John R. Houk
© September 19, 2017
Asia Bibi is a Pakistani Christian that has been languishing in a Pakistani jail for a better of a decade wondering if the Pakistan government will ever proceed on the death sentence passed against her for breaking the anti-religious freedom Blasphemy Law.
Asia has been nominated for a prestigious award from the EU that I pray places more pressure on the Pakistan government to release her with the ability of Asia Bibi and family to receive political asylum in a more civilized nation. The award is called the Sakharov Prize.
About the Sakharov Prize:
The European Parliament also supports human rights through the annual Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, established in 1988. The prize is awarded to individuals who have made an exceptional contribution to the fight for human rights across the globe, drawing attention to human rights violations as well as supporting the laureates and their cause. (The European Parliament supports human rights; European Parliament)
The nominees were announced on September 14, 2017. Here is the nominee list which Asia Bibi is listed first:
The nominees for this year’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought are:
Asia Bibi (Aasiya Noreen), a Pakistani Christian woman sentenced to death in 2010 under the country´s blasphemy law. Bibi is on a death row for almost seven years and her appeal to the supreme court has been postponed to an undetermined date. She was nominated by ECR.
Aura Lolita Chavez Ixcaquic, a human rights defender from Guatemala. She is a member from the Council of Ki’che’ Peoples (CPK), an organisation that fights to protect natural resources and human rights from the expansion of mining, logging, hydroelectric and agro-industry sectors in the territory and has been subject to threats. She was nominated by Greens/EFA.
Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag, co-chairs of the pro-kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) in Turkey arrested in November 2016 on terrorism charges after their parliamentary immunity was lifted. They were nominated by GUE/NGL.
Democratic Opposition in Venezuela: National Assembly (Julio Borges) and all political prisoners as listed by Foro Penal Venezolano represented by Leopoldo López, Antonio Ledezma, Daniel Ceballos, Yon Goicoechea, Lorent Saleh, Alfredo Ramos and Andrea González. The situation in Venezuela has been seriously deteriorating as regards democracy, human rights and socio-economy, in a climate of growing political and social instability. Nominated by EPP and ALDE. Political prisoners in Venezuela as well as the democratic opposition in Venezuela were also shortlisted for the Sakharov Prize in 2015.
Dawit Isaak, a Swedish-Eritrean playwright, journalist and writer, who was arrested in 2001 by the Eritrean authorities during a political crackdown. He has been imprisoned without a trial since and was last seen in 2005. Isaak was Sakharov finalist in 2009. He was nominated by S&D as well as by Wikström and 46 other MEPs.
Pierre Claver Mbonimpa, a Burundian human rights activist and founder of the Association for the Protection of Human Rights and Detained Persons (APRODH). He was detained in 2014, escaped an assassination attempt in 2015 and is now living in Belgium. He was nominated by EFDD. (Sakharov Prize 2017: discover the nominees; EU affairs; 9/14/17 18:05)
In case you have been out of the loop or have forgotten the idiotic reason for Asia’s death sentence, here is an excerpt from a past post which was dated 7/25/15:
The women said in their charge that Bibi asked “My Christ died for me, what did Muhammad do for you?” — a statement considered blasphemous in the South Asian country. (Bold Text Mine – Christian Post)
Asia life behind bars has not been a bowl of strawberries and cream. Check out this excerpt from a New York Post article in 2013 that encouraged people to buy Asia’s memoir to help her now persecuted family and to pay Pakistan lawyers to working legal issues for an appeal:
To her neighbors, Aasiya Noreen “Asia” Bibi, a poor mother of five in the tiny village of Ittan Wali in central Pakistan, was guilty — guilty of being Christian in a nation that is 97% Muslim. For four years she has languished in a prison cell for this, facing death by hanging.
Her new memoir, “Blasphemy,” was dictated to her husband from jail, who relayed it to French journalist Anne-Isabelle Tollet. Fifty percent of the proceeds the book will go to support Bibi and her family. Tollet says the situation is dire.
Embarrassed by Bibi’s case but still refusing to release her because of angry protests by extremists, the Pakistan government has transferred her to a more remote prison, hoping the 42-year-old dies quietly behind bars, perhaps poisoned by another inmate. Already two government officials who have spoken out on her behalf have been murdered, including Minister for Minorities Shahbaz Bhatti, who was killed by the Taliban. In this excerpt, Bibi explains the simple “transgression” that led to her plight.
… I want the whole world to know that I’m going to be hanged for helping my neighbor. I’m guilty of having shown someone sympathy. What did I do wrong? I drank water from a well belonging to Muslim women, using “their” cup, in the burning heat of the midday sun.
