Cynthia McKinney, Sara Flounders travel to Pakistan in solidarity with political prisoner
Seminar on “US Judicial System: Dynamics & Practices” organized
by Institute of Policy Studies, Islamabad featuring Cynthia McKinney (6-time
former US Congresswomen), Sara Flounders (US Human Rights Activists) and Dr.
Fouzia Siddiqui (sister of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui).
By LeiLani Dowell
December 3, 2012
Dec. 3 — Arriving in Karachi, Pakistan, at 4 a.m. for a trip in
support of efforts to free and repatriate Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, former U.S.
Congressperson Cynthia McKinney and International Action Center Co-Director
Sara Flounders received an overwhelmingly warm welcome on Dec. 2. Hundreds of
Siddiqui’s supporters met the two at the airport in the wee hours of the
morning, carrying flowers, signs and banners, and chanting “Free
Aafia!” and “Welcome!”
Sara Flounders, Fowzia Siddiqui
and Cynthia McKinney.
Photos: Altaf Shakoor
Siddiqui is a Pakistani political prisoner who has been held in solitary
confinement for years in U.S. prisons, after being abducted from Pakistan with
her three young children, held in a series of secret prisons in Afghanistan,
and tortured and abused. While one of Siddiqui’s three abducted children,
Suleman, remains missing, the eldest of them was at the airport to greet
Flounders and McKinney.
The greeting of hundreds, as well as the weeklong trip, was organized by Dr.
Fowzia Siddiqui, Aafia Siddiqui’s sister, and the Free Aafia
More photos below
Later that day, McKinney, Flounders and Fowzia Siddiqui participated in a
“Caravan of Dignity” through the streets of Karachi, with cars,
hundreds of motorbikes sporting “Free Aafia” signs and Pakistani
flags, and an open-bed truck blasting songs in honor of Siddiqui. Thousands of
people on foot surrounded the caravan, which proceeded to a huge outdoor rally
where all three spoke in support of Siddiqui’s return to Pakistan. They
were showered in rose petals along the route.
In a Dec. 2 email, Flounders writes: “Karachi is twice the size of New
York City. This is Aafia’s hometown. Here the demand for her repatriation
to Pakistan and her release from the torture of solitary confinement in U.S.
federal prison has overwhelming support. Aafia is a heartfelt symbol of all the
missing and disappeared, the victims of U.S. secret rendition programs and
targeted drone assassinations.”
Flounders relates that in Karachi, this sentiment was displayed by
“countless spray-painted walls and overpasses in English and Urdu with
‘Free Aafia,’ ‘Free our sister’ and the best one,
’86 years – bullshit,’ painted everywhere.” Siddiqui
was sentenced to 86 years in prison by a U.S. federal judge in 2010.
After the rally, McKinney and Flounders traveled to the home of
Siddiqui’s mother, Ismat Siddiqui, passing giant canvas pictures of
previous rallies for Aafia Siddiqui on the streets leading to the home.
Political leaders dropped by the home to speak with the U.S. visitors. Ismat
Siddiqui, who sobbed for the return of her daughter, lives with Dr. Fowzia
Siddiqui and her two children, as well as the two children of Aafia Siddiqui
who were returned after being abducted with their mother.
The next day, McKinney and Flounders continued holding meetings and rallies
to free Aafia Siddiqui. At a meeting with some 200 lawyers of Pakistan’s
High Court Bar, the lawyers pledged to take legal action to force the
government to act on Siddiqui’s behalf. McKinney and Flounders also met
with a former Chief Supreme Court judge and all of the members of the Karachi
Press Club. After a university meeting on U.S. extrajudicial assassinations and
secret renditions was hastily canceled, the two women held a huge street
meeting with more than 1,000 students outside the school.
Flounders says that she and McKinney have been hailed throughout the trip as
“women from the U.S. supporting the return of Aafia, speaking strongly to
condemn their own government for imperialist wars and the criminal U.S. role in
targeted assassinations, support for the Pakistani military and the drone
wars.” Over the next few years the U.S. also plans to evacuate hundreds
of tons of high-tech weapons from Afghanistan from Karachi, a key port city in
the U.S.’s withdrawal operation.
The movement for Aafia Siddiqui is now focused on getting every part of the
political movement, and all different political officials, to publicly pledge
that no one held in Pakistani custody will be released to the U.S. until she is
returned. Supporters are urged to sign a petition issued by the International
Action Center at iacenter.org.
In the coming days Flounders and McKinney will travel to Islamabad, the
capital of Pakistan, as well as the city of Lahore and Khyber province. In
addition to International Action Center coverage of Siddiqui’s case and
Flounders and McKinney’s trip, more information can be found at freeaafia.org and aafiamovement.com.