Azhar Vadi 22 February 2012
The story of US imprisoned Pakistani doctor, Aafia Siddiqui, is reaching the ears and hearts of the broader South African population.
Her sister, Dr. Fowzia Siddiqui and human rights activist, Altaf Shakoor, are currently on a tour of the country to create awareness about
the plight of Aafia who languishes in the Carswell Detention Centre in Texas, USA.
Dr. Fowzia has been the guest of satellite radio broadcaster, Channel Islam International (Cii), and received a thunderous welcome from South African Muslims over the last five days.
The vibrancy of the community has spurred other media in the country to take notice of Dr. Fowzia’s presence and have repeatedly requested the opportunity to hear and transmit Aafia’s story.
On Tuesday, Dr. Fowzia appeared for a one hour talk show on SAfm, South Africa’s largest English medium public broadcasting radio station with a listenership of about 500 000.
Fowzia once again narrated the story of Dr. Aafia highlighting the injustice perpetrated against her and pointed out the complicity and role of politicians like former Pakistani president, Perves Musharraf and the United States.
Callers to the radio station programme expressed solidarity with Dr. Fowzia and her campaign and thanked her for bringing to the for information about US abuses against innocent people.
One respondent to the programme who only identified himself as Hope said, “Dr. Fowzia is making an important point about the collaboration between the US, Pakistan, Afghanistan and others… some think the US is the bastion of democracy but they don’t talk about the Cuban 5 and others.”
The Cuban Five are in a US prison, serving four life sentences and 75 years collectively, after being convicted in a federal court in Miami, on June 8, 2001.
Their supporters believe they were falsely accused by the US government of committing espionage conspiracy against the United States, and other related charges.
Meeting South African students
Dr. Fowzia also held a special meeting with university students at one of South Africa’s most prestigious institutes of higher learning, the University of the Witwatersrand. The talk was attended by students from a cross section of the South African community.
During the address, Dr. Fowzia focused on the trial of Aafia in the US after her rendition from Afghanistan. She noted that events that took place during the years 2003-2008 were not allowed as part of the testimony in the Manhattan Federal court of Judge Richard Berman.
She spoke about the travesty of justice as a result of Aafia not being allowed to have lawyers of her own choice.
Over and above this, “She has been allowed limited contact with her lawyers,” said Fowzia.
Former journalism graduate, Tshepo Tshabalala, attended the lecture. “I found about her cause on Twitter and then I did a bit of reading on the matter. It was really scary stuff but interesting as well.”
The torture and the pain this woman went through for a crime she didn’t commit was really shocking, he said. “For me it brokered memories of what the ANC and people like (Nelson) Mandela went through. He went to jail for 27 years for a crime he didn’t commit and it’s the same thing with this woman (Aafia Siddiqui) who has to spend 86 years in jail for a crime she didn’t commit.”
South Africans have always been a people who could relate to the struggles of others around the globe due to the policies of instituted racial segregation and apartheid in the 20th century.
Ebrahim Gangat, a senior presenter at Cii, said South Africans will always support those who are oppressed. “We have known oppression for many years in South Africa. We had the support of so many people around the world during those dark days and now it is our time to stand together with those facing injustice.”
The pain and humiliation that Aafia has had to experience has undoubtedly affected the psyche of the South African public. “When she had to strip naked and was forced to walk over the Quran and she refused and she was beaten up for that. That was amazingly scary,” said Tshabalala.
The information brought forth by Dr. Fowzia also impacted the way that the US is viewed amongst young South Africans.
“I would expect this to happen in a country with more corruption, a lot of crime and where they try to hide a lot of things. I do not see the reason why Americans would behave in such a barbaric way.”
Tshabalala also works as an intern at the campus radio station and the story was covered by them. The story will also be covered by the university’s student paper, Vuvuzela.
Dr. Fowzia was scheduled to visit Soweto on Thursday, the township where the home of South Africa’s anti-apartheid struggle, Nelson Mandela, was located.
Tags: Aafia Siddiqui, SA, SAfm, Wits