Siddiqui: Political prisoner or human rights victim

The US government works to promote peace abroad while being accused of ignoring its own troubles at home.

World leaders gathered at the United Nations on the morning of September 23, for an annual meeting on geopolitical issues. The second speaker to take the stage was US President Barack Obama. The voice of America reminded the international community about the global commitment to human rights.

"In the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we recognized the inherent dignity and rights of every individual. Today, we must ask, are we living up to our mutual responsibilities?” said Obama.

As Obama pontificated about moral principles, one woman who claimed she was kidnapped and tortured at the hands of US military personal, was in Manhattan Federal Court, receiving a sentence of 86 years in prison for attempted assault against a US soldier.

Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani born, US educated neuroscientist, disappeared with her three children in 2003. Supporters say Siddiqui was kidnapped while traveling in Pakistan and secretly held in Bagram Prison for five years. During that time, the FBI listed Siddiqui on its "Most Wanted" list, alleging the mother of three had ties to al-Qaeda. In 2008, US officials announced Siddiqui's arrest and charged her with assaulting US military personal while being detained. Since being brought back to the US, Siddiqui was held in solitary confinement, separated from her children, and stripped of her dignity.

Family attorney Tina Monshipour Foster believes Siddiqui represents the countless faces illegally swept up by unknown forces fighting the so called global war on terror.

"Aafia’s story is really a symbol of a broader problem which has gone largely unnoticed. There are hundreds if not thousands of people who have disappeared at the hands of the bush administration and we don’t know possibly under the Obama administration. And the captures have never been held to account," said Foster.

Amnesty international USA, based in Manhattan for decades, was staging noisy worldwide campaigns to free those they said were political prisoners, often as far as Burma or North Korea. But not in the case of Siddiqui, who was imprisoned and tried just down the street.

We are very much sad, we never see Human Rights Watch, we never see Amnesty International, we never see ACLU,” said Comrade Shahid, a Siddiqui supporter.

Siddiqui supporter and founder of the International Action Committee, Sara Flounders, has continually criticized Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch for blatantly turning away from a horrific problem here at home.

Not to address US conduct where people are held under horrendous conditions. Tortured. Abused. Held in solitary confinement. The first obligation is to address the issues and conduct of your own government,” said Flounders.

Petra Borosevich is one of the few American journalists to report Siddiqui’s story.

I think it is a case that really shows some of the fundamental problems in the way that we prosecute the war on terrorism, which is through secrecy and through measures that are not transparent. It does seem there was some foul play somewhere along the line but we may never know what really happened to her,” she said.

The alleged crimes against Siddiqui, however, have never been fully investigated.

It’s been absolutely horrifying to see that Obama, who ran for president as the anti-Bush, and who was so adamantly opposed the perversion of the United States Constitution, to see him now be the continuation of all of these policies that he has adopted from the Bush administration has been absolutely outrageous,” said Foster.