After a decade of uncertainty about her life, her safety, and her future, Pakistani Christian mother Asia Bibi can now breath a sigh of relief that she has safely fled to Canada a free woman, according to reports.
On Wednesday morning, a U.K. diplomat told the British Pakistani Christian Organization (BPCO) that Bibi has finally safely left Pakistan following her release from her eight-year stay on the country’s death row last year. Bibi faced possible execution under Pakistan’s notoriously harsh blasphemy law but was acquitted by the country’s supreme court in October.
The mother of 5 was convicted of blasphemy in 2010 following a 2009 incident at her berry-picking job. When she went to fetch water from a nearby well, her Muslim coworkers said that they didn’t want to drink from something that had been touched by a Christian. After the incident, two Muslim women said that she had insulted Mohammed, though that claim has never been verified.
“The United States welcomes the news that Asia Bibi has safely reunited with her family,” said U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a prepared statement. “Asia Bibi is now free, and we wish her and her family all the best following their reunification. The United States uniformly opposes blasphemy laws anywhere in the world, as they jeopardize the exercise of fundamental freedoms.”
After being released from death row, Bibi made plans to flee Pakistan, which has a “high” rating for government restriction on religion and for social hostility involving religion, according to Pew Research.
Now in Canada, Bibi is safe from both further persecution by the Pakistani government and retributive violence from those angered by her acquittal.
“Although no one has yet been executed by the state under the blasphemy laws, some persons have been sentenced to death. Several accused under the blasphemy laws have been attacked, even killed, by vigilantes, including while in police custody; those who escape official punishment or vigilante attack are forced to flee the country,” explains the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom. “Others have died in police custody under allegedly suspicious circumstances.”
But while supporters around the world rejoice at the news of Bibi’s newfound safety, the last leg of her road to freedom and safety didn’t come without difficulties. Last month, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Kahn told the BBC that there had been a “little bit of a complication” in her departure.
“It is very good that Asia Bibi is finally safe outside Pakistan,” Farahnaz Ispahani told Blaze Media. Ispahani is a global fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center, senior fellow for South and South East Asia at the Religious Freedom Institute, and a former member of the Pakistani parliament. “It is bad news that it was such a struggle to free her and that thousands of Christians and other religious minority populations still live under threat.”