Heading to Washington DC to represent Defense of Human Rights - Pakistan (Article by Bill Kroger)
When you meet Saba Ahmed, 25, a member of the Rules Committee for the Washington County Democrats, you know she is a committed Muslim woman. Wearing a hijab to cover her hair, the friendly woman is small in physical stature, but her size certainly belies her intensity and passion for everything she does.
Saba is president of the U.S. chapter of Defence of Human Rights, a Pakistan-based not-for-profit organization that seeks to free hundreds of Pakistani citizens who have gone into what they call “enforced disappearance,” picked up by the government there and taken away, usually to be shut off from all contact with the outside, including loved ones. Saba says, “I very passionately believe in this.”
Her focus lately has been on the disappearance of Masood Janjua in 2005, a father of three. His wife, Amina Masood Janjua, has not seen or heard from her husband since. Today, she is the president of the international Defence of Human Rights, and Saba met her this spring on a trip to Pakistan.
Saba, born in Pakistan and holding dual U.S. – Pakastani citizenship, says people disappear in Pakistan mostly for political reasons. “If they feel citizens are a threat politically, they’ll pick them up,” she says. “They charge them with terrorism.” She added that the government there recently “picked up a group of lawyers and charged them all with terrorism.” Currently, says Saba, her organization has a list of 829 people who have disappeared. She says the Defence of Human Rights group has been able to get 339 released.
Saba will be leaving for Washington, DC, July 17 to meet with people in the nation’s capital and to attend meetings of the Capitol Leadership Academy which, she says, helps people get involved in politics.
Last year, Saba traveled to Washington, DC, and met with the Pakistani ambassador to the U.S., Hussein Haqqani. She said they talked about the disappearance of Pakistani citizens and what the government was doing about it. Saba has self-funded all of these trips.
Saba came to the U.S. with her family when she was in the 10th grade. Her father took a job in high tech in the Portland area. Saba attended Portland State University and, at age 19, earned a B.S. degree in electrical engineering and physics. Currently, she is finishing up a law degree at Lewis and Clark and is midway on earning an MBA from the University of Portland. She plans to take the Oregon bar next summer and wants to work in law.
Two years ago Saba became involved with the Washington County Democrats and volunteered for a spot on the Rules Committee. She also got involved with statewide Democratic politics and is on the finance committee for the statewide party. Saba earned her U.S. citizenship five years ago.