Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Pakistani Woman Runs Yet Another Marathon for Dr. Aafia Siddiqui - Letter to the Boston Globe


Almost immediately after running the 2019 Boston Marathon, I wrote to the Boston Globe expressing my concerns about political prisoner Dr. Aafia Siddiqui. I received the Globe's automated reply, with their stipulations that the letter could not have been published elsewhere, and such, in order for them to consider it for publication, and that if it didn't appear within ten days, it likely had not been selected for publication. It didn't. I was disappointed that the Globe would not publish it, if only for the novelty of a crazy Paki woman running yet another 26.2 miles in the name of a political prisoner, but I was not at all surprised, considering the paper's previous heavily slanted reporting on Aafia's case. My (unpublished) letter read as follows:
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April 16, 2019

Letters to the Editor
The Boston Globe
1 Exchange Place, Suite 201
Boston, MA 02109-2132
letter@globe.com

 Dear editor,

In the field of 26,632 people running the Boston Marathon on Monday, I was one of very few (perhaps the only) Pakistani women to take on the daunting course. A time-qualified entrant, my current and penultimate marathon PRs are 3:41 (NCR Trail Marathon) and 3:42 (Baltimore Marathon), both set within the last five years. At age 50, I am pleased to say Boston 2019 was my 42nd marathon (my second time running it).

I ran Boston to call attention to the plight of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani Muslim woman neuroscientist, degreed by the prestigious M.I.T.  Aafia once lived and studied in the beautiful city of Boston.

Today she is imprisoned in Texas, having first been kidnapped by authorities in Pakistan. This occurred during the period when “secret renditions” were common in Pakistan, her then place of residence. Aafia was tortured and likely raped in prison in Pakistan and Afghanistan. After that, she was brought to New York, and put on trial.

Previously very healthy and vibrant, the petite neuroscientist was wheeled into court in a wheelchair by her jailors. The court disallowed nearly all exculpatory evidence which could have helped her, but allowed highly conflicting and emotional (anti-Muslim) evidence to be presented.  Soon, Aafia was convicted and sent to FMC Carswell.

The unspeakable injustice being done to this woman is the reason I braved the pouring rain, and then the midday heat to run my second Boston Marathon. It was one of the most challenging of the 42 marathons I’ve run, and my finish time did not remotely approach either my PR, or my qualifying time. The only saving grace was that I did not resort to walking, not even on Heart Break Hill.

My reason for running made it all worthwhile. Aafia, or Behan Aafia (our sister Aafia), as we Pakistanis call her. In Pakistan, there is near universal sentiment that she is innocent and ought to be released.

My tee bore the words “Free Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, along with a picture of her cherubic face in hijab. It drew occasional questions from fellow marathoners, and I was happy to share her story as we tackled hill after hill.

In a period when women’s rights have finally and appropriately gained center stage, why is the violation of rights of this innocent Pakistani woman allowed to continue? She has already endured 16 years of unjust imprisonment. I urge women’s rights organizations and movements, politicians, humanitarians, and media to look into her case, and to call for her immediate release.

Nadrat Siddique
8634 N Bali Court
Ellicott City, MD 21043
(443) 875-7409
nadratsiddique@yahoo.com


Sunday, April 21, 2019

Running While Muslim, Running for Aafia


By Nadrat Siddique

Special to the New Trend

It was Patriot’s Day Monday in Boston, and I ran through torrential rain from my hotel to the Boston Common two miles away. I was there to run my second Boston Marathon, calling attention to the case of a small, slight Pakistani Muslim woman neuroscientist, being held political prisoner by the United States. Her name is Dr. Aafia Siddiqui.

Boston is very odd as far as marathons go, for three reasons. For one, unlike nearly all other races, which are held on the weekend, Boston is held on a Monday. And that Monday is nowhere a holiday except in Boston.

Secondly, the race starts for most runners—depending on one’s assigned start time—around 10:30 or 11:00 a.m., very late by racing standards. Nearly all other races start around 7:00 or 8:00 a.m., with some starting as early as 6:00 a.m., both to avoid the heat of the day, and to minimize traffic blockages. The late start means that a majority of Boston Marathon runners do the bulk of their running in the afternoon heat, which raises the specter of serious health risk.

