Asia Bibi, the illiterate ‘nobody’ who spent 10 years on death row and became a symbol of Pakistan’s oppressive blasphemy laws

Asia Bibi never expected to become a global poster-woman for the cause of religious tolerance. A farm worker from Pakistan’s Punjab heartlands, she cannot read or write, and describes herself as a "nobody" with little knowledge of the world outside her village.

Today, though, the 47-year-housewife has come to symbolise the harshness of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, having spent nearly a decade on death row over what was never more than a chance remark.

Most of that time has been spent in a filthy, muddy, windowless cell – so squalid she felt ashamed to have her children visit. Besides the threat of the gallows, she also lived in daily fear of being killed by vigilantes – either through an attack…

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