Saturday, November 13, 2021

Pakistani Woman Marathoner Writes to Star-Telegram About Aafia

Following my running of the Fort Worth Marathon for political prisoner Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, I wrote the following letter to Fort Worth's main newpaper. Although I followed their guidelines to a "t," including number of words permitted (this is a slightly longer version of what I actually sent), they did not publish it.  -Nadrat Siddique

- - - - - - - - - - - 

To: The Editor

The Star-Telegram

I wonder how many Fort Worth residents realize their town houses a prisoner whom hundreds of thousands worldwide view as a political prisoner. Dr. Aafia Siddiqui is serving an 86-year sentence at FMC Carswell for a putative crime in which no one was killed or injured. This past Sunday, I ran the Fort Worth Marathon to draw attention to her case. It's a case which former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark (himself a native of the DFW area) characterized as "the worst case of individual injustice I have ever witnessed."

Like Aafia, I hail from Pakistan, a country which boasts few women marathoners. So, in that regard, I am a rarity. Leading up to the Fort Worth Marathon, I'd done 47 marathons in 14 different states. Previously, I'd done two Boston marathons, two Chicago marathons, and a Washington, DC marathon--all to protest Dr. Siddiqui's plight. Fort Worth was my 48th full marathon, and the 6th one which I dedicated to Aafia.

It seemed particularly appropriate, given that Aafia had been attacked 2 1/2 months prior by another inmate at FMC Carswell who smashed a coffee mug on her face, burning and cutting her. Afterwards, the prison administration did nothing to protect Aafia, placing her in solitary confinement, as if she were the one at fault.

Running in my "Free Aafia Siddiqui" tee, I placed #3 in my division, which came as a shock since I was quite sleep-deprived, and lacked "home court advantage."

The next day, a friend and I headed to FMC Carswell to deliver a petition bearing around 750 signatures calling for Aafia's release on humanitarian grounds. We attempted, but were unable to deliver the petition, because administrative offices appeared closed. We left, resolving to return another day.


Nadrat Siddique 


© 2021 Nadrat Siddique

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Fort Worth Marathon for Aafia

By Nadrat Siddique

November 8, 2021
Fort Worth, TX

This weekend, I ran the 26.2 mile Fort Worth Marathon (race) to call attention to the glaring injustice of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui's imprisonment in that town. For the crime of being an unapologetic Muslimah, she's serving an 86-year term. That means--if the authorities have their way--she may still be in prison after most readers of this post are dead.

Before her imprisonment, she was super-conservative; very family-oriented; and well known and active in her community, local mosques, and student organizations. And she was very focused on intellectual pursuits, earning advanced degrees from MIT and Brandeis in a short time.

I'm not sure how Aafia would view the enormity of my traveling 1,400 miles from the Washington, DC area to Texas to run a marathon in her name, and that, too, in funky red tights.

Some photos of my Fort Worth Marathon for Dr. Aafia Siddiqui are here.

The marathon, interestingly, is run on a portion of the Trinity Trail. This is part of a  huge system of trails- over 100 miles in total- called the Trinity Trails System. It is so expansive that you can basically travel the entire city on foot, bike, or rollerblade, relying solely on the trail.

During the marathon, an approximately 6.5 mile segment of the trail is traversed 4 times. Much of the route is flat and follows the Trinity River. I saw egrets, herons, and other waterfowl as I ran, repeatedly murmuring "subhanAllah" to myself. Along the way, there were water and Gatorade stops--and Saleema Gul.

What Gul Did

Saleema Gul, a staunch supporter of Aafia, came out to assist me in my marathon effort. In October, she'd helped organize a protest for Aafia (one of a five-city mobilization) outside the Pakistan Consulate in Houston, despite the strong objections of consular officials, including the CG, Abrar Hashmi. Seemingly in an attempt to disavow responsibility for the Pakistan government's essential role in Aafia's abduction from Karachi, and then her transfer to U.S. authorities for torture, the Consulate insisted that the protest not occur near their premises. "Any location but the Consulate" was the message. The Aafia Foundation and its coalition partners went ahead with the Pakistan Consulate protest anyway.

This time around, Gul again showed that she had more guts than most men. Fort Worth is nearly four hours from Houston. The Houston-based Gul woke up around 1:00 AM, chugged down some coffee, then jumped in her car and headed to Fort Worth. She was at the race with her "Free Aafia" sign well before me--and I was staying in a hotel literally 15 minutes away!

While I was running (sporting my "Free Aafia Siddiqui tee, prepared for me by an all-women's collective in Indiana), Gul was busily explaining Aafia's case to numerous bystanders.