The third major oddity about Boston is that the course is one-way, as opposed to a loop, or multiple loops, like most marathons. On race morning, we runners gathered at the Boston Common to be bused to the tiny town of Hopkinton, approximately 26 miles west of the city.  Once there, in what seemed a no-man’s land, we were, at our assigned time, to run our way back to Boston. In between were a multitude of colleges, hills, and screaming fans. The fans lined every mile of the course, making the race extremely boisterous. It is decidedly not the place for an introvert. The runners were overwhelmingly White, as were most of the fans. There were, relatively speaking, a small number of Asian and light-skinned Latino runners.

The race was sponsored by the financial giant John Hancock. The founding father’s name was everywhere, proudly plastered on our marathon medals, mylar blankets (reflective blankets given to runners post-race to prevent hypothermia), and other marathon paraphernalia and memorabilia. There was no discussion of the fact that Hancock, like the other founding fathers, was a slave owner.

In the Boston Common, we runners went through a checkpoint, to get to the yellow school buses which would carry us to the race start. We were told precisely what type of bag (clear plastic) could be carried on the buses. Grateful to be out of the rain, we boarded the buses under the direction of volunteers. The twenty-six mile bus trip took close to an hour. It provided a welcome opportunity for runners to dry off.

Once in the very white Hopkinton, we went through an additional checkpoint to the starting area. Repeatedly, it was emphasized that only the clear plastic bags provided by the race organizers could be used for bag check (ie to allow runners to leave essential items needed after the race in a common but secured holding area). Automated announcements repeated ad naseum that unattended bags (along the course) would be confiscated by authorities and might be destroyed. A large number of metropolitan police, as well as some military police with submachines (the number of the latter had diminished significantly since the 2017 race, which I’d run) lined the course. Army snipers were positioned on rooftops in Hopkinton and at various points along the course.

Many of the athletes represented corporate teams. These names, e.g. Dana Farber, were pre-printed on runners’ singlets (sleeveless running shirts). As I ran, I heard the corporate names yelled out frequently by spectators, far more often than individual names. To me, this was yet another indicator of the stranglehold of corporate culture in the U.S. At many smaller races, spectators call out runner’s names (sometimes printed on the runners bibs) as they pass. Or, they call out the runners’ bib numbers, or other identifying nouns based on runners’ attire to encourage them. Not so at Boston. Unlike at previous races where I’ve worn the same shirt, nary a person yelled for me, “Go Aafia!”

Some runners ran in memory of a deceased family member, whose name they wore on their shirt. A few had country affiliation on their shirts. The most interesting were the visually impaired runners. According to statistics which I read later on the race website, these numbered 44, and required a guide companion. Each runner/ guide pair held opposite ends of what looked like a connecting plastic bag to keep them together, with the guide wearing a tee saying “Blind Runner.”

No other runners, as far as I could tell by observation and later research, ran for a political prisoner. And this year, like the last, there appeared to be few, if any other Pakistani women. As I said the last time I ran Boston, I could only run this race for Aafia. It pained me, as I ran past the turnoff to M.I.T., where Aafia had once studied, to think of this petite woman, beloved mother of three, and star scholar, suffering in a tiny Texas prison cell for a crime she clearly did not commit. But—what pained me the most was that Muslims, even those who knew her during her time in the U.S., and all Muslim organizations, except for Jamaat al-Muslimeen and the Aafia Foundation, were willfully silent on her suffering. And silence is still complicity.

By now, I have run two National (Washington DC) Marathons, a Chicago Marathon, and two Boston Marathons in Aafia’s name. (All told, I have run 42 marathons, but many of them have been for my own personal edification/ challenge, which I also view as important.) I am obviously not a professional athlete, or particularly fast. My best mile time is 7:18, run at the International 5K in Columbia, MD, where I represented Pakistan (unofficially).

I am not paid by anyone to run for Aafia or other political prisoners. I run for them because I believe it is a fundamental part of my faith, Islam, to stand up for the oppressed.

The Qur’an says in Surat-ul Balad, “And what is the Ascent? It is to free a slave.” I view it as my responsibility to fight for the freedom of the modern day slaves, the political prisoners, whose existence, while denied by the U.S. government, is an unfortunate reality under the system of White Supremacy and the congruous imperialist wars.

In that capacity, I traveled to the Black Hills (SD) and Plymouth (MA), to run for Leonard Peltier; to Salt Lake City (UT) and Hyannis (MA), and to run for Mumia Abu Jamal (Black Panther political prisoner); to Chicago to run for Aafia; to Wilmington to run for (then-) Bradley Manning (Wikileaks whistleblower turned political prisoner); and now again to Boston to run for Aafia. There is always a way to speak out when grave injustice is occurring, however one chooses to do it. And for me, it is through running.

