8 December 2023

[Photo source - the Nation]

Today, sisters Fowzia and Aafia Siddiqui held a reunion after 20 years. It was hardly the meeting they would have liked: the sterile visitation room at FMC Carswell, Texas, was divided by glass.

They were not allowed a first hug, or even to touch, after two decades. Fowzia was forbidden to share the photographs of Aafia’s son and daughter, both now in their twenties. The background music for the meeting was the periodic rattle of the heavy prison keys.

Fowzia was obviously shocked by the state of her younger sister. Aafia was led in, dressed in a tan prison uniform, and a white headscarf. Her upper teeth missing from one prison assault, She had difficulty hearing due to a beating she had taken around the head. She spent the first hour detailing the daily trauma in her life. Eventually, her lawyer Clive Stafford Smith, who was present to facilitate the meeting, encouraged her to talk to her sister about her loved ones, at least for this afternoon.

“I miss my family every day. My mother, my father, you [my sister], my children, I think of them all the time,” said Aafia. She and her sister swapped stories for two and a half hours. All of Aafia’s tales of her children were from 2003, permanently frozen in at the moment she was abducted in Karachi.

Afterwards, while Fowzia thanked the junior prison officers who treated her with respect, Fowzia was understandably too upset to comment, beyond quietly weeping in the car as she was driven out of the prison.

The visits over the next two days will focus more on her case, and what can be done to secure her release. Tomorrow at 9.30am Aafia will meet her sister and lawyer again, along with Senator Mushtaq Ahmed. She has a legal visit with her counsel in the afternoon. On Thursday at 9.30am she will meet her sister and lawyer again, before another legal visit in the afternoon.

“It was deeply depressing, but nevertheless a privilege, to be present for this emotional reunion,” said Clive Stafford Smith. “But the importance of these visits is, as Aafia makes very clear, how we can get her home from the hell of her current existence.”

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