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The Disappeared

August 8, 2008

Who is she? Why she had to suffer all that? Who is her husband? Why no one questions him? Where are her children? All these questions surface in my mind when I see the photo of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui – an MIT graduate, a Pakistani Muslim and a mother of three kids. I have no answers and every time I read a news item or report about her I end up having more questions. What’s the true story behind her abduction and all that she went through in five years at the hands of US military and agencies is not known. Only she can unveil the truth if life provided her opportunity to pen down her thoughts like Moazzam Begg did after his release from Gitmo in his book, Enemy Combatant. The same book became the reason of Dr. Aafia’s appearance after the British journalist Yvonne Ridley read it and thought to solve the mystery of prisoner 650 – that she called the specter of Bagram.


The entire story of her disappearance and reappearance is mysterious. There is no single, reasonable or believable charge against her. BBC in one of its recent reports said that she was apprehended for being married to Khalid Sheikh Muhammad’s nephew. Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, the alleged 9/11 mastermind, was one of the most wanted men on FBI’s list. He has been reportedly kept in Diego Garcia, the modern day “Kala Pani”, is said to out her name during interrogations.


Dr. Aafia’s reappearance has opened up the new avenues of hope for all those families who have been running from pillar to post to seek justice. One such case is of Amina Masood whose husband Masood Janjua went missing on 30th July 2005 along with his friend and associate Faisal Faraz. It’s been over three years and she hasn’t heard anything about him or Faisal.


The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan says that the forced disappearances have been increased after 9/11. It’s not only about Dr. Aafia, Masood Janjua or Atiek-ur-Rahman, a scientist by profession, who was picked up a day before his wedding by the agencies. The Asian Human Rights Commission has identified 4000 cases of forced abductions in the recent years all over the country. Initially President Musharraff denied it. Later on he admitted that only 70 men have been arrested on the confirmed reports of their involvement in the anti-state and terrorism activities.


Disappearance has always been used as a tool to crush and silence the dissent. For example in Argentina 30,000 unlawful abductions took place during late 70s. In Chile the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet was responsible for the disappearance of 3,000 men and women. Pakistan is obeying the orders by blindly picking up people (educated, law abiding) citizens in most cases and trading them with US. The irony is that the agencies first abduct the person and then threaten the relatives with dire consequences if they tried to protest. They did so in Dr. Aafia’s case. Amina Masood also met the same treatment when her peaceful demonstration in front of GHQ in Rawalpindi turned violent. The police used full force to disperse the handful of harmless women, men and children. The police arrested Amina’s 16 years old son, Muhammad Bin Masood, beat him. Striped him. Humiliated him.


Though he was released later that day but he might not forget that day (28th Dec 2006) when his pictures were flashed in media all across the world. That picture has become as poignant as the photo of nine years old Vietnamese girl crying, running naked, on the street, her back burnt by the US-coordinated napalm attack.

Amina Masood’s demonstration didn’t go unnoticed. She along with the families of other victims filed a petition of habeas corpus in Supreme Court. The deposed Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry took action and directed the agencies to produce the missing persons before the court of law. That became one of the main reasons of his deposition as Musharraff stated later on that he used to summon officials of intelligence agencies in the court. Amina’s case is since pending.


Wars are ugly – in the end all we are left with a few photos and certain stories, maybe the heroic tales of valor or horrendous details of torture and humiliation. This war on terror has given birth to a few stories. Don’t let the story of Dr. Aafia, Amina Masood and of other victims die until the justice has been done. At this occasion the famous poem of German anti-war activist Martin Niemoller is coming to my mind:

They came first for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew.                       

And then . . . they came for me . . . and by that time there was no one left to speak up.


We have to speak up before there is no one left to speak for you and me.

Amina Masood’s Interview To Cage Prisoners

And the children…?

5 Comments leave one →
  1. August 8, 2008 11:56 pm

    Anyone who knows anything of history knows that great social changes are impossible without feminine upheaval. Social progress can be measured exactly by the social position of the fair sex, the ugly ones included.KarlMarxKarl Marx

  2. August 10, 2008 9:01 pm

    I have to comment on the linked story (“And the children…?”) on your blog entry says, “Our best hope of ever getting answers to any of these questions is that she stay in civilian custody, is properly defended by competent lawyers, has consular access to Pakistani diplomats and does not disappear into the black hole of Gitmo – in which event we will probably never get an answer to anything.”

    I do not think the free world is so helpless. Human rights is not an issue that can be brushed under the carpet anymore. Let the decent citizen of the world unite their voice for peace, justice and fair trials, and the situation may change.

    It is a strange, mystical characteristic of the modern world that no power, however strong or sophisticated, can overstep a certain boundary of civilization or else its strength begins to diminish. The example of Hitler’s Germany is before us.

  3. Ayesha permalink
    August 10, 2008 9:23 pm

    I appreciate your optimisim and I hope the justice is not denied to her!

  4. Tera permalink
    December 16, 2008 12:17 am

    It is just like the cowardly men of the world to pick on & oppress women, especially Mothers!

    Shame on all the countries of the world for this! Where are all the decent, upright men, of ANY religion?? Why has not any man come forward to respect her, and at least demand that she not be tortured and raped??

    THIS is what is wrong with this world, and this problem is what is wrong with all men, all religions, all countries! SHAME ON YOU ALL! Someday you will have to answer to God for these actions.


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