Ashiq Masih writes open letter after appeal is rejected

The husband of Asia Bibi, the Christian woman sentenced to death in Pakistan after being found guilty of blasphemy, has urged the country’s president to free his wife and allow her to move to France.

Pakistan’s high court recently upheld the conviction against Ms Bibi, who was accused in 2009 of insulting the Prophet Muhammad after a group of Muslim women in her home village of Itanwali refused to drink from the same glass as a Christian.

Ms Bibi’s husband Ashiq Mashi has now written an open letter in which he describes the conditions his wife is being held in as “terrible” and that her live could only be saved by a pardon from Pakistan’s president Mamnoon Hussain.

“We are convinced that Asia will only be saved from being hanged if the venerable President Mamnoon Hussain grants her a pardon. No one should be killed for drinking a glass of water,” wrote Mr Mashi.

“After my wife had spent four long years in prison in terrible conditions, we were hoping that the high court of Lahore would free my wife. She did not commit blasphemy, never. Since the court confirmed the death sentence on October 16, we do not understand why our country, our beloved Pakistan, is so against us. Our family has always lived here in peace, and we never had any disturbance.

“We are Christians but we respect Islam. Our neighbours are Muslims and we have always lived well with them in our little village. But for some years now the situation in Pakistan has changed because of just a few people, and we are afraid. Today many of our Muslim friends cannot understand why the Pakistani justice system is making our family suffer so much.”

The letter continued: “When I visited Asia Bibi yesterday she asked me to give you this message: ‘My prison cell has no windows and day and night are the same to me, but if I am still holding on today it is thanks to everyone who is trying to help me. When my husband showed me the photographs of people I have never met drinking a glass of water for me, my heart overflowed. Ashiq told me that the city of Paris is offering to welcome our family. I send my deepest thanks to you Madam Mayor, and to all the kind people of Paris and across the world. You are my only hope of staying alive in this dungeon, so please don’t abandon me. I did not commit blasphemy.’”

The full text of Ashiq Masih’s letter to Mamnoon Hussain (November 17, 2014):

Yesterday, I returned from the prison in Multan where my wife, Aasia Bibi, was transferred eight months ago. Since Aasia was sentenced to death in November 2010 for drinking a glass of water from our village well, my family has lived in constant fear and under death threats. I live in hiding with my five children as near as possible to Aasia. She needs us very much to help keep her alive, to bring her medicine and good food when she is sick.

After my wife had spent four long years in prison in terrible conditions, we were hoping that the high court of Lahore would free my wife. She did not commit blasphemy, never. Since the court confirmed the death sentence on 16 October, we do not understand why our country, our beloved Pakistan, is so against us. Our family has always lived here in peace, and we never had any disturbance.

We are Christians but we respect Islam. Our neighbours are Muslims and we have always lived well with them in our little village. But for some years now the situation in Pakistan has changed because of just a few people, and we are afraid. Today many of our Muslim friends cannot understand why the Pakistani justice system is making our family suffer so much.

We are now trying our best to present the final case to the supreme court before 4 December. But we are convinced that Aasia will only be saved from being hanged if the venerable President Mammon Hussain grants her a pardon. No one should be killed for drinking a glass of water.

My five children and I have only survived thanks to the protection of a few faithful friends who risk their lives daily to help us. We are the husband and family of Aasia Bibi and many people want us to die. Thanks to our friend Anne-Isabelle Tollet, who has become our sister and helped us for four years now, we speak often about what is happening in Paris and the world to help save Aasia. Hearing that people are supporting Aasia from so far away is so important for us. It helps us to hold on. Every time I visit Aasia in prison I tell her the news. Sometimes it gives her the courage to keep going.

Just before taking the 10-hour journey to visit Aasia, I learned the wonderful news that Paris is offering to welcome Aasia and our family to Paris if she is freed. This is a huge honour and we are very humbled. I would like to offer my sincere thanks to you, Madam Mayor of Paris, and to say that we are immensely grateful for your concern. I hope that one day we will visit you alive, and not dead.

When I visited Aasia Bibi yesterday she asked me to give you this message: “My prison cell has no windows and day and night are the same to me, but if I am still holding on today it is thanks to everyone who is trying to help me. When my husband showed me the photographs of people I have never met drinking a glass of water for me, my heart overflowed. Ashiq told me that the city of Paris is offering to welcome our family. I send my deepest thanks to you Madam Mayor, and to all the kind people of Paris and across the world. You are my only hope of staying alive in this dungeon, so please don’t abandon me. I did not commit blasphemy.”

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