WASHINGTON: Incar­cerated Pakistani neuroscientist Aafia Siddiqui had the first reunion in 20 years with her sister Fowzia at a prison hospital in Fort Worth, Texas, on Tuesday.

The two sisters met again on Wednesday and will have a third meeting on Thursday (today) at Carswell, the prison medical facility in Fort Worth.

Dr Siddiqui, a US citizen of Pakistan origin, has not been in contact with any of her family members for more than a decade.

“My heart is racing, my mind in turmoil, I may actually see my little sister 1st time in 20 years,” Fowzia Siddiqui said in a tweet posted before the meeting. “I have no words to describe my feelings. I wish I could hug her; hold her hand and bring her home.”

“It was a private meeting, no official was present,” Aftab Chaudhary, Pakistan’s Consul Gene­ral in Houston, Texas, told Dawn.

“The government did help her in getting a visa and we are here to provide whatever assistance she and others accompanying her may need.”

After the meeting, the Aafia Movement, which led the effort to get her home, issued a statement saying that it was hardly the meeting the two sisters would have liked.

“The sterile visitation room at FMC Carswell was divided by glass. They were not allowed a first hug or even to touch after two decades.”

Fowzia was forbidden to share with Aafia the photograph of her son and daughter, both now in their 20s.

“The background music for the meeting was the periodic rattle of heavy prison keys” and Fowzia was obviously shocked by the state of her younger sister, the statement added.

Aafia was led to the meeting place in a tan prison uniform and a white headscarf. The statement claimed that her upper teeth were missing from one prison assault, and she had difficulty hearing due to a beating she had taken around the head.

Daily trauma

Aafia 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.

“I miss my family every day, my mother, my father, you, my sister, and my children. I think of them all the time,” Aafia said.

She and her sister swapped stories for over two hours.

The statement pointed out that all of Aafia’s stories about her children were from 2003, when she was whisked away from her home in Karachi.

According to the statement, visits over the next two days will focus more on her case and what could be done to secure her release.

During Wednesday’s meeting, Aafia met her sister and lawyer along with Senator Mushtaq Ahmad, who accompanied her from Pakistan.

Published in Dawn, June 1st, 2023

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