As I passed by her, I was a bit concerned that she, a petite Pakistani hijabi, was standing in the midst of a largely White, largely pro-Republican crowd rocking a "Free Aafia" sign. And- Texas has an open-carry law. In other words, guns can legally be carried in plain view, on one's person in public places. Pro-Trumpers and others were known to use the provision to their advantage. Gul did not seem to be the least bit concerned. Afterwards, she told me the reception she got was generally positive, and that people were polite--even friendly--in some cases.

Torture in the Shadow of the Trinity

In the DFW area, everything seems to be about Trinity. As mentioned, there's the Trinity Trail, which runs along the Trinity River. Then, there's Trinity Park, Trinity Springs, Trinity High School, and Trinity Valley Middle School. There are churches of all denominations bearing the name Trinity. Then, there's Trinity Spine and Orthopedics, Trinity Valley School of Ballet, and Trinity Self Storage.

There is even a portion of the Trinity Trail a stone's throw from FMC Carswell, the prison where Aafia is held.

Although my understanding of the Trinity (in Christian belief) is limited, I do know that Jesus (AS) is a crucial component of this. To Christians, he is the Son (ouzo-billah). To Muslims, he is the revered messenger of God, sent to the people of his time to bring them to God's Word.

In either case, Jesus, like Aafia, was tortured horribly by the authorities of the time. And, like Aafia, he did not give up his faith under torture. 

As I left Fort Worth, I wondered what Jesus would say if he knew of an innocent Pakistani Muslim woman's continued abuse in an ostensible prison hospital, in the area popularly known as the "Bible Belt." Would he sanction Aafia being forced by her jailors, to walk on her holy book, Al-Qur'an?

© 2021 Nadrat Siddique
Nadrat Siddique is a Pakistani Muslim woman marathoner who lives in the Washington, DC area. She has done 48 marathons, frequently combining her twin passions of advocating for political prisoners and distance running by doing marathons to draw attention to political prisoners' cases. Previously, she did two Boston marathons, two Chicago marathons, and a Washington, DC marathon to draw attention to Dr. Aafia Siddiqui's case.

Monday, September 27, 2021

Aafia More Guilty than Chauvin?

So Derek Chauvin, the cop who killed George Floyd--in broad daylight and on camera--got a prison term of 22.5 years. And he's appealing, so, if the pattern of police impunity holds, he may get out. Pakistani scientist #AafiaSiddiqui, killed no one and injured no one. But she got 86 years. Where is the justice in that?

Friday, September 24, 2021

Al-Jazeera Piece Reveals More U.S. Torture Techniques

A recent Al-Jazeera article talks about the US torture center at Baghram, Afghanistan. One of the former detainees interviewed, named Sultan, speaks of losing his teeth during interrogation (ie torture). Pakistani political prisoner Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, who was also secretly detained at Baghram (her name did not appear in any prison registry, contrary to international law), similarly lost her teeth. This raises the possibility that this was standard practice by US forces, who claimed to be in Afghanistan to bring democracy there. The question remains: When will the US (and their equally genocidal predecessors, the Russians) be held accountable for the death and destruction it wrought on Afghanistan and its people?

--Nadrat Siddique

Monday, September 13, 2021

One Explanation for Pakistan Government's Inaction on Aafia

Despite massive support for Aafia amongst the Pakistani public, and the subsequent (perhaps opportunistic) campaign promises of the current prime minister, Imran Khan, to get her released, if he got into office, Aafia Siddiqui continues to languish in a U.S. jail for upwards of 18 years. The Pakistani government has yet to perform the most elemental step of formally requesting her release. The question arises: Why?

The simplest answer seems to be: The Pakistan government is even more complicit than the U.S. in Aafia's continuing detention. At least, the U.S. had expressed an interest at an official level at various points to conduct a prisoner exchange, or some such for Aafia. Although I'm no expert, I believe that under International Law, the Pakistani government and its principles can be taken before the International Criminal Court (ICC), for their role in Aafia's kidnapping, rape, and torture. The U.S., on the other hand, cannot easily be tried before the ICC or any other international body, as they are not signatories to these. 

So, Aafia's release would mean exposure of the Pakistani government's crimes, and open the door to an international inquiry/ litigation. Also, given the monumental support for Aafia across Pakistan, where she is considered the "Daughter of the Nation," reaction to the crimes against her, when and if she is finally released and the full, sordid details come out, is likely to be explosive. This may explain, at least in part, the Pakistan government's hesitancy in requesting Aafia's release.

