Aafia Siddiqui

Aafia Siddiqui

Pakistani cognitive neuroscientist convicted as terrorist
Date of Birth: 02.03.1972
Country: Pakistan

Biography of Aafia Siddiqui

Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani cognitive neurobiologist, was born on March 2, 1972, in Karachi, Pakistan. She grew up in a respected family, with her father being a neurosurgeon and educator, and her mother being involved in extensive charitable work and a former member of the Pakistani parliament. Siddiqui comes from the Urdu-speaking community and is the youngest of three children. Her brother became an architect and resides in Texas, while her sister pursued a career in neurology, studying at Harvard and working in Baltimore.

Aafia Siddiqui

Siddiqui received her education in Zambia until the age of 8 and completed her studies in Karachi. In 1990, she arrived in the United States on a student visa and pursued studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, specializing in biology, archaeology, and anthropology. She graduated in 1995 and obtained a master's degree from Brandeis University in 2001. Despite being described as religious, Siddiqui's involvement in the Muslim Students' Association (MSA) raised concerns among journalists, as some active members were associated with Osama bin Laden.

In 1995, Siddiqui entered into an arranged marriage with an anesthesiologist named Amjad Mohammed Khan from Karachi, whom she had never met. After the marriage ceremony conducted over the phone, the couple settled in Lexington, Massachusetts, and later in Boston, where her husband worked. In 2002, after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001, Siddiqui, a devout Muslim involved in Muslim charitable activities, left the United States and returned to Pakistan.

Siddiqui gave birth to a son in 1996, a daughter in 1998, and a younger son in September 2002. She divorced her first husband and remarried Ammar al-Baluchi, an alleged member of al-Qaeda, in February 2003 in Karachi. After the capture of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, her second husband's uncle, by the Inter-Services Intelligence in Rawalpindi in March 2003, he claimed under torture that Siddiqui was involved in terrorism. Following Mohammed's statement, Siddiqui disappeared for five years with her three young children. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is considered one of the masterminds behind the September 11 attacks. Siddiqui's name appeared on the FBI's wanted list for terrorism.

The whereabouts of Siddiqui and her children during the period from March 2003 to July 2008 remain unknown. She resurfaced when she was arrested in Afghanistan in 2008. Although authorities claimed to have found bomb-making instructions and materials in her possession during the arrest, Siddiqui was not charged with terrorism. Instead, she was accused of attempting to kill American investigators in Afghanistan and sentenced to 86 years in prison. Critics have labeled the case as a grave miscarriage of justice.

A day after her arrest, Siddiqui was severely wounded. American investigators alleged that she grabbed an unattended rifle behind a curtain and started firing at them. Siddiqui claims she stood up to see who was behind the curtain and startled a soldier, who shot her. She received medical treatment at an American airbase before being sent to the United States to face trial for attacking American officers and personnel. Siddiqui denied all the charges, and when declared mentally fit, the trial commenced. In February 2010, she was found guilty on all counts by a jury.

Amnesty International closely monitored the trial, labeling it unfair. Four British Members of Parliament criticized the court proceedings as a tragic miscarriage of justice, violating the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution and the country's obligations as a member of the United Nations. They demanded Siddiqui's release. Many of Siddiqui's supporters, including various international human rights organizations, assert that she had no involvement in extremist activities and that she and her young children were illegally detained, interrogated, and tortured either by Pakistani intelligence, American authorities, or both during their five-year disappearance. The governments of the United States and Pakistan deny all such claims.