectives, a television program that was the longest running program about Islam and Muslims in the Washington, DC metro area for over fifteen years.  She contributed six years on the Local Station Board (LSB) and two years as the Chair of WPFW (89.3FM) in Washington, DC, a sister station of the Pacifica National Network.  She also served as a national, elected board member for three years. 

 As the radio producer/host of “The Struggle Continues,” a one-hour radio program (Pacifica Network) started by the late Brother Hodari Abdul-Ali, she focused on a myriad of topics relevant to diverse communities.  She actively participates in a variety of community-based events – i.e. civic, religious, academic, and, on occasion, as a motivational and inspirational speaker – while continuing to produce and host radio and television programs.

 As a teenager at Trenton Central High School in Trenton, New Jersey, her aspirations were to be a performing artist and an international diplomat.  She was trained as a classical musician in voice and several instruments.  After moving to California at the age of twenty-one she fulfilled a childhood dream, when she enrolled at San Francisco State University and completed her BA in Broadcast Communication Arts, and eventually her Masters Course work in Creative Arts Interdisciplinary, with an emphasis on Marketing and Public Relations and a minor in African-American Studies.   Years later, she received a certificate from Yale University for a summer program on “The Teaching of Africa.” 

 In keeping with her commitment to continuous education, she applied and was accepted to an American Muslim Women’s Leadership Training program in the United Arab Emirates for five weeks in 2008-2009.   She completed the Hartford Theological Seminary, Women’s Leadership Institute in Hartford, CT.  A nine month program designed to instruct, empower and support women on their spiritual journeys, which ran from September 2009 to May 2010; she received a certificate in Applied Spirituality for that program.   

 Zarinah Shakir completed a full week program at Georgetown University for Christian-Muslim Relations (2009), a seven week program (2010) at Wesley Seminary, WDC,  an eight-day  Interfaith Intensive program with 27 other Christians, Jews and Muslims at Hartford Seminary (2010).   In 2012, she completed the KARAMAH (Muslim Women Lawyers for Human Rights) three intensive (LLSP) Law and Leadership Summer Program.   Most recently she traveled to Granada, Spain, where she attended Islamic classes instructed by several international scholars, and during her travel, she landed in Moscow, Russia, where she had an opportunity to visit mosques and other religious edifices.  Ms. Shakir was recently accepted to the Hartford Seminary 2016 Graduate program for Imam/Muslim Community Leadership. 

 Shakir was an elected board member, and frequent moderator and facilitator, with the Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington (IFC); she also served as a consultant and facilitator for Unity Productions Foundation (UPF). She completed her first documentary in 2011 and Part Two in 2013 titled, “African-American Pioneer Muslimahs in Washington, DC” – with grants received from the Humanities Council of Washington, DC, the Islamic Society of Northern Wisconsin and Unity Productions Foundation.

 Zarinah Shakir has held many positions both within and outside of her principle fields of endeavor. She has been an educator:  teaching middle and high school Language Arts, Social Studies, Music and Culinary Arts.  She is an avid traveler, loves reading, arts and culture, interfaith programs; and she especially loves her deen (religion) of Al-Islam, her son and grandson, Taalib-Din and Justen, respectively.  Her biggest concerns are women’s rights, children, child neglect and abuse, and the global, humanitarian challenges to peace and the environment. 


Jonathan W. Hutto, Sr.

 Jonathan W. Hutto, Sr. was born in southwest Atlanta, Georgia, April 19, 1977.  His parents were born in the apartheid south and were deeply affected by the social changes taking place due to the Civil Rights and Anti-War Movements.  His mother shared vivid stories of growing up in the south, and of classmates who were drafted for Vietnam and never returned, or returned home disabled. 

Hutto entered Howard University in the fall of 1995,  and was immediately impacted by the milieu of the campus. He became involved in the student mobilization for the Million Man March and was selected Volunteer Coordinator for the Howard University Student Association (HUSA) in his sophomore year.  He was elected President of HUSA for 1997-98.

Hutto experienced three deeply impacting experiences while at Howard. He represented the student body at the World Youth Festival in Havana, Cuba, in the summer of 1997.  Second was the mobilization of 100 plus Howard students to march in solidarity with district residents in their fight for statehood and full empowerment.  Last, but certainly not least, was when he hosted Kwame Ture (formerly Stokely Carmichael) at Rankin Chapel, February 1998, for what became his last fireside chat from “the Mecca.”  That same semester he was elected by his undergraduate peers to serve their interest on the Board of Trustees, as the Undergraduate Trustee for 1998-99.

