Al-Jazeerah: Cross-Cultural Understanding
Opinion Editorials, October 2010
Dr. Aafia Siddiqui:
Why She Was Targeted and Why She Matters to All of Us
By Tammy Obeidallah
Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, October 6, 2010
In the final scene of the 2002 remake of “Dr. Zhivago,” Lara observes the inevitable black car following her and has just enough time to make up a game with her young son, challenging him to a race. She knows full well she will never see him again.
“I’ll let you have a head start,” she smiles at her little boy. He begins running as she is escorted to the car, offering no resistance as she continues watching him from the backseat; the first leg of a journey to an unnamed Siberian gulag.
Dr. Aafia Siddiqui had no such warning, no time to distance herself from her three young children during the mayhem of their 2003 kidnapping in Karachi, Pakistan. Neither U.S. nor Pakistani officials admitted knowledge of the family’s whereabouts from 2003 to 2008. It was later learned that Dr. Siddiqui was detained and subjected to brutal interrogations at Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan before resurfacing in New York in 2008, answering to charges of the attempted murder of two U.S. soldiers
For years, Dr. Siddiqui did not know whether her children were alive or dead until her oldest son, Ahmed, was released in 2008. Daughter Maryam was dropped off at the family’s residence in Karachi in April 2010, speaking only English and Farsi. The fate of baby Suleman, six months old at the time of the kidnapping, remains unknown.
Former prisoners in Bagram tell of the tortured screams of Prisoner 650, commonly known as “the Gray Lady of Bagram.” By all their accounts, Prisoner 650 was Dr. Aafia Siddiqui and she herself later testified that she endured both physical and psychological torture, including being forced to look at a photograph of her baby Suleman lying in a pool of his own blood.
It is no surprise that anyone under such unspeakable conditions would seek every opportunity to exact revenge on their tormenters. Yet discrepancies in testimony describing the “crime” for which Dr. Aafia Siddiqui was sentenced to 86 years in prison—the attempted shooting of two US soldiers—raise serious doubts as to whether it actually occurred. Furthermore, Dr. Siddiqui was detained and tortured for allegedly plotting terrorist acts and links to Al-Qaeda. Why wasn’t she brought up on terrorism charges?
The overriding question remains: Why was a brilliant American-educated neuroscientist singled out for such heinous abuses?
Zaid Hamid, Pakistani political analyst and host of the program “Brasstacks,” stated that Dr. Siddiqui’s novel and unique research in neuroscience included groundbreaking work relating to biology, psychology, perception management and mind control: the latest weapons coveted by governments, militaries and media. Dr. Siddiqui later revealed that an Indian interrogator at Bagram had asked her about her research at MIT, his familiarity with her work leading her to believe he was a former colleague.
In addition to her research at MIT, Dr. Siddiqui completed her Ph.D. in Cognitive Neuroscience from Brandeis early in 2001. Her PhD dissertation abstract discussed how people perceive, remember, and enact observations. One of her experiments required volunteers to view and then recreate the movement of a disk across a computer screen in order to study the components of visual perception and memory. She observed that they saw only the momentary positions of the disc and had to interconnect those positions. She concluded that in a sequence of movements without a visible trail, it became difficult for the subject to form a picture or a story.
A May 2010 Greg Miller appearing in Smithsonian Magazine entitled “How Our Brains Make Memories,” unwittingly ties into Dr. Siddiqui’s research. In the article, Montreal neuroscientist Karim Nader discusses the “flashbulb memory” effect surrounding such occasions as 9/11 and his theory that the very act of remembering can alter a memory.
Such a suggestion would indicate that if our own memories are altered by repeated remembering, how much easier would it be for some other entity—the government or the media for instance— to alter our memories by repeated playback of 9/11 footage, peppering scenes of the attacks with commentaries from their own “experts” and “eyewitnesses?”
