Name: Ramzan Bibi
Country of Origin: Pakistan
Background: Ramzan Bibi is a 55-year-old Ahmadi Muslim woman from Cheleki village, Punjab Province, Pakistan.
Bibi is a member of the Ahmadi Muslim community, one of Pakistan’s most persecuted religious minority groups. Misuse and fraudulent use of blasphemy laws targets Pakistani Ahmadi Muslims and Christians for arrest. Additionally, Ahmadi Muslims are treated as apostates or heretics due to their digression from traditional Sunni Islam.
Reason for arrest:
On April 30th, 2020, Bibi attempted to make a charitable donation for a ceremony to be held in one of Cheleki village’s non-Ahmadi mosques, however, her money was returned to her. Bibi was confused about the reason why her donation could not be accepted, and when she asked one of her non-Ahmadi family members, the discussion “turned into a dispute resulting in a verbal and physical altercation.” Soon after, multiple non-Ahmadi village leaders visited the District Police Office to accuse Bibi of committing blasphemy against the Prophet. She was officially charged under problematic Section 295-C of Pakistan’s Penal Code, which states that “whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation or by any imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine.” Bibi is currently detained at Central Jail in Lahore, Pakistan.
Meanwhile, community members of Cheleki village met up to discuss Bibi’s case and came to an agreement that there was no evidence to back up the blasphemy accusations and charges against Bibi. According to USCIRF, however, some more traditional Islamic leaders in the village recruited a non-Ahmadi community member to testify against Bibi.
Bibi applied for bail, but her request was rejected in November 2020 by Judge Tariq Saleem.
Current Status as of January 2021:
7 January 2021: USCIRF Commissioner James A. Carr adopted Ramzan Bibi via the Religious Prisoners of Conscience Project. Commissioner Carr released the following statement:
“The Pakistani government must immediately release Ramzan Bibi, and all others detained for blasphemy. Authorities allowing these laws to be used for personal gain or vendetta are only enabling systematic discrimination based on religious belief. This is clear in Bibi;s case, as she is facing imprisonment simply because of her Ahmadi faith. The Pakistani government needs to repeal blasphemy and anti-Ahmadiyya laws and until this is accomplished, enact comprehensive reform.”