Dr Aafia subjected to sexual assault in US detention, reveals lawyer

"Dr Aafia was sexually assaulted at Bagram as an interrogation tactic," human rights lawyer Clive Stafford Smith says

December 05, 2023

Dr Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist jailed in the United States for over a decade, has been sexually assaulted at least two times during her incarceration, her lawyerClive Stafford Smith told Geo News.

"Dr Aafia is abused and tortured more often," he said.

The lawyer said Dr Aafia informed him about the sexual assaults in a meeting.

He added that the government of Pakistan is also aware of the two instances of sexual assault.

Smith's comment pointed towards a report prepared by Aisha Farooqui, Pakistan's former consul general in Houston, in 2018, citing thephysical and sexual abuse that Dr Aafia was subjected to during her detention.

The report also recommended diplomatic authorities take her case to the highest level and find a way to repatriate Dr Aafia.

Smith revealed that a sexual assault complaint was, therefore, filed on her behalf. "Dr Aafia was also sexually assaulted in Bagram jail," he added.

He further shared details about the reason behind the assaults endured by his client at the United States-run prison in Afghanistan when the American military was based in the country and operating its bases on Afghan soil.

"Dr Aafia was sexually assaulted at Bagram as an interrogation tactic," he said.

DrFowzia Siddiqui, who is currently in the US to meet her imprisoned sister at theFederal Medical Center, Carswell in Texas, confirmed that she was allowed to meet her sister for four hours “from a distance” and added that her sister’s health did not seem good.

Dr Fowzia quoted her imprisoned sister as saying that the prison staff would give her better treatment two days ahead of the scheduled meeting with her sister.

However, she was not allowed to meet her according to the jail manual, Dr Fowzia added.

She added that another meeting might be arranged with her sister if Pakistani consul general persuades the authorities.

Earlier, Dr Aafia's sister tweeted about being denied a meeting with hopes of getting to "hug" her sister.

Earlier this year, the sisters met after 20 years when the elder Dr Fowzia visited herin Juneat a prison hospital in Fort Worth, Texas, US.

Upon her return to Pakistan, Dr Fowzia shared details of her sister's condition during the imprisonment, adding that she could not recognise her during their first meeting.

Dr Fowzia said: "Due to her condition, I could not even recognise her."

She, along with Jamaat-e-Islami's (JI) Senator Mushtaq and Smith, was in the United States after they were finally allowed to meet Dr Aafia.

Who is Dr Aafia Siddiqui?

A US-educated Pakistani scientist, Dr Aafia Siddiqui was jailed in 2010 for 86 years by a New York federal district court in September 2008 on charges of attempted murder and assault, stemming from an incident during an interview with the US authorities in Ghazni, Afghanistan — charges that she denied.

She was the first woman to be suspected of Al-Qaeda links by the US, but never convicted of it.

At 18 years old Siddiqui travelled to the US, where her brother lived, to study at Boston's prestigious MIT, later earning a PhD in neuroscience at Brandeis University.

But after the 9/11 terror attacks of 2001, she came up on the FBI's radar for donations to Islamic organisations and was linked to the purchase of $10,000 worth of night-vision goggles and books on warfare.

The US suspected she joined Al-Qaeda from America, returning to Pakistan where she married into the family of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed — an architect of the 9/11 attacks.

She disappeared in around 2003, along with her three children, in Karachi.

Five years later she turned up in Pakistan's war-torn neighbour Afghanistan, where she was arrested by local forces in the restive southeastern province of Ghazni.