Born in Karachi, Pakistan, on March 2, 1972, Aafia was one of three children of Mohammad Siddiqui, a doctor trained in England, and Ismet, a homemaker. She moved to Houston on a student visa in 1990. She attended the University of Houston for three semesters, and then transferred to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology after being awarded a full scholarship.
Without going into the detail of her academic achievements I would like to address the dark the side of the picture. According to Aafia’s mother, Aafia left their home in Gulshan-e-Iqbal in a Metro-cab on 28 March, 2003 to catch a flight to Rawalpindi, but never reached the airport. When the family came out of their home, fifteen to twenty people, were waiting in three to four vehicles on the next street and subsequently kidnapped them. Aafia was placed into one car and the children into another.
Pakistani local papers mentioned reports the following day that a woman had been taken into custody of terrorism charges and confirmation came from a Pakistan Interior Ministry spokesman. The media reported that Aafia Siddiqui had been ‘picked up in Karachi by an intelligence agency’ and ‘shifted to an unknown place for questioning’. A year later, the press quoted a Pakistani government spokesman who said that she had been handed over to US authorities in 2003. No human rights activists dared to question the authorities of this illegal transfer of Aafia Siddiqui to US.
Aafia Siddiqui was accused of being a ‘courier of blood diamonds and a financial fixer for al-Qaida’. Wall Street Journal broke the story linking the woman involved in the 2001 diamond trade in Liberia (a story detailed by Douglas Farah, a senior fellow at the National Strategy Information Center, in his book Blood from Stones: The Secret Financial Network of Terror) to Aafia Siddiqui. According to family’s attorney, Elaine Whitfield Sharp that she was not brokering diamond deals for Al Qaeda with murderous brutes from the killing fields of Africa, but hosting play groups in her apartment. “Aafia Siddiqui was here in June 2001,” says Elaine Whitfield Sharp. “And I can prove it.”
In the case of Dr Aafia, the allegations were further clouded by the inaccurate, even hyperbolic descriptions of her by the media. Nobody tried to know what actually she was doing in the summer of 2001. Lets us have a look what she was actually doing.
During that week she was on her usual routine, picking Korans from a local mosque and distributing them to inmates in area prisons. She was hosting play groups in her apartment on the 20th floor of the Back Bay Manor in Roxbury. She took her sister Fowzia’s child into her care while Fowzia was busy in finishing a fellowship in neurology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. How on earth a person can be in two different places at the same time?
FBI started with the idea that she was involved in the biochemical warfare. “They started with the whole idea that Aafia was involved in biochemical warfare,” says Sharp, her laywer. “She wasn’t taking brain cells and testing how they reacted to gases. But there’s all this news in the media about the changing face of Al Qaeda and the neurobiology scare, and now we’ve got this MIT graduate with a Brandeis Ph.D. who’s cooking up all these viruses.”
According to her Lawyer Aafia’s graduate work was based on a simple concept: that people learn by imitation. To study this, she devised a computer program and used adult volunteers, who came to her office and watched various objects move randomly across the screen, then reproduced what they recalled. The point was to see how well they retained the information having seen it on the screen.
According to Paul DiZio, a professor of cognitive neuroscience at Brandeis who was on Siddiqui’s dissertation committee “I can’t see how it can be applied to anything,” he says. “It’s not very applied work. It didn’t have a medical aspect to it. And, as a computer expert, she was competent. But you know, calling her a mastermind or something does not seem I never saw any evidence”
But professor was worried as he saw the only evidence against her was her passion of Islam. He said “She made many references to her faith in scientific conversations”. Professor further said “When presenting a proposal about how some results would come out and whether they would support her theory, she would say, ‘Allah willing’ ”
The Real Aafia
Talal Eid, imam of the Islamic Center of New England in Quincy, knew Siddiqui through the charitable work she did. He recalls her raising money for Bosnian orphans. “You know, we were all active, but to see a woman who was active in this way was really something nice.”
Siddiqui’s missionary work stemmed from her belief that it was her duty to bolster the Muslim community around her. A woman who was a student of Aafia said “She was always very frustrated here that Muslims were not addressing the needs of their community,” “She said we needed to be doing more to help our people and that we needed to address the needs of the community.”
The Mosque for the Praising of Allah in Roxbury is a simple brick building with a double arched doorway out front and a Middle Eastern café next door. Abdullah Faruuq, was the imam of the Mosque Let’s take a look what he has to say about Aafia. Imam said “What I know of her is that she was living here in America, and her organization was for sharing Islamic information with the American people.”
He further said that Aafia use to order Qurans and other books to be distributed to prisons and on school campuses. Boxes of them would arrive at mosque, and he would wait for her to come pick them up. Though she was a small woman but she never asked for help carrying the heavy boxes down the steep flight of stairs.
While at MIT, Aaffia joined an association for Muslim students. She wrote three guides for members who wanted to teach others about Islam. She use to explain how to run a daw’ah table, an informational booth used at school events to educate people about, and persuade them to convert to, Islam.
So is this was the major evidence FBI was looking for? She was punished for loving and doing efforts for Islam and now our sister is languishing in Texan jail, serving an 86 year sentence after being found guilty in a fabricated story. The way whole scene was sketched in the court was skeptical and more importantly, the evidence non-existent, no gunshot residue on her hands or clothes, no bullets from the discharged gun, no fingerprints belonging to Aafia on the gun and other vital evidence removed by US military from the scene went missing before the trial. Brutal interrogation techniques were used to break her down.
Sometimes I wonder…. 50+ Muslim countries and one Aafia… Muslim countries with the richest natural resources… Pakistan, a country with nuclear capability, well trained Army … Detention of Aafia is a slap on the face of all Muslim Countries. Day is near my fellows when you and I will be questioned on the Day of Judgment and our eyes will be staring our feet with our heads down with shame!