From: Andy Worthington
Exclusive to the Justice for Aafia Coalition
In sifting through the avalanche of US diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks, only the Guardian, in the Western media, has picked up on cables from Islamabad relating to the case of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, the Pakistani neuroscientist who disappeared with her three young children in Karachi on March 30, 2003, and did not reappear until July 17, 2008, in Ghazni, Afghanistan, where she was reportedly arrested by Afghan forces for acting strangely, allegedly carrying a bag that contained a list of US targets for terrorist attacks as well as bomb-making instructions and assorted chemicals. When US soldiers turned up, Dr. Siddiqui then reportedly seized a gun and shot at them. Although she failed to hit her targets, at point-blank range, she was herself shot twice in the abdomen, and was then rendered to the United States, where she was put on trial for attempted murder, and was convicted and given an 86-year prison sentence in September this year.
Dr. Siddiqui’s supporters, and many commentators — myself included — who have examined her story have, for many years, had reason to doubt the official narrative about her capture in 2008, and her whereabouts for the previous five years.
While both the Pakistani and US authorities repeatedly denied that Dr. Siddiqui was in their custody between 2003 and 2008, and this is reiterated in one of the cables released by Wikileaks, in which US diplomats in Pakistan stated that “Bagram officials have assured us that they have not been holding Siddiqui for the last four years, as has been alleged,” several former prisoners — and one still held — have stated that they saw her in Bagram. The following exchange is an excerpt from an interview conducted by former prisoner Moazzam Begg with Binyam Mohamed, the British resident who was subjected to torture in Pakistan, Morocco and Afghanistan, after his release from Guantánamo in February 2009:
Moazzam Begg: When you were in the Bagram Detention Facility after being held in the “Dark Prison,” you came across a female prisoner. Can you describe a little bit about who you think she is and what you saw of her?
Binyam Mohamed: In Bagram, I did come across a female who wore a shirt with the number of “650,” and I saw her several times, and I heard a lot of stories about her from the guards and the other prisoners over there.
Moazzam Begg: And these stories said what about her, in terms of her description and her background?
Binyam Mohamed: What we were told first … we were frightened by the guards not to communicate with her, because they feared that we would talk to her and we would know who she was. So they told us that she was a spy from Pakistan, working with the government, and the Americans brought her to Bagram.
Moazzam Begg: So you think they spread the rumour that she was a spy … that would have kept you away from her and apprehensive towards her?
Binyam Mohamed: Basically, nobody talked to her in the facility, and she was held in isolation, where … she was only brought out to the main facility just to use the toilet. But all I knew about her was that she was from Pakistan, and that she had studied, or she had lived in America. And the guards would talk a lot about her, and I did actually see her picture when I was here a few weeks ago, and I would say she’s the very person I saw in Bagram.
Moazzam Begg: And that’s the very picture I showed you of Aafia Siddiqui?
Binyam Mohamed: That’s the very picture I saw.
Moazzam Begg: There have been all sorts of rumours about what happened to her — and may Allah free her soon — but part of those rumours include her being terribly abused. Do you have any knowledge of what abuse she might have faced?
Binyam Mohamed: Apart from her being in isolation — and the fact that I saw, when she was walking up and down, I could tell that she was severely disturbed — I don’t think she was in her right mind — literally, I don’t think she was sane — and I didn’t feel anything at that time, because, as far as I was concerned, she was a hypocrite working with the other governments. But had we known that she was a sister, I don’t think we would have been silent. I think there would have been a lot of maybe even riots in Bagram.
In March 2010, at a rally organized by the Justice for Aafia Coalition, former Guantánamo prisoner Omar Deghayes stated that, as well as Binyam Mohamed, Hassan bin Attash (a former child prisoner who is still held in Guantánamo) and Dr. Ghairat Baheer (a former “ghost prisoner” held in various secret prisons in Afghanistan) also described seeing Aafia Siddiqui in Bagram. Omar said, “They told me how she cried and sobbed, how she screamed and cried and banged her head, in despair and sorrow.”
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Please write to Aafia at Carswell, not only to let her know that she has not been forgotten, but also because the most effective way to ensure that abusers think twice about their abuse is when they know that the outside world is watching — and is watching in large numbers. The address for the prison is here, and if you’re interested, I urge you to take advantage of the Justice for Aafia Coalition’s pre-printed cards, available here, which can easily be distributed to friends and family.