Don't cry for Aafia
Yvonne Ridley writes from Karachi, Pakistan on the case of Dr Aafia Siddiqui, who has been sentenced by the US to 86 years in prison. Yvonne discusses her case, raising issues in relation to the War on Terror and Pakistani society.
For years I’ve struggled to find a reason why Dr Aafia Siddiqui is still languishing in a prison in Texas.
Set aside my views that she is innocent and a victim of a gross miscarriage of justice who epitomises all that is wrong with the War on Terror.
Why has she not been transferred to a prison near her home in Karachi where she can serve the remainder of her sentence near her family and in her country of origin?
I have seen a couple of Pakistani Prime Ministers and their cabinets reduced to tears over the plight of a woman who has become known as 'The Daughter of the Nation.’
Seeing a grown man cry, thumping the table and demanding justice for Aafia was very moving the first time; a little wearing the second and third time; and now I just despair at this charade.
Empty promises have been made to her despairing family that she will be returned.
I don’t even think the Americans are interested in holding on to her anymore; I’m reliably informed they’d be quite happy to let her go. She has, after all, served her purpose and proved to be a useful instrument for the architects who wanted to maintain a fear factor over the War on Terror.
Now that their intelligence agencies have established that a neuroscientist is concerned with the biology of the nervous system and has nothing to do with nuclear weapons and bombs (I kid you not) they are no longer bothered about holding on to her.
So why is Aafia still in Texas? Why has she not been put into a prisoner transfer programme?
The answer is probably found among the pages of the national media… most Pakistani men simply do not value their women and the evidence is there for all to see.
In today’s The Nation, there’s a story about a woman and her two daughters murdered in their home in Rawalpindi; just below it is another story headlined: "Youth kills uncle, aunty; another ends life after shooting brother’s wife" and on the opposite page you can read about: "Cop shot dead; wife, 2 kids strangulated in Karachi."
Meanwhile, the opinion pages are still analysing the stoning to death ofFarzana Iqbal near the Lahore High Court while her unscathed husband Iqbal who murdered his first wife, is demanding justice for his loss.
While it is always dangerous to stereotype, I can only come to one conclusion: many men in Pakistan don’t value their women, their daughters or any females. We are, in these men's eyes, lesser beings.
It is an opinion held from those in the loftiest of towers to those living in humble abodes in the boondocks of Pakistan. From politicians to paupers, women are viewed as being rather unimportant.
That the killer of Benazir Bhutto is still at large and Farzana’s murderers are unlikely to face justice surprises no one.
Oh yes, the sneering elite and the peasant masses raise their eyebrows and sigh with indignation over the killings, rapes, and abuse meted out to Pakistani women but until this institutionalised sexism and misogyny is tackled head on women will continue to take a back seat.
Only when they genuinely are able to stand shoulder to shoulder with their men will we get any chance at all of delivering justice to Dr Aafia Siddiqui.
Not only has she come to represent all that is wrong with the War on Terror but she has also become a symbol of everything that is wrong with Pakistani society.
To the long line of male politicians who’ve promised to bring her home, I say don’t give me your tears for they are worthless.
I would love to be proved wrong for the sake of the female population and for the sake of Aafia.