Video: Andy Worthington Discusses the Horrors of Guantánamo at Aafia Siddiqui Protest in London

Dr. Aafia Siddiqui
by Andy Worthington

On Sunday, in torrential rain, I cut short a dry afternoon in the Catford Bridge Tavern — a formerly notoriously rough pub reborn after its recent takeover by the Antic group, which is spacious, friendly, well-decorated, and which also does excellent food, including Sunday roasts — to take my bike on the train to Charing Cross, and, from there, to cycle up to Piccadilly and through Mayfair to Grosvenor Square, to speak at a protest outside the US Embassyto mark the second anniversary of the sentencing, in a court in New York, of Aafia Siddiqui.

The story of Aafia Siddiqui, which I have been covering for many years, remains one of the most disturbing in the whole of the Bush administration’s brutal “war on terror.” A Pakistani neuroscientist, she is currently two years into a horrendously unjust 86 year sentence in a prison hospital in Texas for allegedly having tried and failed, in August 2008, to shoot a number of US soldiers who were holding her in Ghazni, Afghanistan. This followed her resurfacing after a mysterious five and a half year absence, in which many people believe she was held in one or more secret CIA “black sites,” where she was severely abused and lost her mind.

Although the turnout for the protest, organised by the Justice for Aafia Coalition, was only moderate, numbers were swelled by the many thousands of people who had turned up for a protest about the terrible racist and Islamophobic video, “The Innocence of Muslims,” which, to my mind, like all examples of bigotry, is best ignored, to avoid providing the oxygen of publicity to those peddling such filth. However, the organisers of the Aafia Siddiqui protest were presented with an excellent opportunity to inform numerous people about the plight of Dr. Siddiqui, which was obviously useful.

Although the presence of two protests was confusing, and the weather saw off the PA system for the Aafia Siddiqui event, obliging those of us who were speaking to have to shout our message at the crowd that clustered around us, I was delighted to have the opportunity to highlight Dr. Siddiqui’s ongoing plight, and also to discuss the wider issue of the scapegoats of the Bush administration’s “war on terror,” who continue to be punished disproportionately, whether they were guilty of anything, or, as is often the case, innocent people in the wrong place at the wrong time.

A video of my talk is posted below:

These unjustly deprived of their liberty in the “war on terror” include those held beyond the law at Bagram prison (renamed the Parwan Detention Facility) in Afghanistan, where the Geneva Conventions were torn up by the Bush administration, and have not been reinstated by Barack Obama, and, of course, Guantánamo, where 167 men continue to languish neither as prisoners of war nor as criminal suspects, but as human beings essentially with no rights, as the Bush administration first intended.

Although they ostensibly have the right to challenge their detention in the US courts, through habeas corpus, those rights have been struck down by right-wing judges in the appeals court in Washington D.C., and with Congress having imposed onerous restrictions on releasing anyone from Guantánamo, and the Obama administration having taken a position of extreme cowardice and indifference when it comes to releasing any of the men, they find that the only way out of Guantánamo is in a coffin.

The disgraceful death, three weeks ago, of Adnan Latif, a mentally troubled Yemeni, demonstrates everything that is wrong with the position that Barack Obama has taken regarding the men still held in Guantánamo. Although Latif was repeatedly cleared for release, by a mIlitary review board under George W. Bush in 2006, and by President Obama’s Guantánamo Review Task Force in 2009, and although he also won his habeas corpus petition, he was not released. Obama and Congress have refused to release any Yemenis after a failed terror plot in 2009 was revealed to have originated in Yemen, thereby implying that all Yemenis are terrorists or terrorist sympathisers, and the D.C. appeals court struck down Latif’s successful habeas petition.

For the scapegoats of the “war on terror,” as I mentioned on Sunday, enough is enough. It is clear that no one in a position of power or authority cares, and that the mainstream media has largely given up on doing its job, but those of us who do care must not let ourselves be silenced. Aafia Siddiqui should be repatriated to Pakistan, the Geneva Conventions should be fully reinstated in all war zones, and Guantánamo must be closed.

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison. This article originally appeared on andyworthington.co.uk.