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Durban City Centre brought to a halt at FREE AAFIA PROTEST

Press Release | 25 March 2013

South Africans flocked on Friday 22nd March to the United States Consulate, situated in the heart of the city centre in Durban, in solidarity with the Global Free Aafia Movements to protest on the tenth anniversary of the abduction of Dr. Siddiqui and her three children in Karachi, Pakistan. The picket drew huge public interest as thousands of motorists and pedestrians of all races witnessing the event. The audience was extremely vocal and passionate chants of “Free Free Aafia”, echoed through one of the busiest streets in the city. The protesters demanded for an end to the oppression and injustices against Dr Aafia Siddiqui and demanded her repatriation to Pakistan.

The protest action which was held under banner of the “Free Aafia Foundation”, was supported by a number of organisations and human rights activists. The picket began with a “flash mob” live demonstration, enacting the kidnapping of a screaming Aafia in the streets of Karachi, being dragged away from her children and brutally beaten and tortured. Shabnam Mohammed, an activist who played the part of Aafia was thrown into a mock cell. With deafening screams, she pleaded for help and repeatedly cried out about the whereabouts of her children.

National coordinator for “The Aafia Foundation”, Inayet Wadee who addressed the crowd, reminded the US Administration of its pathetic human rights record, and that the national justice and prison system in the United States of America has been linked to widespread human rights abuses. “We are fully aware of the unlawful arrests, unfair trials, inhumane prison conditions, lack of adequate health care: humiliating and degrading treatment by prison guards, and cruel forms of punishment meted out to Dr Aafia Siddiqui”. “The injustice of her plight has been recognised amongst humanitarians and people of conscience worldwide”, he added.

Wadee also reminded the crowd of statements made by former US Senator Mike Gravel who said, “Dr Aafia was illegally detained and subjected to torture in isolation before her controversial conviction which is a crime”, former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark who referred to the Pakistani neuroscientist as an “innocent citizen of Pakistan who has been wronged and denied justice”, and former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinny’s statement that, “The United States has more to give Pakistan than drones, bombs and missiles, they can give Aafia back”.

Wadee further said that murderers, rapists, paedophiles and child molesters enjoy more rights in prison than Dr Siddiqui who is innocent. He lambasted and was also highly critical of the Pakistan government’s role regarding its handling of Aafia’s ordeal in the last decade. He said, “The Pakistan Government have remained impotent and have been silent spectators throughout Aafia’s ordeal of horror over the last ten years. Pakistan politicians have until now lacked political will, they hide behind the absence of an extradition treaty as an excuse, they are spineless and gutless, and they the government must be ashamed of themselves by referring to Aafia as the daughter of the nation”.

The crowd was also addressed by other speakers from the organising committee. A passionate Shabnam Mohammed from the ‘Stand up Foundation” was equally vocal and made it clear, “we will continue in our struggle against human rights abuses of all sorts, and we will not rest until Aafia is free.” Fayyaaz Khan representing the Pakistan community in South Africa praised theaudience for standing up against the injustice against Aafia. He expressed his thanks to everyone who supported the Pakistan sister in need.

The event drew a substantial presence of onlookers who also joined the protest. Also present was the African National Congress Youth league representative in Kwazulu Natal, Sizwe Mkhize. He called for lobbying the ruling Government in South Africa, and particularly Ebrahim Rasool, the South African Ambassador to the United States to take up Aafia’s cause with the US State Department. Other notable personalities included ANC Councilor and former Member of Parliament Yacoob Baig, members of the Laajpal Foundation in Durban, and a Brazilian human rights activist who is in South Africa for the upcoming BRICS Summit.

Before the picket ended, the memorandum was read out. There were messages of support from Dr. Fowzia Siddiqui on behalf of her family and the Aafia Movement, from Tina Foster the attorney representing Aafia Siddiqui, and the South African National Muslim Women’s Forum amongst others. The memorandum was handed over to an official at the US Consulate, who acknowledged receipt, and committed to forward the memo and petitions to the US State Department in Washington.

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