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Rimsha Masih

On August 16th, 2020, Rimsha was carrying trash to be burned in the neighborhood where she lived. She was stopped by a local man (Hammad Malik) who took the bag from her demanding to inspect it's contents. He would testify:

"I looked at it but did not know exactly what it was but I could see it had words written in Arabic,"

He promptly took it to the local Mosque where the Imam (Hafiz Mohammed Khalid Chishti) called the police. Inside the bag, as he swore, were torn out pages of the Koran that Rimsha had intended to burn and so police immediately arrested her under Pakistan's blasphemy law.

News of the arrest quickly spread and nearly 900 Christians living in an area of Islamabad named Mehrabadi were ordered to leave their houses immediately and pad locks were placed on the doors. Many of the families had lived there for decades and were forced to move to already overcrowded slums and the forest regions around Islamabad. Any who stayed behind were refused service by any shops and had their water lines disconnected. Before the arrest, tensions had been building between the Christian and Islamic neighborhoods due to complaints that the Christian churches were "too noisy" during their worship services.

A week into court proceedings several doctors came to examine Rimsha and reported to the court that she was likely around the age of 11 and that she appears to have Down Syndrome with severely reduced mental capacity. The prosecution refuted this claim, stating that she was at least 21 years old and had no mental handicapped. One of the prosecution's lawyers argued that the doctors had "favored her".

France called upon her immediately release and in a statement wrote:

"the very existence of the crime of blasphemy infringes upon fundamental freedoms, namely the freedom of religion or belief, as well as the freedom of expression. It urges Pakistan to comply with its international commitments in this area, notably the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as well as the Convention on the Rights of the Child"

Members of the Pakistan Interfaith League also lodged protests with the court and her father made a personal appeal to President Zardari. This prompted the lawyer representing the prosecution's case to accuse the government of intervening on her behalf and wrote:

"If the court is not allowed to do its work, because the state is helping the accused, then the public has no other option except to take the law into their own hands."

On September 2nd, the Imam who lodged the complaint was he himself arrested for desecrating the Koran with police suspecting he had planted torn pages in the girls bag. Two members of the Mosque had brought the papers to the Imam earlier in the day, and he placed them in the girls bag telling them it was the only way the Christians living in the area could be expelled.

5 days later, on September 7th, Rimsha was released on bail and airlifted by the Pakistani military to a secure, undisclosed location. The following November, Rimsha was cleared of all charges by the Islamabad High Court. Sometime between then and June 2013, family members and contacts reached out to the Canadian government inquiring if they could seek asylum in Canada. Immigration Minister Jason Kenney told the Canadian Press:

"So a number of people did some very dangerous, delicate work to extricate her and her family from Pakistan, and we provided the necessary visas."

After their arrival in Canada, Kenney met the family in Toronto. The family is now living in a secret and secure location in Canada. The Imam accused of fabricating the evidence was acquitted of all charges in August of 2013 with the prosecution not bringing further evidence for a conviction.

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