The highlight of his trustee tenure was winning passage from the Board to award honorary degrees to Kwame Ture of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and James Farmer of the Congress for Racial Equality (CORE). For Kwame, the award came posthumously as he passed away in November of 1998.  For James Farmer, it was his last honorary degree as he passed away in August of 1999.

Upon graduating from Howard, Hutto was selected as Community Outreach Director by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of the National Capital Area (NCA) in the fall of 1999.  His primary job was public education on a newly reformed Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) on police misconduct. He also helped to establish a task force in Prince Georges County Maryland to reform their Civilian Complaint Oversight Panel (CCOP), charged with investigating complaints of police misconduct.

He accepted a position as Membership Program Coordinator for Amnesty International’s (AI) Mid-Atlantic Regional Office in the spring of 2000.  His job entailed servicing and supporting over 250 plus high school and college chapters of Amnesty throughout the Mid-Atlantic region; he also served as a spokesperson on a host of human rights issues, including torture and death penalty abolition. He also helped to facilitate Amnesty’s entry into the human rights arena in the state of Maryland by joining forces with the People’s Coalition in Prince Georges County to help eradicate a culture of violence within the police department. In the summer of 2002, we hosted three landmark hearings with the United States Justice Department to interview survivors of police brutality.

In January 2004 Hutto enlisted in the United States Navy, and immediately confronted a culture of ingrained racism and xenophobia.   In the fall of 2006, he began a campaign with active duty service members to call attention to the Iraq War.  Using the military Whistleblower Protection Act, they mobilized over 2000 service members, through the Appeal for Redress campaign, to send a protected communication to their member of Congress to end the war and send the troops home.  In October 2007, they accepted the Letelier Moffit Human Rights Award from the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) for that work. Hutto published a book, through Nation Books, on the Appeal for Redress campaign titled “Anti-War Soldier.”  Hutto was honorably discharged from the Navy on August 16, 2011.

Today, Jonathan Hutto is a 4th year doctoral student in Political Science at Howard University.  He continues to coordinate the Prince Georges County People’s Coalition in Maryland and serves as an organizer for the Partnership for Renewal in Southern and Central Maryland (PRISCM).  He also serves as the National Field Director for Veterans Challenge Islamophobia (VCI) for Veterans for Peace (VFP).


El-Hajj Mauri’ Saalakhan

El-Hajj Mauri’ Saalakhan is a Metropolitan Washington, DC-based human rights advocate; author, lecturer and poet. His work has taken him across America into Africa, Europe, the Indian subcontinent, and the Middle East.

He was a founder of the Coalition Against Political Imprisonment, and a founder of the National Association for Police Accountability (both of which were ad-hoc coalition organizations). In 1995, he also founded a grass-roots human rights movement that became known as The Peace Thru Justice Foundation. He currently serves as the founding president and executive director for The Aafia Foundation, Inc.

Saalakhan is the author of several books: The Teacher, a work of Islamically-based poetry and commentary on a myriad of social and political issues (publ. 1983); Sacrilege In the Haramain, an eyewitness account of the tragedy that occurred in Makkah, Arabia, on the 6 Dhul-Hijjah 1407 A.H. (July 31, 1987); Why Our Children Are Killing Themselves, an examination of the root causes behind the crises facing children, youth and families in America (publ. 1990 & 92); and Criminal Justice in America (publ. 1992), an examination of the U.S. Criminal Justice System and its impact on the African American community.

Among his other works are September 11th: The Truth, Will It Ever Be Known (publ. 2001); The Case of Imam Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin: Is It A Government Conspiracy? (publ. 2002); Iraq: The Question of American Values (publ. 2002); The Message of Rachel Corrie (publ. 2003); The State of the Union 2003: Don’t Say You Didn’t know!; Target Sudan: What’s Really Behind The Crisis in Darfur (publ. 2004); Islam & Terrorism: Myth vs. Reality (publ. 2004 & 2007); The Palestinians’ Holocaust: American Perspectives (publ. 2008); and Tragedy at the Boston Marathon (publ. 2013).

Under Saalakhan’s leadership, The Peace Thru Justice Foundation and Families United For Justice in America are also the publishers of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui: Other Voices (publ. 2012).

Saalakhan is a critically-acclaimed poet, and was selected as “An Outstanding Young Man of America” in 1986.  In 1995, he was the recipient of the “Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Award” from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), and a “Maryland State Senate Resolution”that same year – for his human rights work in and outside the State of Maryland.

In 1999, El-Hajj Mauri Saalakhan served as a consultant for Amnesty International’s year-long focus on human rights abuses in the United States of America.

———————————–

“Each generation must, out of relative obscurity, discover its mission; fulfill it, or betray it.” —  Frantz Fanon