The Forward reports on the unusual educational background of Aafia Siddiqui, currently serving an 86-year term in a federal prison hospital in Ft. Worth, TX for shooting at American soldiers who had brought her in for questioning in Afghanistan.
A man who burst into a Texas synagogue on Saturday referred to her as he talked to negotiators. He freed one of his four hostages, then died after police entered the synagogue; police did not say if officers shot him or if he killed himself.
After graduating from MIT with a degree in biology in 1995, Siddiqui earned a PhD in 2001 from the Jewish-founded Brandeis University.
In between graduating MIT and starting at Brandeis, she married her husband, a Pakistani anesthesiologist, over the telephone. It was an arranged marriage, the two had never met.
Her husband got a job at Brigham and Women's Hospital and, after initially living in Lexington, they moved to a 20th-floor apartment at Back Bay Manor, an apartment building on St. Alphonsus Street, not far from the hospital - where her sister also had a neurology fellowship. In 2006, Boston Magazine interviewed her neighbors and a professor on her dissertation committee at Brandeis.
According to a court document filed by her defense lawyers - who asked for a sentence of 12 years due to her alleged mental illness - she left Boston shortly after 9/11, returned back to Boston briefly with their three children to live with her husband, whom she would divorce in 2002, then returned for good to Pakistan. Then she disappeared, and the US government announced she was a wanted terrorist. She was arrested in a Ghazni in Afghanistan in 2008 and brought in for questioning - where she allegedly grabbed a machine gun a soldier guarding her had put down and opened fire.
Her lawyers say her mental decline began in Boston and cite as proof her complaints that seemingly innocent occurrences, such as a water leak in her apartment, were due to anti-Muslim hatred directed at her. Also, they say, she abandoned her career in neuroscience to run a day care for her children and those of neighbors in her building and to collect and distribute copies of the Koran.
Prosecutors, however, charged she had become a ruthless terrorist out to kill Americans. The Forward says that in addition to hating Americans, she particularly grew to despise Jews, at one point during her court proceedings here trying to fire some of her lawyers because they had Jewish backgrounds and at another point demanding jurors be given DNA tests to ensure they had no Jewish blood.
Her sentence and continued imprisonment has caused protests by Pakistanis. On Oct. 21, 2021, al Jazeera reported, dozens of protesters:
Gathered outside the Pakistan Consulate in New York on Wednesday to decry Siddiqui’s situation and urge the Pakistani government to actively seek her immediate release and repatriate her.