Asia Bibi Pakistan’s notorious blasphemy case

Feb 1, 2019 by

from BBC News:

Asia Bibi was dragged out of her house, beaten, and arrested in front of an angry mob.  Accused of blasphemy, she would never return to her village. After a decade-long ordeal, Asia is finally free.

Asia Bibi left the home she shared with her husband and children and headed for the fields. The village of Ittanwala, some 40 miles south-east of Lahore, is surrounded by green fields and fruit orchards. It is one of the most fertile in the Punjab.

Like many of the women in the village, Asia worked as a farm labourer. It was June and the women were to spend the day picking berries. After working for hours under the scorching sun, the thirsty, exhausted women stopped for a break. Asia was asked to fetch some water from the nearby well.

She set off, jug in hand. But on her way back she took a sip of the water before handing it over to her Muslim co-workers. They were furious.

Asia is a Christian. In Pakistan, many conservative Muslims don’t like to eat or drink with people of other faiths. They believe that non-Muslims are impure.

Asia’s co-workers told her that she was “dirty” and not worthy of drinking from the same cup as them. An argument erupted and fierce words were exchanged on both sides.

Five days later, the police barged their way into Asia’s house and accused her of insulting the Prophet Muhammad. Outside was a mob, including the village cleric who had accused her of blasphemy. Asia was dragged outside.

The mob brazenly began to beat her, right in front of the police. She was arrested and charged with blasphemy.

During the trial Asia maintained her innocence, but in 2010 she was sentenced to death. She has spent the past nine years of her life in solitary confinement.

In Pakistan, the punishment for blasphemy against Islam and its prophet is either life imprisonment, or death. But all too often the allegation is misused as a way to settle personal scores. Once someone has been accused of blasphemy, before their case has even gone to trial, they and their families come under attack.

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