--Nadrat Siddique 

Friday, August 20, 2021

Aafia Attacked by Fellow Carswell Inmate

On July 30, while prison authorities turned a blind eye, an inmate at FMC Carswell attacked political prisoner #DrAafiaSiddiqui. The inmate threw scalding hot liquid on her. Details are here.

This is absolutely unacceptable. Under the Geneva Convention, the authority holding a prisoner is responsible for her welfare.

Please call the prison to express concern about Dr. Aafia Siddiqui. Her registry # (prisoner #) is 90279-054. Phone for FMC Carswell is: (817) 782-4000.

If you can't call, write to the warden ASAP:
Michael Carr, Warden
FMC Carswell
PO Box 27066
Fort Worth, TX 76127

When writing to the Warden, please be sure to use the correct legal spelling of Aafia's name and her register number (Aafia Siddiqui, #90279-054). Mention the fact that you are concerned about the July 30 attack on her by another inmate, her physical safety, and her general health.

Also, please make du'ah for her, and ask the imam of your mosque to make du'ah for her after juma'ah prayers. JazaakAllah khair.

--Nadrat Siddique

Friday, June 18, 2021

Speaking Truth at Masjid (No) Noor

By Nadrat Siddique

This Friday, New Trend's editor Dr. Kaukab Siddique attended juma'ah services at a mosque in a Baltimore suburb. Afterwards, he offered complimentary copies of New Trend to members of the congregation, while standing outside in the considerable heat in the mosque parking lot.

New Trend is one of the oldest continuously published Islamic papers in North America. Since its inception in 1977, it has supported the Palestinian liberation struggle, opposed dictatorships across the Arab and Muslim world, supported the right of Muslims to free themselves from occupation and oppression; and championed freedom for political prisoners like Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, Imam Jamil Al-Amin, Ziyad Yaghi, Ahmed Abdel Sattar, and the innocents held at Guantanamo Bay.

The mosque administrators, with complete disregard for adaab (Islamic etiquette), accosted Dr. Siddique, accusing him of distributing "terrorist literature" (with scarcely a glance at what he was distributing). He responded to them that they ought not use the terminology of the oppressor.

Then, the accusations became even more baseless and bizarre. Surrounding Dr. Siddique, several mosque board members repeatedly called him a liar (it was not clear what he was ostensibly lying about), an "old man," a "rascal,"and possibly an Ahmadiyya. (The last charge was particularly ludicrous, and illustrated that the mosque administrators had not read North America's oldest Islamic paper, which has consistently and vociferously opposed the Ahmadiyyas.)

The relatively young (but old and sold at heart) men finally dismissed the New Trend editor with a wave of their hand, their hubris in full display. In a further attempt at intimidation and suppression of free speech, one of them photographed the license plate of the vehicle in which he was traveling.

Videos of the incident are here and here.
The ugly incident revealed the nature of the majority of U.S. mosques: Khutbas almost never discuss issues of concern to the Muslim community, whether about political prisoners or police shootings in the U.S., or about the bombing of innocents in Palestine, Syria, Iraq, or other Muslim countries by the U.S. and its allies. Attempts are frequently made to cultivate an "American Islam," in direct contravention to the original Islamic teachings on internationalism and Islamic brotherhood/sisterhood. Mosque board members behave like egomaniacs, their advanced degrees, wealth, and position giving them the illusion of superiority over other Muslims.

Mosque administrators also frequently display overtly misogynistic behaviors towards the women in their congregation (if there are any; not surprisingly, at this mosque, there were exactly four women attendees, myself included). It is common for female members of the congregation to be relegated to servile roles in the mosque, and to be physically placed in backrooms where they cannot see, hear, or interact with the imam, or with the board members who wield authority over happenings at the mosque.

Perhaps most shamefully, such mosques welcome representatives of the Democratic and Republican parties to pitch to the congregations, distribute party literature, and much else, never mind that both parties have killed, bombed, and maimed millions of Muslims.

But, to a representative of an Islamic newspaper, an elder with a decades-long history in the Islamic struggle, and who studied directly under Maulana Maudoodi (RA), they behave with unbelievable arrogance and outright rudeness. And surely Allah (AWJ) is the Knower of all things.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Letter to FMC Carswell Warden Michael Carr

(This was emailed to the warden of FMC Carswell (facility where political prisoner Dr. Aafia Siddiqui is held). It was written in response to an appeal by the Aafia Movement (Pakistan), which is spearheaded by Dr. Aafia Siddiqui's sister, Dr. Fowzia Siddiqui. The family has had no contact with Aafia since 2018.)