© 2019 Nadrat Siddique

This article first appeared in New Trend Magazine, April 21, 2019

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Hundreds Rally for Palestine and Against AIPAC Outside Israel Lobby's Largest Annual Meeting


By Nadrat Siddique

March 24, 2019
Washington, DC

The nation's capital evidenced one of the most vibrant and energetic pro-Palestine protests today. The "Support Palestine in DC" protest was spearheaded by Al-Awda (the Palestine Right to Return Coalition) and the ANSWER Coalition, and was audaciously scheduled--as it is each year--to coincide with the annual AIPAC. At the AIPAC conference, pro-Israel delegates come together to instrument policies TO facilitate the continued fleecing of the American public to the tune of $6 billion per annum in support of the occupation and genocide of the Palestinian people. And for years, the AIPAC conference went on without any opposition. Until Al-Awda and a few other organizations with a concern for basic human rights and international law came around.

Although the protest has been held each year for at least a decade, sadly, few local masajid--and next to no local Muslim leaders--bother to attend. Despite the local Muslim/ Arab "leadership" abdicating their responsibility to engage in amr bil mauroof and nahi unal munkari on an issue of paramount importance to the Ummah, the protest went on very successfully. Starting at 12:00 noon, over 1,000 people spanning the spectrum of age, ethnicity, faith, gender, and national origin, rallied at the White House and then marched to the Convention Center, site of the AIPAC conference. Unlike at many previous pro-Palestine protests, most of the key leaders, organizers, and speakers were Palestinians, heartening in a time when the liberal Left often engages in its own imperial patriarchy, speaking for P.O.C. with the perfect ability to speak for themselves.

Also heartening was the fact that youth--Palestinian and non-Palestinian alike--articulately answered the Zionist rhetoric and lies. At today's protest, they appeared more well-versed and organized than ever, speaking confidently and non-rhetorically, from the mic as well as in in conversations with bye-standers.


Friday, January 18, 2019

International Crowd Celebrates Cuban Revolution’s 60th Anniversary

By Nadrat Siddique

January 18, 2019
Washington, DC

In St. Stephen's Church’s welcoming milieu, Cuba supporters, including Latinos, Blacks, Arabs, Pakistanis, and others, celebrated the anniversary of the Cuban Revolution. The event was organized by the DC Coalition in Solidarity with Cuba. The room was filled to capacity, and a majority of the attendees had visited Cuba. The evening began with a vibrant performance by the Malcolm X Drummers and Dancers.

Speakers included Miguel Fraga, the First Secretary of the Embassy of Cuba; Patricio Zamorano, a supporter of the Cuban Revolution; Omari Musa, member, DC Coalition in Solidarity with Cuba, and Socialist Workers Party leader; and Detroit-based labor leader Cheryl LaBash.

Code Pink’s Medea Benjamin (dressed, not surprisingly in pink!) was in the audience, as was jazz legend and anti-racism activist Luci Murphy (formerly of Sweet Honey in the Rock; and later of the Rock Creek Trio). The event was moderated by WPFW radio host Mimi Machado. (WPFW is an independent radio station heard on 89.3 FM in the DC listening area.)

Patricio Zamorano spoke eloquently about the U.S. role in destabilizing Latin America. He gave the example of Honduras, where the U.S. supported the 2009 coup forcibly removing the country's elected president, Jose Manuel Zelaya. Honduras boasts one of the largest deployments of U.S. Special Forces outside of the Middle East, with the corresponding deleterious impact on human rights there.

Omari Musa had visited Cuba, among many other Latin American and African countries. He described life in Cuba, detailing the nation’s many social welfare programs. These, he said, were available to all Cubans, and membership in the Communist Party was not a requirement [unlike in China, and other self-described communist countries –editor]. He encouraged the audience, particularly youth, to visit Cuba.

During Q&A, a Caucasian audience member, sharply dressed in suit and tie, asked the panel whether or when Cuba would take steps to democratize, following models, e.g., of Scanandavian or other First World countries. Zamorano replied that the European model was not necessarily the most effective, or the best model for the rest of the world to follow.

A Palestinian member of the audience drew parallels between the struggles of Latin American peoples, and those of the Palestinians. Urging the audience to open their eyes to the similarities of the situations of the two peoples, she said the struggles of the people of Latin America, and those of the Palestinian people were against a common oppressor.

Participants at the 60th Anniversary celebration were offered the opportunity to visit Cuba, with the May Day Brigade. Literature describing the Brigade differentiated it from a mere site-seeing or vacation trip to Cuba. Here, participants would be expected to volunteer their time to various projects delineated by their Cuban government hosts.

