Since June 2009, Pakistani citizen Asia Bibi, mother of five little children, has been imprisoned in appalling and intolerable conditions in Sheikhupura prison in Punjab province.
Her crime: being a Christian who drank a glass of water from a well belonging to her Muslim friends.
Sentenced to death for blasphemy, Asia Bibi continues to proclaim her innocence from the bottom of her windowless cell, where she can touch both walls by stretching out her two arms.
Asia Bibi has appealed her death sentence, but her trial will not take place for another two years. We refuse to accept that this mother of five children will continue to languish in her putrid, stifling, freezing cell for so long “” especially without the right to see her children.
The blasphemy law in Pakistan is a threat to every Pakistani citizen, irrespective of religion. Muslims are actually its main victims. Under Islamist pressure, the Pakistani authorities have abandoned their efforts to reform this unjust law, and prefer to let Asia Bibi die in her cell.
Only if the international community mobilizes and launches a tenacious, forceful, and determined campaign will the Pakistani authorities be compelled to respect human rights. We do not want to close our eyes and remain silent in the face of Asia Bibi’s plight, while she suffers behind bars and awaits her death by hanging.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights guarantee the right to practice one’s religion and to express one’s opinion freely. Pakistan ratified the ICCPR in 2010. An international commitment of this kind is not compatible with the continued criminalization of blasphemy in Pakistani law.
We solemnly call upon the government of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan to free Asia Bibi.