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Dr. Aafia Siddiqui back in spotlight

August 21, 2009

2773793548_0e22b4ccabShe went to MIT and Brandeis, married a Brigham and Women’s physician, made her home in Boston, cared for her children, and raised money for charities. Aafia Siddiqui was a normal woman living a normal American life. Until the FBI called her a terror (Rules Undefined)

Earlier in June, I had posted an article, Rules Undefined, featuring Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, a 38-year-old, Al-Qaeda suspect currently detained in the US. News came yesterday that the government of Pakistan is now seeking lawyers to represent Siddiqui who could face a possible life imprisonment, according to Reuters.

Siddiqui was detained in Afghanistan for plotting casualty attacks at various locations in New York and prosecutors claim that she fired on a team of FBI agents, without any luck, while held in questioning.

Here’s a short excerpt on Dr. Aafia Siddiqui:

Born in Karachi, Pakistan, on March 2, 1972, Aafia Siddiqui moved to Texas in 1990 and after spending a year at the University of Houston, she transferred to MIT, where she was granted a $5,000 grant in her sophomore year to study the effects of Islam on women in Pakistan. Later on after her graduation from MIT, Aafia got married to Mohammed Amjad Khan; a medical student based in Boston. She continued to pursue further education at Brandeis University, where she completed her Ph.D. in cognitive neuroscience. The couple returned to Pakistan in 2002 and decided to part ways, as tensions grew between the two. Aafia returned to the United States during the same year in hopes of securing a job in Baltimore, where her sister was working, but returned back to Pakistan, as her three children were still staying with her mother in Karachi.

Aafia, along with her three children (seven, five and six months old) vanished in the Spring of 2003, when she had left for the train station to travel to Islamabad.

The Nation

The Nation

In 2008, mental health professionals concluded,

Ms. Siddiqui is not currently competent to proceed as a result of her mental disease, which renders her unable to understand the nature and consequences of the proceedings against her or to assist properly in her defense

However, Siddiqui was recently deemed fit to stand trial, as prosecution witnesses criticized her for inflating her mental disorder, despite defense lawyers arguing on her delusional disorder. A hearing will take place within a few weeks to determine Siddiqui’s representation in court, as ordered by U.S. District Judge Richard Berman.

In her response, Siddiqui wrote a two-page letter to the judge:

I really am innocent of the charges stated against me and I was in prison before that too and tortured badly to make me state what they wanted me to — and my children

It is uncertain what will come out of the trial and it’s equally uncertain whether Dr. Aafia is in fact an Al-Qaeda suspect. However, it is worth noting how similar Al-Qaeda suspects end up like Siddiqui,

“It is worth noting that upon their entrance to Afghanistan, the U.S. did not even arrest Al Qaeda suspects themselves. Instead, they offered ransoms for these suspects, leading factional leaders such as Abdul Rashid Dostum to round up political enemies and hand them over to the US. The US had no means of determining the guilt of these suspects, as there were almost no speakers of Pashto, Dari, or Uzbek” (Thomas Murphy, Gender Across Borders).

While the Al-Qaeda leaders are free, others like Siddiqui are paying their ransom, bringing to light a very interesting angle within the Al-Qaeda operations. These fundamentalists continuously target young children and adults, brainwash them in becoming suicide bombers, however it is unheard of an Al-Qaeda leader to be a frontrunner. The leaders are always the underdogs.

Al-Qaeda’s power rests with adolescents who are forcefully deprived of education and thus lured into warfare.

Education, should be the weapon to be used against the Talibans.


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