The watchers

Pakistan: Christian nurse beaten by colleagues and accused of blasphemy

A Christian nurse who works in a maternity hospital in Karachi, Pakistan, was beaten and accused of blasphemy by a crowd of colleagues on January 28th. Images of the incident became widespread in the days that followed as their attackers persuaded the police to register charges of blasphemy against them – an offense punishable by death in Pakistan, where the state religion is Islam. This incident, just one of more than a thousand cases of blasphemy recorded since 1987, sheds light on the abuse of blasphemy laws in Pakistan and their role in inciting mob violence. This Twitter video, posted on January 29, the day after the incident, shows employees at Sobhraj Maternity Hospital in Karachi, Pakistan meeting Tabitha Nazir Gill, a senior nurse at the hospital. The nurse slapped her screams, “Get away from here,” while a voice in the background asks Nazir Gill to apologize. “She tried her best to save herself. But when they caught her, they hit her. “The FRANCE 24 Observers team spoke to“ Francis ”, a local chaplain who knows Nazir Gill through his work and who was present at the Karachi Hospital shortly after the incident. His name was changed to protect his personal safety. Tabitha was saying to a patient that she would pray for her because she was going into labor and it was her first child. Then it all started – the nurses who were there pounced on her. She tried her best to save herself. She went from room to room and locked herself in, but they climbed through the window to open the door. When they opened the door, they asked the women to go in and beat them. They pulled her from the third to the first floor on the stairs. “While searching for Nazir Gill, a mob in Sobhraj’s birthplace supports a man who is hanging on a window to unlock a door in the hospital. This video was shared on social media in the days following the event. Surrounded by her attackers, at least two of whom are wearing burqas, Nazir Gill replies to her accusers by stating that she is a Christian and has not spoken against Islam. This video was shared on social media in the days following the event. Staff accuse Nazir Gill of blasphemy and pressure her to write an apology for “proclaiming her faith” by telling a patient that she will pray for her and ask Jesus Christ to heal her. Speaking to the camera, Nazir Gill says that “she didn’t say anything” and that “it’s her plan”. This video was shared on social media in the days following the event. Francis said the incident was “pre-planned” and followed several months of tension between Nazir Gill and her Muslim counterparts asking them to quit their jobs and move to another hospital. He said the tension was due to Nazir Gill’s belief: As a Christian, she would tell patients that she would pray for their health. Outside of the hospital she was also a gospel singer. The hospital isn’t isolated – it’s right in the heart of the area. When she screamed, everyone came out and the people in the crowd were excited too. Some went and called the police for help, and she was rescued and taken away. They found nothing blasphemous at the police station and sent her home. The next day, hospital staff and clergy went to the affected police station, told the police that they were speaking against the Prophet and convinced them to file an FIR report [Editor’s note: a document prepared by the police when they receive information about a possible crime] Section 295-C of the Pakistani Penal Code states: “Anyone who defiles the holy name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad through words, visual display or insinuation will be punished with death and held liable for too good”. There is no evidence in any of the videos of the incident that have been circulated that Nazir Gill made any comments on the Prophet. Asad Jamal, a lawyer in Lahore, Pakistan, reviews the contents of the FIR from Nazir Gill, saying that the contents of the FIR may be tampered with and that the complainant may have perverted facts – a common characteristic of many blasphemy allegations: “People only use blasphemy, to persecute people and dispel grudges ”. Unfortunately, the case of Nazir Gill is in Pakistan, where people – especially religious minorities – are not unknown. are often targeted and persecuted under the country’s strict blasphemy laws. Inherited from the British rulers of India when Pakistan became an independent nation after the partition of India in 1947, the laws were expanded in the 1980s by the military government of General Zia-ul Haq. Clauses have been added that criminalize derogatory remarks against Islamic figures and blasphemy against the Prophet. These crimes resulted in harsh sentences, including life imprisonment and death. According to a 2016 report by Amnesty International, it is difficult to get accurate information on the number of blasphemy cases in Pakistan due to limited data. According to the National Justice and