Background

In December 1958, the Cuban people overthrew U.S.-supported Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista. Under the leadership of Fidel Castro, they nationalized many industries, and drove out large U.S. corporations. The new government instated equal pay for everyone (so that doctors made as much as trash collectors!), racial discrimination was outlawed, milk was free for infants and babies, and high quality healthcare and education was free to all Cubans. The infant mortality rate fell, becoming on par with the United States.

The Cuban Medical School, free to all Cubans, enlarged its enrollment to those outside of Cuba, initially inviting only Blacks. Later on, enrollment was opened to all people. Doctors from the Cuban Medical School volunteered their services in Africa, and many other places, including New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

As a result of its egalitarian message uplifting the impoverished, driving out multinational corporations, and the consequent challenge to the World Order, the Cuban Revolution and Cuba itself, soon came under attack. In 1960, the U.S. imposed an embargo on the tiny island nation. That embargo was all-inclusive, except for food and medicine, and was in retaliation for Cuba's nationalization of American-owned Cuban oil refineries. In 1962, the embargo was extended to include nearly all imports to Cuba, including food and medicine. As a result, there was a significant deterioration in the quality of life of many Cubans, despite the Cuban government's efforts to counter this. Every year since 1992, the United Nations has passed a resolution condemning the embargo and its effects, and declaring it in violation of the Charter of the United Nations and of international law. In 2014, nearly the entire U.N. General Assembly voted for the resolution. Tellingly, only the U.S. and Israel voted against the resolution supporting Cuba against embargo.

But the U.S. efforts to destroy the Cuban Revolution did not stop at economic warfare. In 1961, the Bay of Pigs Invasion was launched, with the U.S. sending 1,500 Cuban exiles into Cuba. Thousands of assassination plans of Cuban leaders were instrumented by U.S. intelligence agencies, many of them targeting Castro, who miraculously survived.

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Why such hatred and fear of a revolution, one might ask? It seemed to me that, like the Haitian Revolution, it was not merely the actions—however heroic—of the Cuban people between 1953 - 1958, which posed a threat to the World Order. Rather, it was what the Cuban Revolution symbolized. Similarly, in Haiti, it was not merely the successful revolt by Black slaves and the killing of the slave masters which instilled fear and loathing among American planters; rather, it was the example put into the public sphere by the Haitian Revolution. That revolution planted in the minds of Black slaves in the continental U.S. a different reality, one in which they were not being raped, tortured, separated from their families, or treated like chattel, and the way forward to that reality. But—the mere thought of this was terrifying to the slave owners. Almost immediately, Haiti was slapped with an embargo by France and the U.S.  Haiti was also forced to pay reparations to France, the very nation which had occupied it! (The forced reparation payments continue to this day, contributing heavily to the impoverishment of Haiti.) The example of Cuba provides a similar model of liberation for Latin American countries. And- like Saul Landau said, The "Latin Americans never disobeyed the United States before the Cuban revolution."

© 2019 Nadrat Siddique

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Yazidi Woman Awarded Not-So-Nobel Prize

Nadia Murad, an Iraqi Yazidi woman was selected to receive the Nobel Peace Prize earlier this month. It is instructive that:
1) Iraq has a population of 37,000,000 (37 million) people, all of whom have lived under U.S. occupation and war/ proxy-war since 2003. Off those millions, the Nobel committee selected a clear Islam-hater;
2) Of that population (37 million), 90% are Muslim. (Yazidis, by comparison, form 2% of the population.) Vast segments of the Muslim population have fought back against the U.S. occupation and war, often times in ways which demonstrated extraordinary courage and heroism. (Despite the pervasive labels and propaganda against fighters who oppose U.S. power, fighting a superpower with vastly great force of arms can only be described as heroic, and in any other era--e.g. the Warsaw Ghetto, the Algerian Civil War, etc.--would be viewed as an act of courage.)

