Aafia Siddiqui is a Pakistani neuroscientist who lived in the United States with her husband and three children. The September 2001 attacks radicalized her. In 2003, she left her husband and the United States and traveled to Pakistan. A year later, she was considered an alleged threat by US federal authorities. She was last seen in July 2008 in Afghanistan, when she was arrested along with one of her children by Afghan officers.
During the trial, it emerged that she allegedly possessed “numerous documents describing the creation of explosives, chemical weapons, and other weapons involving biological material and radiological agents”. Some documents Siddiqui obtained “included descriptions of various landmarks in the United States, including in New York City”. The documents she held also contained details of US military targets, “excerpts from the Anarchist’s Arsenal, and numerous chemical substances in gel and liquid form that were sealed in bottles and glass jars”.
She also allegedly tried to shoot US personnel who came to question her while in detention. Transferred to the US in 2008, Siddiqui was convicted on alleged terrorism charges in 2010. Reportedly, she was sentenced to 86 years in prison and is being held in Texas, not far away from the synagogue that was attacked.
Siddiqui was alleged to have direct ties to al-Qaeda, and the organization and its affiliates reflected it in its actions. After she divorced her first husband, she allegedly married a prominent al-Qaeda member, the nephew of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the September 11 attacks. Days after her sentence, the Taliban allegedly kidnapped a British aid worker and three of his local colleagues and proposed to exchange them for Siddiqui.
In December 2010, al-Qaeda allegedly urged Muslims to avenge Siddiqui. In 2011, a Swiss couple was kidnapped in Baluchistan by the Pakistani Taliban in order to release her. In 2012, the Afghan Taliban demanded the release of Siddiqui in exchange for the release of a captive US soldier who was eventually released in 2014 in exchange for five senior Taliban leaders. In 2014, following the death of an American captive at the hands of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants, the organization released a video in which the spokesperson demanded to know the fate of Siddiqui.
On the internet, the campaign to free Aafia gained popularity, mainly in Pakistan, but also among Pakistani migrants in the West. The Pakistan-based Aafia Movement is just one example of the efforts to hasten her release. Aafia Movement’s website was created in 2010 and is hosted by the Arizona-based company Web Commerce Communications Limited dba WebNic.cc. The Aafia movement’s content is widely shared on social media. For example, a Facebook page called “Free Aafia Siddiqui Now” and the purpose is to “Call on all people of conscience to unite and speak out about the injustice caused to Dr. Aafia Siddiqui”.
Moreover, the Islamabad High Court was informed recently that Dr. Fauzia Siddiqui, the sister of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, has been granted a US visa that will allow her to meet with her incarcerated sister in the United States.