Peace Commission (NCJP) quoted by Amnesty, at least 1,335 people were accused of blasphemy in Pakistan between 1987 and 2016. At least 40 people convicted of blasphemy in Pakistan are currently facing lives, according to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. Anneqa Maria, a lawyer in Pakistan who defends those accused of blasphemy, says the blasphemy law is often used as a tool to settle grudges: “In my entire career as a criminal defense lawyer, none of the blasphemy victims I represent have actually committed blasphemy . People only use it to persecute people and dispel resentments and scores. If you like someone’s daughter and the father is unwilling to marry her to you, blasphemy is the best way to get rid of him and his whole family. If you like someone’s property and they are unwilling to vacate it for you, go to blasphemy. The list goes on and on: in jobs, with conflicts between jealousy and social status, etc. The best thing about blasphemy is that you don’t have to make an effort to prove it. You just have to call it out and the whole city or village will come to assist and execute the person without evidence, as in Shama and Shahzad’s case [Editor’s note: a Christian couple who were beaten and burned to death by a mob in Pakistan’s Punjab province after being accused of desecrating the Quran]. You will even testify against the blasphemer in court without ever seeing anything. People are ready to kill, burn, or lynch a blasphemer at any cost, even if they are not blasphemers. “Christians and other minorities particularly at risk of blasphemy mob violencePakistan’s population is 96% Muslim. Although most people are accused of blasphemy, the country is made up of Muslims, minorities such as Christians, Hindus and Ahmadis (a persecuted sect Islam, which the government has legally declared as “non-Muslim”), who are disproportionately affected by these laws. Although they make up about 3.8% of the population, about 50% of reported blasphemy cases are filed against them. According to the NCJP, since 1987 633 Muslims, 494 Ahmadis, 187 Christians and 21 Hindus indicted. According to Walter Walter, President of the NGO Human Rights Focus Pakistan, Christians have targeted them against them Blasphemy makes laws particularly vulnerable to violence: “If a Christian is victimized, so can they whole family and community are attacked, in the past there are examples where the whole of chr Islamic Community Communities were set on fire, as in Gojra and the Joseph Colony in Lahore [Editor’s note: attacks in 2009 and 2013 respectively]There are many other examples of violence against Christians and other minorities: discrimination in the workplace, kidnappings, forced conversion and forced marriage of minors, hate curricula in schools and assassinations. “Since the 1980s, nearly 80 people have been killed by individuals or angry mobs for alleged blasphemy, Al Jazeera reported,” Reforms don’t seem to be happening anytime soon. “According to Maria, there are seldom consequences for those who make false accusations of blasphemy or violence And although critics say that blasphemy laws are subject to widespread abuse, reform efforts in the past have failed due to pressure from religious parties and fundamentalist groups. On February 3, a Pakistani Senate panel rejected a bill to protect minorities from religiously motivated ones Violence. Walter explains that the abuse of blasphemy laws is a particularly sensitive issue as those who support reforms can be viewed as anti-Islam and claim to be blasphemous themselves: “When someone speaks out in favor of the victims, be the fanatics claim they are blasphemers. One example is the former governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer, who was murdered for helping Asia Bibi [Editor’s note: a Christian woman who was sentenced to death in 2010 for blasphemy and was acquitted in 2018 in a ‘historic ruling’]At the moment religion is the supreme law, and the Pakistani constitution also defines Islam as the state religion. Reforms do not seem to take place in the near future until society’s attitudes towards equality, tolerance, peace and equality of citizens change. “However, some have openly condemned the attack on Nazir Gill, including one of her Muslim colleagues who posted a video responding to the incident asking people to stop lying and to put aside religion in the medical profession to serve humanity. Nazir Gill and her family are currently in hiding after being taken to safe haven by social workers and Christian leaders, according to our local sources, but even if the blasphemy charges are dropped, they and theirs will stay Family in danger, says Mary. “If you are classified as a blasphemer, your life is in constant danger even if you are acquitted. So most of the time people leave the country or move and move on for the rest of their lives. Those who do do not die in the hands of religious extremists. “


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