Word For Peace
Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman who spent years on death row after being convicted of blasphemy, has published a book about her experiences and her new life.
Ms Bibi released a memoir, Enfin Libre, or Finally Free, written with French journalist Anne-Isabelle Tollet.
She was sentenced to death on blasphemy charges by a Pakistani court in 2010 but acquitted in 2018.
She currently lives in an undisclosed location in Canada.
Ms Bibi, 47, has always maintained her innocence in a highly sensitive case that polarised her home country of Pakistan and was closely followed around the world.
The Pakistan Supreme Court’s quashing of her sentence in October 2018 led to violent protests by religious hardliners who support strong blasphemy laws, while more liberal sections of society urged her release.
In the new book, she recounts her arrest, the conditions of her prison detention, and her eventual release. She also discusses the challenges of adjusting to her new life in Canada.
“You may know my story through the media, you may have tried to put yourself in my place in order to understand my suffering,” she writes in the book’s publicity materials. “But you are far from understanding my daily life in prison or my new life and that’s why, in this book, I will explain it all.”
In an excerpt released by the publishing house, she writes: “How could I ever imagine in 50 years that I would become a global symbol of the fight against religious extremism when I am but a simple, illiterate peasant?
“From my small windowless cell, I often wondered why Pakistan was targeting me.”
She describes the conditions of her detention, where her neck was “encased in an iron collar that the guard can tighten with a huge nut”, according to excerpts published by the AFP news agency.
She writes that few of the other prisoners showed her sympathy: “I am startled by the cry of a woman. ‘To death!’ The other women join in. ‘Hanged!’ Hanged!’.”
The book was published by Éditions du Rocher in French on Wednesday with an English version due out later this year.
Ms Bibi collaborated on the book with Ms Tollet, who spent years working in Pakistan. The journalist has long championed her case and published two books on the subject.
What was she accused of?
Ms Bibi went on trial after an argument she had with a group of women in June 2009. She drank from a bucket of water that was meant to be shared with the women, with whom she was working to harvest fruit.
But she offended conservative Muslim women in the group, who said that, as a Christian, she had contaminated the water.
Prosecutors alleged that in the subsequent row, Ms Bibi made offensive comments about the Prophet Muhammad. She was later beaten up at her home and her attackers claimed she confessed to blasphemy. She was arrested after a police investigation.
Acquitting her, the Supreme Court said that the case was based on unreliable evidence and her confession was delivered in front of a crowd “threatening to kill her”.