Comparable to the Palestinian children throwing rocks at Israeli tanks, Iraqis (in the early days of the war) armed with only IEDs would launch themselves upon U.S. APCs and tanks--but only after the U.S. dropped 50,000 bombs and missiles on Baghdad in just over a month's period. And yet not one Muslim fighting occupation and oppression was deemed worthy of the Nobel committee's consideration;
3) Iraqi Muslim women suffered perhaps the most as a result of the U.S. occupation and war; and many of them have fought back against the terror enacted upon them by a Superpower terror. Again, not one of them was deemed worthy of the Nobel award.
Only Nadia Murad was deemed worthy. After she visited Israel (in a trip to witness the enacting of legislation protecting Yazidis, and incredibly irony in a state which practices apartheid against Palestinians), she returned to Germany where she currently resides. Shortly after that, she was notified by the Nobel Committee of her award. In response, she said, "I am incredibly honored and humbled by their support and I share this award with all Yazidis with all the Iraqis, Kurds and all the minorities and all survivors of sexual violence around the world." Oddly, she uttered not one word against those who had occupied and steadily destroyed and destabilized her country since 1991.
If it were up to me, Abeer an-Janabi, the 14-year old Iraqi girl raped and burned to death by U.S. troops in 2006 (all of her family were killed by U.S. troops in the same incidentj) would have received the Nobel. Posthumously, if there is such a thing as a posthumous Nobel. THAT would have restored the dignity of the Nobel.
© 2018 Nadrat Siddique

Saturday, October 6, 2018

One Woman for Aafia


 By Nadrat Siddique

October 5, 2018
Chicago, IL

As I was in Chicago to run the Chicago Marathon for Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, I decided a stop at the Pakistani Consulate was in order. The Consulate is located on the seventh floor of a high rise building on Michigan Avenue, a vibrant and bustling street in Chicago's downtown. Interestingly, there didn't seem to be any other consulates in the area.

Just as I arrived, a Black Lives Matter (BLM) protest passed, proceeding quickly onto E. Wacker Avenue (the site of many of the organization’s protests). The protestors chanted slogans deriding the killer police. Earlier that afternoon, in a radical departure from the norm of impunity, a police officer was convicted in the death of an innocent Black man. I itched to join the BLM march, but knew I must fulfill the purpose for which I had come to Chicago: to call attention to the case of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, an innocent Pakistani Muslim woman scientist entering her 15th year of illegal detention. As the BLM march disappeared from view, my heart went with it.

I stood in front of the Pakistan Consulate, a silent one-woman protest, my sign calling for Dr. Aafia Siddiqui's freedom. The security guard, a heavy set Black man asked me to move away from the building. He gestured that I should stand closer to the Starbucks which was next door. I naively told him I was there for the Pakistan Consulate, and not Starbucks. He insisted I move away from the Consulate entrance. I really didn't want to be in front of Starbucks, so I re-positioned directly in front of the Consulate, but closer to the street side.

The only problem was that the street side was lined with police officers. Chicago panicked whenever Black people marched for justice. The heavy police presence there was in anticipation of "riots," Orwellian Double-Speak for Black protesters making Whites uncomfortable.

I was not eager to be in close proximity to the cops, so I temporarily moved towards Starbucks. Thankfully, the cops cleared out shortly thereafter, and I returned to my position closer to the Consulate.

As it was late Friday afternoon (the one woman protest for Aafia was 4:00 - 6:00 PM), I saw only a small handful of Pakistani officials emerge from the building. A few glanced in my direction, but it was not clear if I made a dent.

Soon after I arrived, a Pakistani couple passed me and went into the Starbucks. The wife was in full niqab. They remained in the coffee shop for some while. When they came out, I was in plain view in front of the Starbucks. They did not bat an eye, and continued on their way.

During the two-hour protest, hundreds, if not thousands, of  pedestrians walked by me. Others were in cars or buses. Many of those on foot turned around for a second look at my sign. A few cars honked their horn for me to turn toward them, so that they could read my sign (if it was not oriented in their direction at the time that they passed). Many made eye contact, which I returned with a smile. Some gave me a nod or a thumbs-up.

The ordinary (ie non-consular) Pakistanis who passed by were of two extremes: The first group were those who were overtly interested, and stared or turned around for a second look at my "Free Dr. Aafia Siddiqui" sign after they had passed. The second group was completely disinterested (or at least feigned disinterest).

I was surprised to see how many of the passersby were extremely fit runners. They were there to run the Chicago marathon that Sunday. They came from all over the country, and were notable by the race packets--distributed by all major races--slung over their shoulders. Many of them wore Boston Marathon jackets, indicating they had completed that illustrious race. Others wore the blue-colored 2018 Chicago Marathon commemorative shirt. Many of the runners passed my one-woman "Free Aafia" protest with looks of interest on their faces. We runners--particularly marathoners--tend to be very narcissistic. Also, marathons charge on average $100 registration fee, making marathoning an expensive hobby, and as a result largely the dominion of the well-to-do. I wondered how many of my fellow Chicago Marathon participants would stand for a cause higher than themselves, particularly a political prisoner whose false imprisonment their tax dollars subsidized.