Could it be that Dr. Siddiqui, because of her groundbreaking research in the field, was tapped by the government to potentially help develop a weapon of mass psychosis which would cause a nation to believe that airplanes brought down the World Trade Center and the aerial maneuvering of a novice pilot landed another smack-dab into the Pentagon? Her refusal to cooperate would have been motive enough to discredit her and lock her away, let alone if she had actually been briefed on such a plan.
Why, some will ask, was she not killed outright? Why risk the possibility of this information coming to light? One explanation is that she is being used as an example, to frighten and intimidate others who dare to defy the powerbrokers in the “War on Terror.” Furthermore, the initial injection of an unknown substance followed by years of torture rendered Dr. Siddiqui nearly incompetent to stand at her own trial. Even if connections with 9/11 plots and mind control weapons had surfaced, they would be dismissed as the ranting of an insane woman and her crackpot-conspiracy-theorist supporters.
It is imperative that we discover the truth, not just to save an innocent mother of three, but for the sake of our whole society. I have often been told that my western appearance has saved me from the horrors of interrogation, but I wonder, for how much longer? My children and I were harassed by immigration officials upon our return to the United States from Ecuador this summer and recent days have seen the homes of peace activists in Minnesota, Illinois and Michigan raided by FBI agents who confiscated laptops, cell phones and bank records.
Do we hold our elected officials and media responsible? Do we organize mass civil disobedience in support of those harassed and detained for speaking out against U.S. policy? Or do we wait for the black cars, wondering if we will have time to give our children a head start?
Professor Robert PapeAuthor of New Book Linking Terror to Occupation
to Speak at CAIR Banquet, on October 9, 2010
Groundbreaking book a 'powerful educational tool' to challenge Islamophobia
(WASHINGTON, D.C., 10/5/10) --
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) announced today that University of Chicago Professor Robert Pape, the author of a groundbreaking new book showing that foreign occupation -- not religion -- motivates suicide terror attacks, will speak at CAIR's 16th annual banquet on Saturday, October 9 in Arlington, Va.
In his just-released book, Cutting the Fuse: The Explosion of Global Suicide Terrorism and How to Stop It, Professor Pape joins with James K. Feldman in examining every suicide terror attack worldwide from 1980 to 2009.
According to the Chicago Project on Security and Terrorism:
"Through a close analysis of suicide campaigns by Al Qaeda and in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Lebanon, Israel, Chechnya, and Sri Lanka, the authors provide powerful new evidence that, contrary to popular and dangerously mistaken belief, religion alone motivates only a tiny minority of these attacks. Instead, the root cause is foreign military occupation, which triggers secular and religious people to carry out suicide attacks."
Lee H. Hamilton, co-chair of the 9/11 Commission, said of the book:
"Pape and Feldman offer a powerful analysis of the factors underlying the rise in suicide terrorism in recent years and bring clarity to a complex and challenging subject. I commend this book to both scholars and policy makers with a serious interest in U.S. national security policy."
"This groundbreaking new book offers a powerful educational tool to be used in challenging Islamophobia that is based on the false linkage between Islam and suicide terrorism," said CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad.
Awad said Professor Pape will also take part in a workshop on "Challenging Islamophobia" at a CAIR leadership skills training conference being held the same day as the organization's annual banquet.
See descriptions of the training sessions.
Professor Pape will sign copies of his new book following CAIR's evening banquet.
Other speakers at the CAIR annual banquet will include Park51 developer Sharif El-Gamal, Muslim 9/11 first responders, noted journalist Helen Thomas, and internationally-renowned Muslim scholar Dr. Tariq Ramadan. Mo Amer of the "Allah Made Me Funny" comedy group will provide entertainment.
To register for CAIR's conference and banquet, go to http://www.cair.com/banquet/.
To make a reservation over the phone or to reserve an entire table for eight people, call 202-742-6454, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org [NOTE: No tickets will be sold at the door and CAIR banquets have in past years been sold out events.]
CAIR is America's largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.
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