Conversion or Death
Editor's note: Asia Bibi, a Christian woman, has been imprisoned since 2009, when she was sentenced to death under Pakistan's blasphemy law. While picking fruit in the fields, she drank from a well used by Muslim companions, who angrily accused her of contaminating the water. The following depicts the mob attack that preceded her arrest.
I've almost filled my bowl [with fruit] when I hear what sounds like a rioting crowd. I step back from my bush, wondering what's going on, and in the distance I see dozens of men and women striding along towards our field, waving their arms in the air. . . .
Then I catch the cruel eyes of [my accuser] Musarat. Her expression is self-righteous and full of scorn. I shiver as I suddenly realize that she hasn't let it go at all. I can tell she's out for revenge. The excited crowd are closer now; they are coming into the field and now they're standing in front of me, threatening and shouting.
"Filthy bitch! We're taking you back to the village! You insulted our Prophet! You'll pay for that with your life!"
They all start yelling: "Death! Death to the Christian!"
I look round for Josephine, but the angry crowd is pressing closer and closer around me. I'm half lying on the ground when two men grab me by the arms to drag me away. I call out in a desperate, feeble voice: "I haven't done anything! Let me go, please! . . ."
Just then someone hits me in the face. My nose really hurts and I'm bleeding. They drag me along, semi-conscious, like a stubborn donkey. I can only submit and pray that it will all stop soon. I look at the crowd, apparently jubilant that I've put up so little resistance. I stagger as the blows rain down on my legs, my back and the back of my head. I tell myself that when we get to the village perhaps my sufferings will be over. But when we arrive there it's worse: there are even more people and the crowd turn more and more aggressive, calling all the louder for my death.
A woman I can't see screams hysterically, "She insulted our Prophet, she should have her eyes torn out!" while another yells: "Put a rope around her neck and drag her through the village like an animal!"
More and more people join the crowd as they push me towards the home of the village headman. . . . They throw me to the ground. The village imam speaks to me: "I've been told that you've insulted our Prophet. You know what happens to anyone who attacks the holy Prophet Muhammad. You can redeem yourself only by conversion or death." . . .
Sobbing, I reply: "No, I don't want to change my religion. But please believe me, I didn't do what these women say, I didn't insult your religion. Please have mercy on me." . . .
"You're lying! Everyone says you committed this blasphemy and that's proof enough. Christians must comply with the law of Pakistan, which forbids any derogatory remarks about the holy Prophet. Since you won't convert and the Prophet cannot defend himself, we shall avenge him." . . .
And they go on beating me with the same fury as before.
Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.
See also today's interview with Anne Isabelle Tollet, the French journalist who served as Bibi's ghostwriter.