As it was my first visit to the Pakistani Consulate, I didn’t realize it lay in the path taken by many marathoners leaving the McCormick Center (where packet pickup for the marathon was held). The marathon had not even started, and inadvertently I’d introduced a large number of runners to the Aafia case.

As I left the Consulate and headed to the nearby subway station, I prayed that the newly elected Pakistani government would reverse the ignominies of its predecessors, and work to free Dr. Aafia Siddiqui. It was a shame and a travesty that a Muslim nation had allowed one of its most innocent and vulnerable citizens to languish for 15 years in American, Pakistani, and Afghan prisons, all without just cause. I prayed that all those complicit in her torment would be punished by Allah Almighty.

© 2018 Nadrat Siddique

Monday, July 2, 2018

Karen Silkwood: Heroine


By Nadrat Siddique

This past weekend, I was in Oklahoma City for a friend's wedding. Walking around the downtown, I passed roads and a small city park named for Robert Kerr and Dean McGee. An elementary school and a high school were similarly named for the principles of the Kerr-McGee Nuclear Corporation. It reminded me that a heroine of my teen years, Karen Silkwood, was murdered here in the 1970s.

While working for Kerr-McGee, Silkwood found the corporation endangering its workers through highly unethical and likely illegal industry practices. She became a whistleblower, and thus the target of the company’s malfeasance. Ultimately, she was murdered when her car was run off the road.

It was the Silkwood case which convinced me of the importance of the labor (she was the union representative for workers at her Kerr-McGee location); of environmentalism (although Kerr-McGee paid a large settle ment to the Silkwood estate, they refused to admit fault; however Silkwood and the union alleged corporate negligence which led to the contamination of workers with plutonium; and of activism (had Silkwood remained silent and tolerated Kerr-McGee’s abuse of its workers, she might be alive today; instead, she insisted on investigating, organizing and agitating for workers’ rights, despite being aware of the risks of challenging a corporate giant).

So, Silkwood is dead, and the Men in Black suits—Kerr and McGee—who likely ordered her murder are honored to this day in Oklahoma City.


Thursday, June 21, 2018

Their 9-11's


By Nadrat Siddique

The majority of those in immigration detention are from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. What those in power—from the Trump administration to the liberal Left—fail to discuss or recognize is that starting from the 1980s (many would argue much earlier), the U.S. played a highly pernicious role in subverting the governments and economies of these countries. Their countries rendered effectively unlivable, it should come as no surprise that Salvadorans, Guatemalans, and Hondurans make the dangerous and risky journey north, seeking asylum in the U.S. and other places. Far from incarcerating these indigents, the U.S. should be paying them reparations.

In Guatemala, the democratically-elected government of Jacobo Arbenz was overthrown by a CIA coup in 1954, and the country was plunged into turmoil. That turmoil resulted in a string of U.S.-supported military dictators, the most prominent of whom were Efrain Rios Montt and Oscar Humberto Mejia Victores.

The U.S. actively supported Efrain Rios Montt, who came to power through a 1982 military coup. He learned counterinsurgency techniques from his U.S. handlers at Fort Gulick (Panama Canal Zone) and Fort Bragg (North Carolina). Under Rios Montt, the Guatemalan army with U.S. support, went on a rampage to wipe out rural support for left wing guerrillas. Rios Montt is widely believed to be responsible for the brutal murders up to 70,000 indigenous Mayans in what was known as a “scorched earth policy,” and was eventually put on trial in Guatemala and Spain.

In 2013, Rios Montt received an 80-year sentence for crimes which included massacres in fifteen Ixil Maya villages in which 1,771 unarmed men, women, and children were killed. However, the conviction was overturned.

Rios Montt’s successor, Brigadier General Oscar Humberto Mejia Victores, came to power in 1983, and was also supported by the United States, He continued Rios Montt’s policies. In 2011, Mejia Victores was put to trial in Guatemala on war crimes charges stemming from the killings of thousands of indigenous Guatemalans. But—he was declared unfit to stand trial as the result of a stroke.

All told, 200,000 Guatemalans, the majority of them Mayan Indians, were killed between 1960-1996. According to exhaustive investigations by the U.N. and the Catholic Church—most of the dead were civilians who were killed by the Guatemalan Army. Of these, 132,000 died between 1978-1983, a period of undeniable U.S. involvement in Guatemala. The U.S. role in the destruction of Guatemalan society was never brought to bear.

