Who is Aafia Siddiqui?

December 10, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

By Mauri’ Saalakhan

As someone who has been a human rights advocate for most of his adult life, I have seen many cases come and go; few have been as heart rending and consequential as the mysterious case of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui.

More than six years into this saga there still remain many unknowns. What brought the US government’s attention to this soft-spoken, unassuming woman? Why was she abducted and secretly held for five years? Why did Pakistan hand over one of its citizens to the US? And given the nature of the allegations that were being made by US authorities around the time of Aafia’s disappearance, why have none of those terrorism-related innuendos found their way into the criminal indictment that was finally brought against Aafia in a US federal court?

Dr. Siddiqui and her three children (two of whom are American born) disappeared in March 2003 following their abduction from a taxicab in Karachi Pakistan. No one would know of their whereabouts for the next five years. As time passed, however, and tales began to spread about a mysterious woman being held at Bagram (Afghanistan), identified only as Prisoner 650, pressure began to build toward indentifying who that mysterious woman was.

Investigative journalist and human rights activist Yvonne Ridley – who produced an excellent documentary on the subject (“In Search of Prisoner 650”) – dubbed her “The Grey Lady of Bagram.” Shortly after Ridley traveled to Pakistan to build mass support for an investigation into who the grey lady really was, a disheveled and degraded Aafia Siddiqui reappeared on the streets of Ghazni, Afghanistan in July 2008, only to be drawn back into a deadly web of intrigue.

One of the most riveting parts of “In Search of Prisoner 650,” for this writer, was Ridley’s interview of Ghazni Counter-Terrorism Police Chief Abdul Qadeer. The chief recounted that on the day of Aafia’s re-arrest 12 to 13 Americans were given permission to interview her. After one went behind the curtain where she was being held, all of a sudden there was gunfire. Aafia was shot and seriously wounded.

The official story was that Aafia had tried to pick up a rifle to fire upon the investigators, but ended up being shot in the stomach herself. According to the report, she received emergency treatment only because Afghan authorities insisted on it. In the documentary, Abdul Qadeer expressed suspicion about why she was removed from their (Afghan) custody. When the Governor of Ghazni Province, Dr. Usman Usmani, was confronted with this question by Yvonne Ridley, he gave a rather confused and clearly uncomfortable response.

Who is Dr. Aafia Siddiqui?

Aafia Siddiqui is a 37 year old Pakistani national who did her graduate and post-graduate work in the United States, graduating from MIT and Brandeis University, where she received her PhD. Those who knew her in Boston (who this writer has spoken to) have had nothing but glowing things to say about her. Quiet, soft-spoken, focused; a devoted mother, excellent student, and committed muslimah who was known for her charitable work in the Boston community, is how she is invariably described.

She was married to a Pakistani doctor, but they were divorced (under acrimonious circumstances) by the time of her abduction. The two youngest children from this marriage are still missing to this day. The oldest, a now 12 year old son, was returned to his family just this past summer and now resides with Aafia’s sister, Fauzia.

What brought this young mother to the attention of U.S. authorities remains a mystery. Former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, in a press conference years ago, described her as an “al-Qaeda facilitator.” And yet, now in custody awaiting trial, Aafia Siddiqui does not face even one terrorism related charge! 

What we can do

This case involving Dr. Aafia Siddiqui is one of the most important precedent-setting cases confronting the Muslim-American community post 9/11. (Laws are established on the basis of precedent.)

In 2002, Deputy Attorney General Viet Dinh – a prominent member of the Justice Department’s “cartel of conservative lawyers” – was the first high level official in the Bush-Cheney administration to openly admit the government’s use of “profiling” (both racial and religious) in the so-called “war on terrorism.” When questioned on the criteria employed, his response was, “The criteria Al-Qaeda itself uses; eighteen to 35 year old males who entered the country after the start of 2000 using passports from countries where Al-Qaeda has a strong presence.”

In his address to the American Bar Association conference in Naples, Florida earlier that year (Jan. 2002) he stated quite emphatically: “We are reticent to provide a road map to Al-Qaeda as to the progress and direction of our investigative activity. We don’t want to taint people as being of interest to the investigation simply because of our attention. We will let them go if there is not enough of a predicate to hold them. But we will follow them closely, and if they so much as spit on the sidewalk we’ll arrest them. The message is that if you are a suspected terrorist, you better be squeaky clean. If we can we will keep you in jail.”

Clearly this has been the policy of the U.S. government for Muslim males post 9/11. With the case of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, that policy was expanded to include Muslim females as well. If they can get away with what they’re doing to Aafia today, it will be others tomorrow.

