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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.

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.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Pakistan Sells its Mothers for Money [Where is Dr. Afia - Part I]

May it be economic situation, political dilemmas or the sad reality of a hegemonic world, there are countries surrendering their innocent citizens to the global power so they could win favors in return. Caught in between these power-based bargains are families of men and women, and in this case even three young children.


Dr. Afia has been ‘lost‘ for five years from the face of earth as far as her family, friends, sympathisers and the general public is concerned. In the last month, after hundreds and thousands of people protesting across the globe, and human rights organizations taking up the cause there are some talks about the mother who was kidnapped by FBI and Pakistani Intelligence along with her three children. 


Dr. Afia Siddiqui, an MIT grad with a PhD in neurology, decided to return to Pakistan with her children in 2002 after living in the United States for over a decade.   Her uncle in a letter that recently appeared in reputable Pakistani newspaper “Dawn” recollects “Having failed to get a suitable job, she again visited the U.S. on a valid visa in February 2003 to search for a job and to submit an application to the U.S.

immigration authorities. She moved there freely and came back to Karachi by the end of February 2003 after renting a post office box in her name in Maryland for the receipt of her mail.”


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 aged between three and a half months and seven years.   The FBI, on the other hand, has been claiming since Dr. Afia’s story has made surface that the post box was hired for an alleged Al-Qaeda member named Majid Khan (Newsweek International, June 23, 2003). In the same Newsweek article, authored by eight journalists, it is said that Dr. Afia Siddiqui is arrested. Despite this mini research paper published in Newsweek, the Interior Ministry in Pakistan at the time claimed that Dr. Afia Siddiqui had not been arrested.  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.


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.” They have 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, in his book called the Enemy Combatant mentions a certain Prisoner 650.  She happens to be the only female prisoner in Bagram, one of the most traumatic jails next to Guantanamo for the prisoners of “War on Terror.” Other prisoners from Guantanamo, who had been through Bagram, admit to hearing the screams of the same woman. One even claimed to seeing her.


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,” Ms Ridley said at a press conference.

The Grey Lady has lost her mental state of mind. She is 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).


It is indeed a pitiful moment for Pakistanis, human rights activists, sympathizers of humanity across the world - An intelligent young woman, a mother of three absolutely innocent children losing her sanity by the hand of barbaric torture. What is more pitiful is the relative silence still – the Western world and media dominated by the likes, reveals little of the sad story. Whether she is an innocent mother of three or the most dangerous terrorist threatening world security, Dr. Afia does not deserve the kind of imprisonment she is going through. It is clear that the responsibility of her condition lies solely on the FBI and the Pakistani Agencies handing her over to FBI with her children. What is also clearer is that today’s world can only be improved with the power of the public’s voices combined. With nothing clear on the charges behind her, her illegal detention, the family and public being unaware of her conditions for five years, and the torture this Prisoner 650 is going through being caught incommunicado in a jail for men, the little she deserves is our voices calling for justice.  

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