Michael Carr, Warden
FMC Carswell
PO Box 27066
Fort Worth, TX 76127

Dear Warden Carr,

As a U.S. citizen here in the state of Maryland, I am writing to ask you to please facilitate communication between Aafia Siddiqui and her family. I am a writer, blogger, and human rights advocate, and I cannot understand why, in contravention of Federal Bureau of Prisons regulations, this prisoner is not permitted video- or other types of calls with her family. I believe you have the power and the moral authority to facilitate this, and I would be greatly appreciative if you would do so.

Nadrat Siddique

Monday, April 26, 2021

Ramadan Racing

Yesterday, I did my first (in-person) race in a very long time, the Discover Downtown Columbia 10k. Having kept all of the requisite fasts, and being in serious Ramadan sleep debt, I expected a mediocre performance, something along the lines of my Ramadan training pace of approximately 8:45 min/mile.

(During Ramadan, I typically run close to iftar time, when I can re-hydrate afterwards. Also, unlike other times of year, I do not push myself at all when running during the Holy month, because speed is then not the objective.)

I was a bit nervous driving to the race that morning, as this was the longest I'd gone without doing a race in recent years. I listened to the Sublime Qur'an on CDs which my uncle had given me. It calmed me immediately. And- I resolved not to look at my watch during the race, and instead to concentrate on breathing and form. All of this I did, finishing in 47:32 (read "47 minutes, 32 seconds").

Afterwards, I was shocked to discover I had placed 3rd in my division. My pace was 7:40 min/mile (the two women who beat me were both doing about a 7:34 min/mile pace). And I was #16 out of 182 total women. Alhamdulillah.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

The George Floyd Verdict and Asian Confusion

The issuance of a guilty verdict in the trial of Derek Chauvin, the cop who murdered George Floyd lead to an interesting reaction among some of my very young, very sincere Pakistani friends. They all live in Pakistan, and are ardent supporters of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani woman political prisoner held by the U.S. government. Very active on Twitter, they launched a coordinated campaign to comment on Twitter posts issued by Black politicians, journalists, socialites, and others living in the U.S., relating to George Floyd. 

The only problem was the Pakistani youth, who had never set foot in the U.S., (and therefore seemed almost completely unaware of racial dynamics here), compared Floyd's suffering with that of Aafia (almost as if it were a contest!). They insisted that Floyd's family had gotten justice, and now so should Aafia. They were commenting (on Twitter) on almost every post a public personality issued about the George Floyd verdict. Their comments were taken as highly offensive by some Black activists and writers. And not surprisingly, the Pakistani youth were blocked by the Tweet authors. The Pakistani youth seemed bemused as to why anyone would be offended by what they'd written or block them, when they were just trying to get justice for Aafia.

Since the youth and I were all members of a small "Free Aafia" WhatsApp group, I gave them this free advice over that medium:

"I've been reading the discussion here on trying to use the occasion of the George Floyd verdict to get attention for our sister Aafia's case. As a Pakistani who has grown up in the U.S., I would strongly discourage this. Black people suffer on a daily basis under police brutality and oppression in the U.S., even though they are born here. They are generally very sympathetic to the plight of Dr. Aafia when they are told about it. And- I've had many of them stand with me in protests here for Aafia, when most US-based Pakistanis are too cowardly to do so. The Pakistanis, in my opinion, are more concerned about what might happen to their nice jobs, image, etc if they speak out for Aafia.

A very large percent of Pakistanis as well as Arabs living here in the U.S. are doing great, in terms of dunya. And they don't care either about Aafia, or about Black Americans who are suffering under police brutality/racism. Many of them have convenience stores in the Black areas ("ghettos"). These areas are typically very poor, and have very few nice grocery stores etc to buy healthy food. The Arab and Pakistani convenience store owners sell liquor and cigarettes to Black people. It gives a bad name to Muslims.

The shop owner who called the police on George Floyd was an Arab Muslim. He thought Floyd was shoplifting/stealing some very minor item from his store, so he called them. But, he did not have to. His shop was similar to the ones I describe. (He apologized later, but the damage was done.)

The best thing Pakistani Muslims can do, in my opinion, is to support Black people in their struggle against racism and White Supremacy. And that is a struggle for justice which Muslims can support. (In fact, Qur'an Kareem commands us to stand with all oppressed people.) We do not need to compete with them on who is more oppressed, or try to overshadow their struggle.

In other words, I would strongly recommend keeping the two issues (justice for George Floyd and the Aafia Siddiqui case) separate."