Andy Worthington and Omar Deghayes Discuss Aafia Siddiqui in East London, Saturday February 23, 2013

The power of Islamophobia, it seems, is such that when a tabloid newspaper — the Daily Star — published an article with the headline “Mosque terror doc fundraiser,” claiming that “Britain’s biggest mosque is under investigation after it scheduled a fundraising event for a convicted would-be killer,” it led to the event being moved.

The mosque in question was the East London Mosque, in Whitechapel, and the alleged investigation was by the Charity Commission. The Star reported that the Charity Commission “said it had started a probe into the mosque,” and had “not yet launched a full investigation,” but was “looking into the issue.” That sounds very vague, but it was enough to get the mosque jumpy, and the event has, as a result, been moved to another venue in Whitechapel.

As for the “fundraising event for a convicted would-be killer,” another way of putting it would be that the Justice for Aafia Coalition (also see here) is putting on a fundraising event for a US-educated Pakistani neuroscientist who disappeared for nearly five and a half years, from March 2003 to July 2008, when, they contend, she was kidnapped and she and two of her three children were held in secret prisons run by or for the CIA and the US government. The third child, a baby at the time of her disappearance, may, it appears, have been shot and killed at the time of Dr. Siddiqui’s kidnapping. Read the rest of this entry »

Video: Andy Worthington Discusses the Horrors of Guantánamo at Aafia Siddiqui Protest in London

On Sunday, in torrential rain, I cut short a dry afternoon in the Catford Bridge Tavern — a formerly notoriously rough pub reborn after its recent takeover by the Antic group, which is spacious, friendly, well-decorated, and which also does excellent food, including Sunday roasts — to take my bike on the train to Charing Cross, and, from there, to cycle up to Piccadilly and through Mayfair to Grosvenor Square, to speak at a protest outside the US Embassy to mark the second anniversary of the sentencing, in a court in New York, of Aafia Siddiqui.

The story of Aafia Siddiqui, which I have been covering for many years, remains one of the most disturbing in the whole of the Bush administration’s brutal “war on terror.” A Pakistani neuroscientist, she is currently two years into a horrendously unjust 86 year sentence in a prison hospital in Texas for allegedly having tried and failed, in August 2008, to shoot a number of US soldiers who were holding her in Ghazni, Afghanistan. This followed her resurfacing after a mysterious five and a half year absence, in which many people believe she was held in one or more secret CIA “black sites,” where she was severely abused and lost her mind.

Although the turnout for the protest, organised by the Justice for Aafia Coalition, was only moderate, numbers were swelled by the many thousands of people who had turned up for a protest about the terrible racist and Islamophobic video, “The Innocence of Muslims,” which, to my mind, like all examples of bigotry, is best ignored, to avoid providing the oxygen of publicity to those peddling such filth. However, the organisers of the Aafia Siddiqui protest were presented with an excellent opportunity to inform numerous people about the plight of Dr. Siddiqui, which was obviously useful. Read the rest of this entry »

Andy Worthington Speaks at Event in London Marking Two Years Since Aafia Siddiqui’s Barbaric 86-Year Sentence

I’m sorry to report that it’s two years since the Pakistani neuroscientist Dr. Aafia Siddiqui received an 86-year sentence in a court in New York for allegedly having tried and failed to shoot the US soldiers in whose custody she was being held in Afghanistan in August 2008. There is a protest outside the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square tomorrow afternoon — September 23 — at which I’ll be speaking, along with many other people, so if you’re in London please come along. See a map here, and the Facebook page here.

The trial of Aafia Siddiqui, which culminated in her sentence, and which I described at the time as “barbaric,” appeared to be a cover for a much grimmer story — one of the darkest in the whole of the torture-filled “war on terror” — in which, on the basis of alleged connections with terrorism that have never been proved, she had disappeared with her children in Pakistan in March 2003 and was then held in a “black site” until her engineered reappearance in Ghazni in 2008.

According to the US authorities, after being captured in a bewildered state, she allegedly tried and failed to shoot the Americans guarding her, which provided an excuse to render her to the US to be put on trial — an unusual move given that most people accused of anti-American activities in Afghanistan did not end up in the US — and for her to be silenced as a result of the 86-year sentence handed down after a trial that critics called “a grave miscarriage of justice,” and to be held in isolation in a psychiatric prison/hospital for women in Carswell, Texas, notoriously referred to as the “hospital of horrors”, where her health continues to deteriorate, and where she is denied meaningful contact with her family. Read the rest of this entry »

Andy Worthington’s Photos on Flickr: Protest 2012 – Guantánamo, Aafia Siddiqui and Shaker Aamer

"Free Shaker Aamer" protest in London, April 2012In Brussels with EgalitéBringing Guantanamo to the European ParliamentGuantanamo screening at the European ParliamentGuantanamo panel at the European ParliamentCrossroads, Brussels
A speaker at the Aafia Siddiqui rally in London, March 2012Andy Worthington at the Aafia Siddiqui rally in London, March 2012The crowd at the Aafia Siddiqui rally in London, March 2012Andy Worthington joins the "Free Shaker Aamer" protest in London, April 2012

Protest 2012 – Guantánamo, Aafia Siddiqui and Shaker Aamer, a set on Flickr.