In Honduras, a literal banana republic existed for decades. Starting in the late 19th century, Cuyamel Fruit Company (an American company, despite the name), United Fruit, and Standard Fruit (which later become Dole) effectively ran the country. They were granted land and exemptions from tax liability and other legal obligations by the Honduran government. During this period, the U.S. repeatedly sent troops to Honduras, presumably to protect the interests of U.S. fruit corporations. U.S. troops landed in the banana republic in 1903, 1907, 1911, 1912, 1919, 1924 and 1925.

Following two decades of military rule, a populist physician named José Ramón Adolfo Villeda Morales came to power. He ruled from 1957 – 1963, and instrumented agrarian reform which included the transfer of land to poor peasants. He modernized Honduras, and established the country’s public education, public health, and social security systems. Villeda Morales announced plans to expropriate lands from United Fruit. But before he could do this, he was deposed in a 1963 military coup which returned the country to military rule. That military rule lasted for another two decades.

Honduras has long been used as a launch pad by the U.S. for military incursions and interventions in the region. For instance, the deposing of the democratically-elected government of Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala in 1954 was conducted from Honduran soil. The Nicaraguan Contras (counterrevolutionaries fighting the democratically-elected Nicaraguan government) received support from the U.S. military headquartered in Honduras. The Contras launched a campaign of terror in the Nicaraguan countryside, subjecting Nicaraguan peasants to arson, rape, murder, and other horrific crimes meant to deflate their support for the Nicaraguan government. In the course of the Contra war—a war fueled and funded by the U.S.—30,000 Nicaraguans were killed. The economies of both Nicaragua and Honduras were severely damaged as a result of the U.S. intervention.

Similarly, Honduras was used to send U.S. support to the Salvadoran military dictatorship in the 1980s.

The U.S. built the Soto Cano Air Base in the Honduran town of Palmerola in the early 1980s to facilitate these operations and others. Approximately 500 – 600 U.S. troops are housed there. Additionally, the U.S. military's Joint Task Force Bravo is headquartered at Soto Cano.

In El Salvador, the U.S. supported a repressive right-wing regime which was being challenged by leftist guerrillas. Under Reagan, the U.S. sent hundreds of millions of dollars of military and economic aid to El Salvador—more than to any other country except Israel and Egypt. At the time, the Salvadoran government frequently used death squads and paramilitaries to carry out their repression.

These death squads killed a popular Archbishop, Oscar Romero. They raped, then murdered four American nuns who were in El Salvador. In the tiny mountain town of El Mozote, a U.S.-trained Salvadoran army unit, called the Atlacatl Battalion, conducted a massacre of Salvadoran peasants, murdering around 1,200 men, women, and children.

The U.S. not only continued to fund the Salvadoran regime, but actively assisted in the cover-up of these atrocities. By the time the civil war ended in 1992, 75,000 Salvadorans, mostly civilians, had been killed with the help of U.S. tax dollars.

And yet, the U.S. has the gall to incarcerate and prosecute the people fleeing from the fallout of these dirty wars. And to take their children from them when they seek asylum here. If that is not hubris, I don't know what is.

© 2018 Nadrat Siddique

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Dr. Aafia Siddiqui Supporters Hold Iftar, Pray for Her Release


By Nadrat Siddique

June 1, 2018

Baltimore, MD – Very nearly half way through Ramadan, supporters of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui held an iftar in her honor.  Close to 30 committed Muslim activists from DC, Maryland, and Philadelphia discussed her case, made du’ah for her (and for other Muslim political prisoners), performed maghrib prayers, and shared dates and a Middle Eastern meal.

Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, a petite Pakistani Muslimah, is a political prisoner of the U.S. government. By all accounts, she has been raped, tortured, and separated from her school age children—who were also detained for years—in the course of her incarceration. Aafia is a neuroscientist with degrees from Brandeis University and MIT. She is being held as if she is a dangerous criminal in Carswell, TX, on trumped up charges which include attacking U.S. servicemen in Afghanistan. But supporters, like the ones gathered at the Baltimore iftar tonight, say the charges are preposterous, and that even the U.S. government knows it erred in its dealings with her, but is too arrogant or stubborn to reverse its actions.

Dr. Kaukab Siddique, an independent Pakistani journalist, who also teaches journalism at Lincoln University, was at the iftar. He had been writing about Aafia’s case almost since its inception. In opening remarks to the iftar, Dr. Siddique referred to the Muslim organization he helped found decades ago: “Jamaat al-Muslimeen has always been in the forefront of fighting for Muslim women’s rights under the rubric of Islam, and women have often been at the helm of the organization.”