I, Asia Bibi, have been sentenced to death because I was thirsty. I’m a prisoner because I used the same cup as those Muslim women, because water served by a Christian woman was regarded as unclean by my stupid fellow fruit-pickers.
That day, June 14, 2009, is imprinted on my memory. I can still see every detail.
That morning I got up earlier than usual, to take part in the big falsa-berry harvest. I’d been told about it by Farah, our lovely local shopkeeper. “Why don’t you go falsa picking tomorrow in that field just outside the village? You know the one; it belongs to the Nadeems, the rich family who live in Lahore. The pay is 250 rupees.”
When I got to the field, around 15 women were already at work, picking away, their backs hidden by the tall bushes. It was going to be a physically exhausting day in such heat, but I needed those 250 rupees.
A hard-faced woman dressed in clothes that had been mended many times came over to me with an old yellow bowl.
“If you fill the bowl you get 250 rupees,” she said without really looking at me.
I looked at the huge bowl and thought I would never finish before sunset. Looking at the other women’s bowls, I also realized mine was much bigger. They were reminding me that I’m a Christian.
The sun was beating down, and by midday it was like working in an oven. …
But since the river was nowhere near, I freed myself from my bushes and walked over to the nearby well. Already I could sense the coolness rising up from the depths.
I pull up a bucketful of water and dip in the old metal cup resting on the side of the well. The cool water is all I can think of. I gulp it down and I feel better; I pull myself together.
Then I start to hear muttering. I pay no attention and fill the cup again, this time holding it out to a woman next to me who looks like she’s in pain. She smiles and reaches out . . . At exactly the moment Musarat pokes her ferrety nose out from the bush, her eyes full of hate:
“Don’t drink that water, it’s haram!”
Musarat addresses all the pickers, who have suddenly stopped work at the sound of the word “haram,” the Islamic term for anything forbidden by God.
“Listen, all of you, this Christian has dirtied the water in the well by drinking from our cup and dipping it back several times. Now the water is unclean and we can’t drink it! Because of her!”
It’s so unfair that for once I decide to defend myself and stand up to the old witch.
“I think Jesus would see if differently from Mohammed.”
Musarat is furious. “How dare you think for the Prophet, you filthy animal!”
… (NY Post – 8/25/13 4:00am)
… (Asia Bibi Gets Execution Stay – Now Push for Political Asylum; By John R. Houk; SlantRight 2.0; 7/25/15)
It’s been over two years since I posted the original excerpt above. As far as I know, NOTHING HAS CHANGED! Asia Bibi (or her less well-known name – Aasiya Noreen) is still languishing in jail.
The closest update I have found is from an online French Catholic publication called Aleteia which also publishes in English:
Condemned to death in 2009 for insulting Islam, the Pakistani Catholic is still awaiting her final verdict.
On June 14, 2009, Asia Bibi was thrown into jail. A year later she was sentenced to death for blasphemy, and since 2013, after two transfers, she has been languishing in one of the three windowless cells on death row in the southern province of Multan in the Punjab Penitentiary. A year after the Supreme Court of Pakistan postponed her appeal amid death threats by 150 muftis (Muslim legal experts) against anyone who would assist “blasphemers,” the case has not progressed by one iota. On August 30, Asia Bibi had spent 3,000 days in prison.
Her family lives underground. The only thing we know comes from her lawyer, the Muslim Saif ul Malook, who has visited her in recent months. He says she is doing well and is still hoping for her release. On the other hand, the Supreme Court seems to have forgotten the case, and has still not decided whether to confirm her death sentence or to release her.
During those 3,000 days Asia Bibi has never stopped praying and asking for prayers. As a tribute to this Christian who has become an icon for all those who struggle in Pakistan and the world against all violence in the name of religion, this is the prayer she composed last year on the occasion of the Easter celebrations, and which accompanies her in her detention:
Resurrected Lord, allow your daughter Asia to rise again with you. Break my chains, make my heart free and go beyond these bars, and accompany my soul so that it is close to those who are dear to me, and that it remains always near you. Do not abandon me in the day of trouble, do not deprive me of your presence. You who have suffered torture and the cross, alleviate my suffering. Hold me near you, Lord Jesus. On the day of your resurrection, Jesus, I want to pray for my enemies, for those who hurt me. I pray for them and I beg you to forgive them for the harm they have done me. I ask you, Lord, to remove all obstacles so that I may obtain the blessing of freedom. I ask you to protect me and protect my family.
