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Welcome to Chowraha - crossroads!

Chowraha is the crossroads of thoughts, events, opinions and feelings...all that have been shaped by individuals living in an increasingly complex world inter-connected through various means of communications.

This blog is about the crossroads in society - whether it is those of a diaspora community, global media complicating the structure of nations and cultures, or individuals finding parallels in spaces unknown to them.

Note:
The above picture is courtesy a much-admired photographer (Ali Khurshid) whose work is a source of inspiration and reaffirms the belief in the complex beauty of this world.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Developments in the case of Dr. Afia [Dr. Afia - Part II]

Various news clippings, blogs, alerts from human rights organizations around the world are speaking of a woman illegally abducted along with her three young children by American and Pakistani Intelligence and now facing trial in the United States. How did she reach this stage where there seems to be a ray of hope for her tragedy? Purely thanks to the voices that rose around the world asking where and how Dr. Afia was. Not only do we now know where Dr. Afia is but also recently the US officials have admitted to detaining one of her children in their custody. Unfortunately, even now, it is unclear where the other children are. 

 Dr. Afia was ‘lost‘for almost five years from the face of earth as far as her family, friends, sympathisers and the general public was concerned. An MIT grad with a PhD in neurology, she returned in Feb 2003 to Pakistan, with her children aged between three and a half months and 7 years,  after residing in the United States for almost 10 years. At this point the United States had begun declaring her as a terrorist based on the claim that that the post box was hired for an alleged Al-Qaeda member named Majid Khan (Newsweek International, June 23, 2003). Her family denies these claims saying that the post box was co that she could receive her job inquiries and letters, since she was looking for a suitable job.

In March 2003, on her way to the airport in order to fly to Rawalpindi from Karachi, she was kidnapped by intelligence along with her children. The Pakistani government immediately denied her arrest .  The FBI, on the other hand, claims In the same Newsweek article, authored by eight journalists, that Dr. Afia Siddiqui was arrested. In a letter published in Dawn Newspaper, April 2003, there are claims by the victim’s family, that unidentifiable men visited their home during the same time warning them against speaking up about their daughter who was safe in their custody.

Since the Newsweek International article, there has been quiet on her subject and denial by both American and Pakistani officials. Her name only resurfaced in early July when the US authorities indicted her in New York based on charges that she had “attempted” killing US officials. They deny having any thing to do with her disappearance for 5 years and claim to have arrested her on July 17th 2008.

As Pakistan celebrated its independence this August, Dr. Afia Siddiqui and her three children could only wish for the word “freedom.” The silence on her story has been shattered successfully only to reveal bitter truths about the case. FBI has indeed accepted arresting Dr. Afia announcing only as little as “Dr. Afia Siddiqui is alive, she is in Afghanistan but she is injured.” Dr. Afia’s sister and brother were visited in the United States to be told of their sister’s whereabouts. At this point, they had absolutely nothing to say about her children, the eldest being 12 year old now, who were unlawfully abducted with their mother.

 

Moazzam Beg, a Guantanamo released-prisoner from Great Britain, was amongst the first to speak about supposed Dr. Afia in his book called the Enemy Combatant. He mentions her as a certain Prisoner 650.  She happened to be the only female prisoner in Bagram (located in Afghanistan), one of the most traumatic jails next to Guantanamo for the prisoners of “War on Terror.” In the same book, other prisoners from Guantanamo, who had been through Bagram, have admitted to hearing the screams of the same woman.

Yvonne Ridley, a British journalist who was kidnapped by the Taliban and later turned to Islam after her  release, believes that Prisoner 650 may be Dr. Afia Siddiqui. She calls her the Grey Lady.  In a press conference on July 6, 2008 Ridley, said “I call her the ‘grey lady’ because she is almost a ghost, a spectre whose cries and screams continues to haunt those who heard her,” While in Bagram, Dr. Afia was being made to share the same cell as her male counterparts, having been constantly inducted to mental torture of having to use the toilet in public, perhaps even being raped by the soldiers (according to several articles written on her abduction).

 

This last month has made more headway than the last five years in the case of Dr. Afia and her children. She now faces trial in New York. Human rights activists, sympathizers, concerned public at large has been rallying for her cause in the United States, in UK and of course in Pakistan. Pakistanis around the world have been voicing their concern for her fair trial and for her children’s release.  Dr. Fawzia Siddiqui, sister of Dr. Afia, has been making public speeches in the United States reaffirming that her sister was innocent and illegally abducted. She announced to having received a letter “from the office of US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Michael J Gracia late Friday in which he acknowledged of having in custody Aafia Siddiqui’s eldest son, Ahmed, who will turn 12 years old in November.” { http://www.freshnews.in/us-admits-holding-teenage-son-of-pakistani-scientist-58060}

Ahmed’s disclosure is better than not hearing any thing about all three children. Afia’s family is hopeful that this is a positive sign in the development of her case. The least that Dr. Afia., her children, her family and the story of such prisoners in Afghanistan and Guantanamo expect is public anger and call for justice. The only hope, after all, lies in this too. 

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