Since setting up my new Flickr account last week, I’ve posted three sets of photos from my US tour in January, to campaign for the closure of Guantánamo on the 10th anniversary of the opening of the prison – in New York, on the national day of action in Washington D.C., and in San Francisco and Chicago.

This latest set contains photos from a number of campaigns and protests in which  I’ve been involved this year, since I returned from the US — my visit to Brussels to show “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (the film I co-directed with Polly Nash) at the European Parliament, and two protests in London — a rally for the imprisoned Pakistani neuroscientist Aafia Siddiqui outside the US embassy in London on the 9th anniversary of her initial disappearance in Pakistan, and a protest outside Parliament calling for the return to the UK from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison. Other protests — with UK Uncut and Occupy London — can be found here, here, here and here.

My thanks to the MEPs Jean Lambert, Sarah Ludford and Ana Gomes, for their persistence in exposing the injustices of Guantánamo and the “war on terror,” and to the Justice for Aafia Coalition and the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign for their hard work on behalf of Dr. Siddiqui and Shaker Aamer. Read the rest of this entry »

Video: Aafia Siddiqui and America’s Disappeared – Andy Worthington Speaks at a Protest at the US Embassy in London

On Saturday March 31, I was delighted to be asked to speak at a demonstration outside the US Embassy marking the 9th anniversary of the disappearance of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist who vanished with her three children in Karachi on March 30, 2003. It took nearly five and a half years until she reappeared in Afghanistan, where she was arrested by Afghan soldiers, and where, after apparently trying and failing to shoot at the US soldiers to whose custody she had been transferred, she was flown to the United States — rendered, one might say — where she was tried in New York, and, in September 2010, sentenced to 86 years in prison. (Click on the image to make it full-size).

I have written about Aafia Siddiqui’s case on many occasions, and have also spoken about her at several demonstrations and other meetings, but her story never becomes any easier in the telling, as it is so full of holes, involves rumours of her torture, the disappearance of two of her children for many years, and the presumption that her third child, a baby boy, was killed at the time of her disappearance. It also remains opaque and troubling because of the strange circumstances of her capture in 2008, her odd trial, and that hugely draconian sentence. Her alleged role as an al-Qaeda operative remains shadowy, and her current situation remains a source of alarm, as she is held in Carswell, in Fort Worth, Texas, a Federal Medical Center that provides specialized medical and mental health services to female offenders, but that has a terrible reputation for the abuse of the women held there.

The demonstration, which was organised by the Justice for Aafia Coalition, featured several other speakers, whose videos can be found here, and as many of them were speaking eloquently and at length about Dr. Siddiqui’s case, I took the opportunity to explain how she was one of many dozens of “high-value detainees” subjected to extraordinary rendition and torture in the Bush years, and to mention not only how there has been no accountability for those who authorised the program, but also how there has never been an official account of who was held. Read the rest of this entry »

Rallies Worldwide to Mark the 9th Anniversary of the Disappearance of Aafia Siddiqui

On Saturday, outside the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square, London, I will be speaking at an event marking the ninth anniversary of the disappearance in Pakistan of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, who vanished for five years and five months, and then mysteriously reappeared in Afghanistan in August 2008, where she was arrested, and then allegedly tried to shoot at the US soldiers who were holding her.

She was subsequently flown to New York, where, in September 2010, after a trial at which she did not appear to be well, although her mental health was not considered to be an issue worthy of scrutiny, she was sentenced to 86 years in prison, which she is serving in a notorious psychiatric prison, FMC Carswell, in Texas. Please click on the image to enlarge the poster.

The rally outside the US Embassy, organized by the Justice for Aafia Coalition, takes place from 3 pm to 6 pm, and the speakers, and the timing of speeches, are as follows:

1500: Introduction
1510: Sultan Sabri (Croydon Muslim Association)
1520: Raza Karim (IHRC – Islamic Human Rights Commission)
1530: Andy Worthington (journalist, author of The Guantánamo Files)
1540: Asif Hussain (FOSIS – Federation of Student Islamic Societies)
1550: Raza Nadim (MPACUK – Muslim Public Affairs Committee)
1600: Sheikh Suliman Ghani (Imam, Tooting Islamic Centre)
1610: Anas Altikriti (Cordoba Foundation)
1620: Ken O’Keefe (anti-war activist)
1630: Statement of Support from the Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers
1635: Joy Hurcombe (Save Shaker Aamer Campaign) reads out Statement of Support from Walter Wolfgang
1645: Omar Deghayes (former Guantánamo prisoner)
1655: Adnan Rashid (Hittin Institute)
1705: Sultanah Parvin
1715: Uthman Lateef (Hittin Institute)
1725: Conclusion

Read the rest of this entry »

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
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