Who is Dr Aafia Siddiqui and why is she trending on Twitter?
A worldwide Twitter storm in support of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui was held on Friday. The hashtag #free_sister_aafia was trending in 16 countries.
A Twitter storm is when supporters of a particular cause tweet a common hashtag simultaneously to make it trending on the platform. It is done with the intention of creating awareness and alarm the authorities that the particular cause has popular support. The Twitter storm was initiated by Fowzia Siddiqui, the sister of Aafia Siddiqui.
Dr. Aafia Siddiqui was reportedly kidnapped with her three children in 2003 and allegedly tortured, raped, and imprisoned by U.S. forces in Bagram prison, according to Geo TV. Bagram prison was a US-run facility in Afghanistan famous for brutal torture of prisoners until the Taliban took over Afghanistan and freed all prisoners of the prison.
Dr. Aafia, a US citizen of Pakistani origin, is a Ph.D. graduate from MIT, and a mother of three children, Ahmed, Maryam, and Sulayman.
According to the supporters of Dr. Aafia, in March 2003, she and her three children left to catch a flight, however, never reached the airport. The family of Dr Aafia told TRT World, that she along with her children, were kidnapped, hooded and drugged, before being taken to Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan.
Dr Aafia had reportedly been sold off by the Pakistani government for a bounty to the U.S. on the allegation of being a member of Al Qaeda.
According to Fowzia, her sister Aafia was allegedly raped and sexually assaulted, tortured until she signed forced confessions, forcibly drugged, beaten with rifles until she bled, forced to walk on the Quran naked, and forced to watch her children be tortured in front of her.
Other prisoners in the prison would hear her screams day and night, eventually leading them to carry out a hunger strike for six days in protest of her abuse by the American captors. These reports were given credence in mid-2008 when British journalist Yvonne Ridley told the Daily News of Pakistan about a Pakistani woman who had been held in solitary confinement in the Bagram prison for years.
2008 and an alleged attempt to murder
In 2008, Aafia Siddiqui was charged with attempting to kill US soldiers.
The American media reported that she was behind a curtain and saw a gun in front of her. Then she jumped out from behind the curtain and fired shots at the soldiers, and wrestled several to the ground before being shot herself.
However, Muslim Daily, an Instagram page with half a million followers, quoting from various news sources claimed that there were no bullet holes, no shells from the gun, her fingerprints were not on the gun, and no one was injured except for her. Dr. Aafia’s supporters further questioned that she was weak and had lost weight due to years of torture, so how could she pick up a gun and physically fight anyone.
The side of the story that Dr. Aafia’s supporters narrated on social media was that she was behind a curtain hearing American voices; she thought she would be returned to Bagram and tortured again. Subsequently, she peeped out from behind the curtain looking to escape.
One soldier spotted her and shouted “she’s free!” before shooting her multiple times in the abdomen. Aafia was nearly killed.
The trial in 2010
Dr. Aafia was deported to the US from Bagram, and her trial began on Jan 19, 2010. Two weeks later, she was convicted and sentenced to 86 years of imprisonment by a US federal court.
However, her supporters alleged that there was no forensic evidence found to prove her guilty. She was reportedly deemed unfit to stand trial by multiple psychiatrists and she was being tried by the media, which dubbed her as “lady Al-Qaeda” with evidence only known to them.
The testimony of the US government’s six eyewitnesses contradicts each other and they used “forced confessions” solicited from Dr. Aafia whilst under pressure in hospital, allege her supporters.
“The power you gave them to torture me, rape me, and every time allow them to search me naked. I’m dead,” exclaimed Dr. Aafia in her speech at her sentencing. He further added, “I was dead since the very first time I was raped and searched naked.”
“Each and every time you need to present me in court – I’m searched naked… leave me alone or send me back to my country, Pakistan,” Dr. Aafia stated.
Currently, she is being held at FMC Carswell, which is notorious for abuse of female prisoners. Two of her children, Ahmad and Maryam were returned to the family back home. Both of them alleged that they had been tortured; however, the fate of Sulayman, Aafia’s baby remains a mystery.
The family of Dr. Aafia has reiterated time and again that she is innocent. However, the stand of the US is that the “al-Qaeda lady” represents the most dangerous of Islamists radicalized in the west.
Ever since Imran Khan came to power in Pakistan, the government has been regularly demanding the immediate release of Dr. Aafia.