He recognized Ashira Na’im, Masjid Jamaat al-Muslimeen administrator; Sr. Chekisha El-Amin, a long-time Baltimore-based Jamaat al-Muslimeen activist; Nadrat Siddique, a DC-based Jamaat al-Muslimeen activist and political prisoner advocate; and Sr. Fatima Abdullah, a founding member of the organization, who, along with her husband Amin Abdullah, had come to the iftar from Philadelphia, PA.

“And Jamaat al-Muslimeen has always supported political prisoners, those who are imprisoned unjustly or because of their beliefs. So, when we learned of the plight of Dr. Aafia, it was only natural for us to support her case,” he concluded.

Mauri Saalakhan, a long time DC-based human rights activist and head of the Aafia Foundation (formerly known as the Peace and Justice Foundation) was the guest speaker at the iftar gathering. He had travelled to several continents to raise awareness of the Aafia case, and organized rallies for Aafia outside the Carswell, Texas prison where she is being held—on very hostile turf, as well as at the Department of Justice, Bureau of Prisons, and other key locations.

Saalakhan said that it was the Islamic responsibility of Muslims to speak out against injustice, particularly during Ramadan. The organizer-activist, who is also known as El-Hajj Mauri Saalakhan because he has completed the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, had worked on a litany of political prisoner cases. But—Aafia’s case, he said, was one of the worst cases of injustice he had seen. She was alive, he said, negating the recently circulating rumor that she had passed away. But she was not well. She was held under sordid conditions, a travesty of justice, he said.

Saalakhan said he was very disappointed by the lack of action on the part of most Muslims to come forward. Muslims who could have done something to help Aafia, but didn’t—would be held accountable for their inaction in the Hereafter, he told iftar attendees. He pointed out the Pakistani government’s insidious role in first aiding Aafia’s kidnapping, and then subverting efforts to release her.

Imam Ali Siddiqui, a lifelong peace and justice activist currently based in DC, attended the iftar along with his family. His organization, the Muslim Institute of Interfaith Studies and Understanding, has effectively dialogued with churches and synagogues in the DC area. Addressing the iftar gathering briefly, he mentioned recent work with the DC Poor Peoples Campaign, a rekindling of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s movement for social justice. Imam Siddiqui has long protested Aafia’s detention as well as that of other political prisoners, and participated in rallies and meetings to free her.

This writer, DC-based blogger, runner, and activist Nadrat Siddique organized the iftar. Siddique, who has run three marathons to call attention to Aafia’s case, said that as Muslims were eating and praying, praying and eating—at many, many iftars throughout Ramadan, they ought also think about the Muslim prisoners and political prisoners, being held under horrendous conditions in American prisons and secret prisons. What were the prisoners eating for iftar? Were they even conscious and able to fast? If they were fasting, did they have access to halal (Islamically permissible) food with which to open their fast?

“Muslims ought to ask the imams of their respective masajid to mention the political prisoners in their khutbas. We should write letters raising concern for the welfare of the political prisoners to corporate media, and on the social media sites of these corporate media. Give zakat to the families of the political prisoners. And make du'ah for them. There is added barakat in doing this during Ramadan,” she concluded.

Dr. Kaukab Siddique closed out the evening with a du’ah asking for the acceptance of the fasts of the iftar attendees, and remembering all the political prisoners, including Dr. Aafia Siddiqui.

© 2018 Nadrat Siddique

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Maintaining the Silence on Aafia


What do the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, and (the Pakistani daily) Dawn have in common? They all maintain the silence on the unjust imprisonment of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui. As such, they are abdicating their responsibility as media organs to seek truth in this case of gross human rights violations of an innocent Muslim woman scientist.

My letter to the Washington Post on Aafia (after running the 2018 DC Rock ‘N Roll Marathon in her name; letter is as yet unpublished by the Post):

My letter to the Boston Globe on Aafia (after running the 2017 Boston Marathon in her name; letter remains unpublished by the Globe):

My letter to (Pakistani daily) Dawn on Aafia (after running the 2016 DC Rock ‘N Roll Marathon to call attention to Aafia’s case; letter was not published by Dawn):

It is particularly shameful that Pakistani and other Muslim media refuse to openly and honestly discuss her case, or take any step which would compel Pakistani lawmakers to intercede on Aafia’s behalf. Inshallah, they will be held to account on the Last Day.

--Nadrat Siddique