It’s hard to believe that four years have passed since Asia Bibi, a Christian wife and mother of five, was arrested in Pakistan. That day marked the beginning of a tragic saga in which two courageous men were killed and countless lives jeopardized. The case of Asia Bibi has been called complicated, but it all started so simply.
That day in 2009, Asia Bibi, a farm worker in rural Pakistan, drew water from a well for Muslim coworkers. While the details of that day have been recorded in varying details from different sources, the end result is that Bibi was charged with blasphemy, a crime punishable by death. Villagers drug her through the streets claiming that she had insulted the Prophet Mohammed, an allegation that Bibi has denied from the beginning.
In the days after her arrest, some of Pakistan’s few remaining voices for religious tolerance would raise their voices on her behalf. Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab province, visited Bibi in prison and spoke out for her release. Within days he was gunned down by his own body guard.
When she heard of his death, Bibi broke down into tears in her prison cell.
“That man came here and he sacrificed his life for me,” she reportedly said.
After Taseer’s death, Shahbaz Bhatti, the country’s minority affairs minister and an outspoken critic of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, also spoke out for Bibi’s release.
He, too, was gunned down in the streets of his own city. Notes found near the scene of Bhatti’s death read, “Anyone who criticizes the blasphemy law has no right to live.”
Her advocates silenced, Bibi has endured the last four years in a squalid prison cell. Her family remains in hiding, and although she is seeking to overturn her death sentence, her future remains as uncertain as ever.
Now, Anne-Isabel Tollet, a French journalist once based in Islamabad, is helping Asia Bibi tell her story to the world for the first time.
“I’ve almost filled my bowl when I hear what sounds like a rioting crowd,” she writes. “I step back from my bush, wondering what’s going on, and in the distance I see dozens of men and women striding along towards our field, waving their arms in the air.”
It’s the beginning of an incredibly tragic story – and one that deserves our attention now more than ever before.
Four years ago, Asia Bibi’s story was emblazoned across international headlines. Today her story is garnering less attention, while her plea for justice remains crucial. Please, take a moment to read her story and share it with your friends. You can be a voice for Asia Bibi by helping to keep her story alive in the media.
We can’t allow this courageous woman’s case to be forgotten.
Kristin Wright is a columnist and contributing writer at ReligionToday.com, where she focuses on global human rights issues. Kristin has covered topics such as bride trafficking in North Korea, honor killings in Pakistan, and the persecution of members of minority faiths in Iran. She has visited with religious minorities in Pakistan, worked with children at risk in Mumbai's “Red Light” district, and interviewed individuals on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Kristin recently returned from Turkey and the Syrian border, where she covered the plight of refugees fleeing the conflict. She can be contacted at Kristin@kristinwright.net.
Publication date: September 10, 2013