We call for the Pakistan government and Supreme Court of Pakistan to show mercy and release the unjustly imprisoned Pakistan Christian minority woman, Aasiya Noreen “Asia” Bibi, from prison.
Asia Bibi, has spent the past 9 years in a Pakistan prison, charged with blasphemy, after angering majority faith women who objected to her drinking water from the same glass as them because she was a Christian minority. The outraged women that sought vengeance on this persecuted minority woman, used the Pakistan’s “blasphemy” laws to claim that she had defiled the name of Muslim prophet Mohammed, and their testimony was used to have her convicted, put in prison, and sentenced to death in 2010. Efforts to continue to appeal her case have not yet won her freedom, as this Pakistan Christian minority woman has remained in prison for 9 years. The Pakistan Christian minority woman has spent 9 years in prison for the “crime” of having a minority faith and angering women of the majority faith in drinking from the same cup of water, after picking fruit in the fields.
Excerpts from Asia Bibi’s memoir, “Blasphemy,” had been dictated to her husband from jail, who relayed it to French journalist Anne-Isabelle Tollet. In her memoir, Asia Bibi reported that it was on June 14, 2009, when she went to work in the falsa-berry harvest. She was allowed to participate in the fruit harvest if she picked more fruit than other women, because she was a persecuted Christian minority woman. She needed the money from the fruit picking and in the hot sun; eventually she grew tired and needed a drink of water. In her desperate thirst, she drank from an old metal cup by a bucketful of water, but when she did so the majority faith woman charged at her actions as “haram” and that since this Christian minority woman had drank water from the cup, now she was charged “now the water is unclean and we can’t drink it! Because of her!”
Five days later, on June 19, 2009, according to Asia Bibi’s memoir, she once again went fruit picking to raise money for her survival. But soon she found an angry mob coming after her. In her memoir, Asia Bibi wrote, “They all start yelling: ‘Death! Death to the Christian!’ and ‘We’re taking you back to the village! You insulted our Prophet! You’ll pay for that with your life!’.” Asia Bibi was beaten by a mob and taken to the police for her actions. Asia Bibi stated that she was innocent, but she was manhandled, tossed into a police van, and driven away to be put in Sheikhupura prison, where she has remained ever since.
As the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has documented, Asia Bibi was prosecuted under Section 295 C of the Pakistan Penal Code for blasphemy. She spent more than a year in jail. On November 8, 2010, a district court in Nankana Sahib, Punjab, sentenced her to death for blasphemy, the first such sentence for blasphemy handed down against a woman. The death penalty is permissible under Pakistani law. On October 16, 2014, the Lahore High Court dismissed her appeal and upheld her death sentence. Her lawyers plan to appeal to the Supreme Court. The USCIRF joins NGOs and human groups around the world in calling for Asia Bibi’s release.
Over the years, human rights groups have called for her protection and release from prison. As the anniversary of her June 19, 2009 arrest and imprisonment has come, human rights groups across the world are calling for Pakistan to respect justice, and release this innocent Christian minority woman, whose only “crime” was to seek a drink of water in the hot sun.
Global Human Rights and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) calling for her release have come from the United Kingdom, the United States, Pakistan, Italy, and other countries, with global backing and support from citizens around the world.
The United Kingdom-based British Pakistan Christian Association (BPCA) currently has an online petition calling for Pakistan to release Asia Bibi, signed by global human rights supporters in Pakistan, United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, Canada, Switzerland, Ireland, Spain, Norway, Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, Malta, Kenya, Japan, Philippines, Chile, Mexico, and Thailand.
Global Human Rights and NGOs calling for the release of Asia Bibi on this tragic anniversary of her 9 years in prison include:
— British Pakistan Christian Association (BPCA) – United Kingdom
— Responsible for Equality And Liberty (R.E.A.L.) – United States of America
— Renaissance Education Foundation (REF) – Pakistan
— Center for Pakistan Christian Human Rights – United States of America
— Pakistan Christian Post – United States of America
Other groups that have been active to inform the public or holding events to remember Asia Bibi’s imprisonment have included:
— Catholic group “Aid to the Church in Need” – in Italy, U.S., global video, including live link-ups with Aleppo, Syria and Mosul, Iraq
— ACS Italia – Aiuto alla Chiesa che Soffre – Onlus – Italy
— Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) – United Kingdom
— Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS) – Pakistan, United Kingdom
— United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) – United States of America
— Legal Evangelical Association Development (LEAD) – Pakistan
— International Christian Concern – United States of America
— American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) – United States of America
Responsible for Equality And Liberty (R.E.A.L.) supports these international efforts to end the imprisonment and threats against the life of Pakistan Christian minority woman Asia Bibi, and we support her human rights and freedoms under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), signed by Pakistan and other nations of the world.
R.E.A.L. calls for all human rights groups and activists to reach out to the Pakistan government to the Pakistan Supreme Court to end this injustice and to FREE ASIA BIBI.
Under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), Asia Bibi and the people of the world have the universal human rights of freedom of conscience and right to fair and equitable protections in the courts. This includes UDHR Articles 11 and 18.
UDHR Article 11.
“(1) Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.
(2) No one shall be held guilty of any penal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a penal offence, under national or international law, at the time when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the penal offence was committed.”
UDHR Article 18.
“Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”
In the case of Pakistan Christian minority woman Asia Bibi, the Pakistan court system has denied her universal human rights under UDHR Article 11, seeking to try her based on hearsay evidence with no proof and assuming her guilt rather than her innocence. The Pakistan court system has also denied Asia Bibi her universal human rights under UDHR Article 18, seeking to allow targeted persecution of her under the Pakistan “blasphemy law” to oppress her due to her Christian minority faith.
Responsible for Equality And Liberty (R.E.A.L.) calls for the Pakistan Supreme Court and the Pakistan nation to uphold its international obligations under its commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Pakistan is a signatory to. These same UDHR articles are found in the ICCPR Part III, Articles 14 and 18. Nations of the world are part of our shared Earth, our common global society, and international organizations that facilitate global trade, commerce, travel, and exchange of goods. Such nations that enjoy such global standing have a responsibility to adhere to agreed-upon global declarations and covenants on such human rights.
Global human rights activists in Pakistan and around the world are looking for the Pakistan court system to honor such global obligations and standards of human rights, dignity, and freedom for the people of the world. They are calling upon the Pakistan court and justice system to free Asia Bibi after these 9 years of unjust imprisonment.
Free Asia Bibi!