The Gray Lady of Bagram

I periodically post about people, usually immigrants, who have died while in US custody.  I’m ashamed to say I wasn’t really paying attention to Aafia Siddiqui’s story.  I vaguely remember hearing the name a few years back, but I honestly just wasn’t listening.

I am now (thank you, bfp).

I spent the good part of yesterday reading up on her case and trying to find up-to-date information on her, and her tragic story is just devastating.

Aafia Siddiqui is still alive–if you can call that life–and being held in a detention center.  Some back story:

The Baltimore Chronicle published an article on December 15 with much more in-depth coverage of Siddiqui’s situation:

After her abduction, Aafia disappeared into Bagram hell and was known only as “Prisoner 650.” Then later, by released prisoners, as the “Gray Lady of Bagram” because of her screams they heard for years.

At one time, Bagram (north of Kabul at the US air base) held twice as many prisoners as Guantanamo and likely still holds hundreds. They’re crammed into wire cages, routinely tortured, forced to sleep on floor mats, and have buckets for latrines, or at least did until recently. Many prisoners are held secretly, have been there for years, have no access to lawyers, or any knowledge of the allegations against them. Most, perhaps all, are innocent victims and guilty only of being Muslims at the wrong time in the wrong place.

What’s known about Bagram comes from released or transfered prisoners who got access to counsel. In early 2008, The New York Times also reported that the International Committee of the Red Cross filed a confidential complaint with US authorities charging that its detainees were held incommunicado for weeks or months in isolation cells and subjected to cruel treatment (torture) in violation of international law. […]

Aafia and other women were (and still are) at Bagram and other US torture- prisons (including torture-ships at sea), according to British journalist Yvonne Ridley: “There are many Muslim women in the captivity of American forces and if (people remain) silent, (they’ll) lose their sisters forever.” Some are treated even worse than Aafia.

Ridley wrote about Bagram’s “Prisoner 650” and her ordeal of torture and repeatedly being raped for over four years. “The cries of (this) helpless woman echoed (with such torment) in the jail that (it) prompted prisoners to go on hunger strike.” Ridley called her a “gray lady (because) she (was) almost a ghost, a spectre whose cries and screams continue to haunt those who heard her. This would never happen to a Western woman.” It did to Aafia, other Muslim women as well, and their ordeal continues horrifically. (emphasis added)

And now, that beautiful, intelligent, doctor has been tortured and raped to this unrecognizable shell of her former self:

Her 12 year old US-born son has been sent back to Pakistan but is mentally unstable due to brain injuries suffered in Afghan custody, and no one can trace what has become of her other two children.  She has continuously been denied appropriate medical care.  According to the Baltimore Chronicle article:

Aafia is in deplorable condition and, according to Judge Berman, not in a correct state of mind to stand trial. On August 7, 2008, Iqbal Haider, Co-chairperson of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) expressed concern about her. He called it shocking and of grave concern that pictures of her show a beat-up frail and helpless woman, the effects of years of torture, abuse, and continuous rape. There are dark circles under her eyes, a badly repaired broken nose, “made up” teeth and crumbled lips, and overall “a picture of a severely dehydrated, sick person almost as if on the death bed. It shows the inhumane brutality of an apparently civilised nation by the administration of a country which claims to be much civilised.”

According to HRCP and Aafia’s family, her physical condition is deplorable, and she badly needs immediate medical treatment outside the Carswell prison where it’s not given. “Her wound was oozing blood,” and her clothes were soaked in it. Earlier in custody, one of her kidneys was removed, yet her abdominal pain persists. She has large stitches down her torso from the surgery, negligently done, and may be suffering from internal bleeding. Her teeth were removed. Her nose was broken and improperly reset. Her gunshot wound was incompetently dressed, and her overall condition is dire and life-threatening. (emphasis added)

And to think that this is just one of hundreds of stories to make it out of these detention/torture camps.  How the fuck can this government take part in this?  How can people be so evil?

From (I’d email first, since some of the info is outdated):

Write to:
Aafia Siddiqui
P.O. BOX 27137

Aafia’s lawyers advise that when writing you do not discuss or solicit information regarding her case or the charges against her, her whereabouts or those of her children for the past five years. You can send photographs along with your letters but no packages.

You can send books, newspapers and magazines directly from the publishers [such as Barnes and Noble or Amazon). Aafia has requested a daily newspaper and books on nature. If you want to ensure that she has not already received a copy of the item you wish to send then please email Sarah Kunstler at

If you prefer you can email messages of support for Aafia Siddiqui to


About Melissa

I love donuts. Chocolate iced, hold the sprinkles.
This entry was posted in cultural insensitivity, general assholery, government fuckery, healthcare fuckery, human rights, military industrial complex, racism, rape, torture, world and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to The Gray Lady of Bagram

  1. Aafia’s eldest son has been sent back to Pakistan now, but he isn’t mentally stable anymore: apparently braindamaged by the Afghan authorities. The other two children are missing. I maintain a detailed chronology of the case and a blog, at (chronology is linked). You may also like to read a detailed analysis of the case, called DON’T BLAME THE VICTIM (can be accessed from the blog).

  2. samza says:

    I got the same requests to add some info to Book Blogs. Do you think I should make a group about bookish charities, mention it in the discussion, or leave these kinds of things out of the site altogether? What do you think?

  3. Thanks for the link! I’ll add it to my blogroll.

    I thought I’d seen something about him being in Pakistan now, but I couldn’t find any other reports to confirm it. Hearing about her son makes me want to cry. 😦

    I updated his info in my original post.

  4. Actually, Aafia’s lawyer Elizabeth Fink said in a recent statement in the court that one of Aafia’s two missing children have been killed in captivity. Yet, Fink declined to say anything else. A LAWYER unable to shed light?! It is these kind of unbelievable thingns happening in this case which make it so bizarre, so unfair! Do check that DON’T BLAME THE VICTIM REPORT.

  5. Pingback: Photo of the Day « The Feminist Texican

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