Asiya Bibi: A story of torture and freedom

Asiya Bibi

Life was hard for Aasiya Noreen, aka Aasiya Bibi, even when she was free. But she was working and was happy, living with her husband and two daughters. Only if she knew what lay ahead in life.

The story began in 2009. It was a mundane day, with Asia leaving for work as usual. An illiterate village woman, Aasiya earned her living working as a farm laborer.

It was a hot day and the Sun was blazing. After working for hours together, Aasiya took a break. It was then that her co-workers asked Asiya to fill up the jug of water from a nearby well.  She went, filled up the jug and drank some water from the container, before handing the jug to her Muslim co-workers.

This is when hell broke loose. Asia Bibi followed Christianity which made her impure and inferior for her Muslim co-workers. Her act of drinking water from their jug made her all the despicable which led to a huge show-down, in between Asiya and the Muslim workers.

Both sides resorted to hurling insults and abuses on the other. In between the ensuing chaos, one of the women went running to the local cleric to say that Aasiya Bibi has committed blasphemy.

Five days later, the police landed in Asiya’s house, followed by a mob and the cleric. She was dragged out of her home and beaten up even as her children and her husband looked on. The police then took her into their custody and she was jailed. A legal battle ensued during which she was granted the death penalty in 2010.

Asiya faced the worst of fates in jail. She was kept behind the bars tied up in chains. Years of torture, for the woman and her family finally came to an end when she was miraculously acquitted in 2018, due to lack of evidence.

Post this Pakistan erupted into violence. Since she and her family were not safe in Pakistan, Aasiya was granted a one-year asylum in Canada.

The family reached Canada in May 2019. Her life is yet to be settled as the European Union is working on her case to decide where Aasiya will be given shelter finally.

Aasiya’s story is not just about religious persecution. It is more about how wrong information and manipulation can lead a whole community to misread what faith demands of humanity.