After eight years of suffering, anguish and disappointed hopes, let us keep up our prayers and our actions of support for her, because through her we support all the persecuted Christians in their sacrifices. (Asia Bibi has spent more than 3,000 days in prison for blasphemy; By Isabelle Cousturie; Aleteia; 9/18/17)
Dan Wooding the Chief Editor of Assist News Service (ANS) sent the email alert notifying me of Asia Bibi’s Sakharov Prize nomination. Below is my cross post of that ANS article.
ASIA BIBI NOMINATED FOR EU’S PRESTIGIOUS SAKHAROV PRIZE
By Dan Wooding – Founder of ASSIST News Service
September 17, 2017 23:58
Free Asia Bibi campaign
PAKISTAN (ANS – September 17, 2017) — Pakistan’s most famous Christian prisoner, Asia Bibi, has been nominated for the European Union’s high-status award, the Sakharov Prize.
Ms. Bibi, a mother-of-five, who is currently behind the bars waiting for a hearing of her appeal against capital punishment, was nominated by a group of European legislators.
According to Madeeha Bakhsh, writing for Christians in Pakistan (https://www.christiansinpakistan.com/), “Asia has been nominated for ‘Freedom of Thought’ by the legislators who form an influential group European Conservatives and Reformists Group (ECR). This European Conservatives and Reformists Group is the third largest group in the European Parliament,” she wrote. “The European Conservatives and Reformists Group (ECR), nominated Asia Bibi late on Wednesday, September 13.”
Peter van Dalen, a Dutch European parliamentarian and member of ECR’s faction, ChristenUnion-SGP, said: “Her case is a symbol for others hurt in their freedom of expression and especially freedom of religion. It is good that my colleagues in the ECR and I continue to defend the rights of [Asia] Bibi and many others.”
Members of the entire European Parliament will soon be casting their votes in favor of their favorite candidate.
“If a majority casts [their] votes in favor of Asia Bibi; she could win the €50,000 ($59,670 USD) award for the Sakharov Prize, which is considered Europe’s most prestigious human rights award,” said Madeeha Bakhsh. “This award is named after Andrei Sakharov, a scientist and dissident hailing from the Soviet era.”
Sakharov died on December 14, 1989, and the award ceremony will be held in Strasbourg, France, on December 10.
Asia Bibi, a berry picker, was accused of committing blasphemy by her co-workers back in 2009. Later on, in 2010, a court in the Punjab district of Nankana found her guilty and she was sentenced to death by hanging, a verdict later challenged and upheld by a two-member bench of Lahore High Court in 2014.
Her appeal case is currently pending with the Supreme Court of Pakistan.
“Supposedly her final appeal hearing on October 13, 2016, was meant to wind up the most high profile case of the country, however, it was delayed as one of the judges refused to be a part of the three member bench that was to hear the case,” added Bakhsh.
She said that on the date of the hearing, Justice Iqbal Hameed ur Rehman, one of the three judges due to hear Asia Bibi’s appeal case, suddenly withdrew saying, “I was a part of the bench that was hearing the case of Salmaan Taseer, and this case is related to that.”
The judge was referring to the case of the then governor of Punjab, who was assassinated on January 4, 2011, at the Kohsar Market in Islamabad by his bodyguard, Mumtaz Qadri, who disagreed with Taseer’s opposition to Pakistan’s blasphemy law and his support for Asia Bibi. Qadri was later sentenced to death by a Pakistani Anti-Terrorist court at Islamabad for murdering Taseer, and was executed on February 29, 2016.
Consequently, the hearing was adjourned and Ms. Bibi is still on death row in her lonely prison cell.
Note: Christians in Pakistan is a non-profit organization and a leading source of news related to Pakistani Christians. They can be contacted by e-mail at: ChristiansinPak@gmail.com.
Photo captions: 1) Asia Bibi. 2) Andrei Sakharov on the cover of Time magazine. 3) Salmaan Taseer meeting with Asia Bibi after her arrest. Many believe that this meeting cost him his life. 4) Ashiq Masih, the husband of Asia Bibi with some of the children. 5) Dan Wooding
About the writer: Dan Wooding, 75, is an award-winning author, broadcaster and journalist, who was born in Nigeria, West Africa, of British missionary parents, Alfred and Anne Wooding, who then worked with the Sudan Interior Mission, now known as SIM. Dan now lives in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for some 54 years. They have two sons, Andrew and Peter, and six grandchildren who all live in the UK. Dan is the founder/president of the ASSIST News Service (ANS), and is also the author of numerous books. He has a radio show and two television programs, all based in Southern California.
Persecuted Pakistan Christian Sakharov Prize Nominee
John R. Houk
© September 19, 2017
ASIA BIBI NOMINATED FOR EU’S PRESTIGIOUS SAKHAROV PRIZE
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