A demonstration is being planned for the courthouse on the day of opening arguments in January 2010. The two most important things we can do for Aafia at this point are to keep her in our prayers, and show up on the date of this mobilization. As our beloved Prophet (pbuh) said: “Tie your camel, and have trust in ALLAH.”

Mauri’ Saalakhan serves as Director of Operations for The Peace And Justice Foundation. For more information on the upcoming mobilization call (301) 762-9162 or E-mail peacethrujustice@aol.com.

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Islam A. Siddiqui, Nominee for Chief Agricultural Negotiator, Office of US Trade Rep.

September 24, 2009 by · 2 Comments 

Islam Siddiqui Islam A. Siddiqui is currently Vice President for Science and Regulatory Affairs at CropLife America , where he is responsible for regulatory and international trade issues related to crop protection chemicals. Previously, Dr. Siddiqui also served as CropLife America ’s Vice President for agricultural biotechnology and trade. From 1997 to 2001, Dr. Siddiqui served in various capacities in the Clinton Administration at U.S. Department of Agriculture as Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs, Senior Trade Advisor to Secretary Dan Glickman and Deputy Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs.  As a result, he worked closely with the USTR and represented USDA in bilateral, regional and multi-lateral agricultural trade negotiations.  Since 2004, Dr. Siddiqui has also served on the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Industry Trade Advisory Committee on Chemicals, Pharmaceuticals, and Health/Science Products & Services, which advises the U.S. Secretary of Commerce and USTR on international trade issues related to these sectors. Betwe en 2001 and 2003, Dr. Siddiqui was appointed as Senior Associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), where he focused on agricultural biotechnology and food security issues.  Before joining USDA, Dr. Siddiqui spent 28 years with the California Department of Food and Agriculture.  He received a B.S. degree in plant protection from Uttar Pradesh Agricultural University in Pantnagar , India , as well as M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in plant pathology, both from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana.

Friends in Difficulty

April 27, 2006 by · Leave a Comment 

Friends in Difficulty
By Dr. Aslam Abdullah
A few months ago, the Muslim community lost Syed Salman —now comes the news that Dr. Dilnawaz Siddiqui is on a ventilator and fighting a crippling illness. We hope that Dr. Siddiqui will recover soon and join us again in the ongoing struggle for Islam in this country.
But we acknowledge the reality that in front of God’s Will nothing works. We accept His divine will for determining the destiny of people He creates.
Both Syed Salman and Dilnawaz Siddiqui are true gifts of Allah for humanity. Salman, through his dedication and sincerity, served the community to the fullest and until his last moment was ready to give all he had for Muslims.
He was active in the local Muslim community in Detroit and his contribution in national and international arena was of no small significance. He worked to bring people together. He struggled to help the poor, neglected and impoverished masses in the world, especially in India.
He was involved in the movement for an educational renaissance of Muslims of India, and he was concerned about the plight of the so called untouchables all over the world. He led a full life. He certainly would have no regrets for the time he spent in serving people and His Creator and most certainly His soul must be happy for what he did in life. This is what God wanted him to do and this is what he did. We are grateful to God for giving him to us and inspiring us to work with him. He lives on in his work and in his contributions in the field of Muslim unity.
Dr. Dilnawaz Siddiqui is in critical condition, and we hope that he will come out of the situation healthy. But if so, his recovery will take a long time. He too was vibrant and dynamic during good health. He too was eager to serve his religion and his community.
He has not neglected his responsibilities toward His Creator while he was working as a professor or researcher. He would use his spare time and weekends imparting the knowledge he had gained to his community.
His absence from the active work will be greatly felt. But his dynamism and vibrancy lives through his work. He too must be content with the contribution he made to help his community gain a respectable position in this country.
These are the people who have done their best to serve us all and above all to serve God Almighty. The question that we must ask is what do we do to honor them?
The least we can do is to remember them in our prayers, and to make their families know that their contribution is appreciated and acknowledged. Above all, we can try to institutionalize the values they tried to practice throughout their life.
Moreover, we must constantly remind ourselves that we too will be recalled one day by Allah Almighty. We must also realize that the moment could be sooner than later. Thus we must hurry up doing good that is required from us.
They didn’t wait for tomorrow to do good. They did good at the time available to them and they did it (and Dilnawaz may continue to do so) with humility and dedication. Thank you, friends, for doing what you did and thank you for being part of our lives—Dilnawaz, we hope you will recover.