Gita Sahgal calls her entry into the world of journalism “sort of accidental,” but her most recent news appearances have been entirely on purpose.
On Feb. 7, the Sunday Times of London published her sharp critique of Amnesty International’s support for former Guantanamo prisoner Moazzam Begg. She went public, the article says, because her internal warnings had been ignored.
Amnesty, the nearly 50-year-old rights group founded to speak on behalf of prisoners of conscience, has hailed Begg as a human rights defender, hosted him on speaking tours and included him in a meeting with politicians at Downing Street.
Sahgal has called him “Britain’s most famous supporter of the Taliban.” She points to passages in his 2006 autobiography, Enemy Combatant, where he describes moving to Taliban-ruled Afghanistan to “live in an Islamic state–one that was free from the corruption and despotism of the rest of the Muslim world.” He also ran a bookstore in Birmingham, England, that sold works by known al-Qaida mentor Abdullah Azzam.
Hours later she was suspended, with pay but without explanation, from her job.
On April 9, she and the organization parted ways. In a statement released that day, the organization cited “irreconcilable differences.”
Sahgal served as Amnesty International’s top gender specialist since 2002. Two days before her suspension, the organization had promoted her to the newly-created position of interim head of the Gender, Sexuality and Identity division.
“It tells you a lot about where women’s rights stand at Amnesty International,” Sahgal said in a phone interview in March. “When they had to make the choice between Begg and their most senior discrimination expert who also has researched fundamentalism, they chose Begg.”…