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Rabia Siddique

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Equal Justice (memoir, Pan Macmillan Australia, 2013)

 

In 2005 Rabia Siddique travelled to Iraq to advise the British army on UN protocols for war and to help the Iraqi judiciary re-establish itself following the removal of Saddam Hussein and his regime.

By this time Rabia’s life had already followed an extraordinary path, from her childhood in India and then Australia, where she saw her father struggling to get work simply because of his ethnicity, to her position as the youngest ever public prosecutor in her adopted country. Rabia’s decision to join the British Army’s legal service just after 11 September 2001 was motivated by her desire to see justice served in the world; it was complicated by the fact that she is a Muslim, but that did not deter her.

On 19 September 2005 Rabia was sent in to negotiate for the release of two British soldiers who were being held at the Al Jamiat police station. Her colleague had not been successful in his own negotiations; Rabia was sent in without protection – or training in hand-to-hand combat. She and her colleague also became hostages after civilians stormed the police station.

Over the following hours Rabia kept negotiating for the lives of the soldiers, and for herself and her colleague. After they were all rescued by the British Army, her colleague was debriefed and Rabia was given a cup of tea. It would not be the last insult inflicted on her by the organisation she had almost lost her life to serve.

Upon returning to England, Rabia was demoted. She had already been instructed not to mention the incident in Iraq again. Eventually Rabia realised that, after seeking justice for others for so long, it was time to act for herself – she sued the Army for racial, religious and sexual discrimination. After the case garnered a large amount of press attention, the Army settled the case and Rabia was finally granted recognition of her courageous acts in Iraq – and an apology.

This is not just a story of a hostage crisis, or of a young lawyer trying to make a difference in the world. It is a story of how societies organise themselves, what they value and how they treat their citizens. If justice is not available to all of the citizens in those societies, can it really be said to be available to any? This is what Rabia has spent her life working for – this is the justice she is still seeking.