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Stand up for Maherwar Ishaq campaign initiated by Canadian citizen gains momentum!


A rally movement calling for justice for a young woman and her mother who fled a blasphemy allegation in Pakistan is gaining momentum. Peace activists of all faiths are uniting in solidarity behind her appeal for asylum in Canada and will be holding a rally supporting protection for the vulnerable young woman who narrowly evaded detainment in Thailand's brutal Immigration Detention Centre, only to be re-persecuted when an official from the Pakistani Embassy in Thailand trapped her in a disused apartment in what we believe was an attempt to commit a sexual assault. An audio recording of the incident can be heard (here) 

This mirrors an incident by a Pakistani official from their immigration department based at Islamabad airport, read Dawn article (click here)      

Embassy officials however are yet to remove Maherwar's assailant from his post and refuse to interview Maherwar outside of their premises despite an offer of neutral territory via the UNHCR. The embassy have stated the interview is a necessary part of the investigative process but their caveat requires an interview within the embassy compound, which is a terrifying prospect. Their stubborn disregard of her legitimate concerns may lead to the perpetrator escaping justice.   Read the full story (click here).

Details for the rally are as follows:

Event:         Stand Up for Maherwar Ishaq!  
Date:           September 30th
Time:          1:30 pm – 3:30 pm
Location:    By the steps of the Legislature Building, Edmonton, Alberta. The impetus for this event intertwines several facts that converge with what has happened to this one young woman.

Organiser and BPCA volunteer Keri-Lynn Gibbs, said:

"Interest about the plight of Maherwar Ishaq is growing Canada  and concerned Canadians have decided to have rally on September 30th  to raise awareness about the sexual harassment Maherwar has suffered, the abuses against Pakistani Christians in Bangkok and the persecution that caused them to flee their homeland." 

Mr. Wilson Chowdhry of the British Pakistani Christian Association has been invited to speak at the event and will be joining the campaigners.

British Pakistani Christian Association was asked to contribute to the Immigration and Refugee Board’s 2012 report on religious persecution in Pakistan an electronic copy can be accessed (here).

Mr Chowdhry. Chairman of the British Pakistani Christian Association, said:

"Maherwar's young life has been fraught with danger and turmoil, her only crime was primarily being a Christian in a Muslim nation with a high intolerance for minorities.  Pakistan is now regarded as the fourth worst country to live in as a Christian (Open Doors World Watch list) overtaking war torn nations such as Iraq and Syria which have become palpably safer in recent months.

"This young woman and her mother simply seek safety and equality and the Canadian Sponsorship programme would offer a wonderful opportunity for these genuine asylum seekers to start a new life free from oppression.  

"Sadly Canada ostensibly places Pakistan low on the pecking order for asylum, a consequence of Pakistan's position as an ally in the war against terrorism and being a significant trade partner. We hope this rally reminds Canadian politicians that profit is not always advantageous."  

700 Christian girls are kidnapped, raped and forced into Islamic marriage every year states a Muslim NGO 'Movement of Solidarity and Peace'. An estimated one million of them live as slaves earning £3 per day making thousands of bricks, often the wives of workers are raped while the men toil at work.  Four terrorist attacks targeting Christians in as many years and a statistic of 15% of all blasphemy victims being from the Christian faith, despite Christians only making up 1.6% of the population paints a very bleak picture of life as a Christian in Pakistan.

An alleged sexual assault was reported a few years ago at the Pakistani Consulate in Toronto. The incident was denied though the passport officer was recalled. The unnamed Pakistani-Canadian woman was too fearful of reprisals against her family back in Pakistan to press charges. It is therefore quite understandable that Maherwar is also this fearful, especially since she is not even a citizen in the country where she has been harassed. It is unacceptable that Maherwar be left to stand alone, considering there is clear evidence that she is in danger. Read full story in Toronto Sun (click here)

Crossing a border does not remove the blight of fear and this deserves the kind encouragement of Canadians, who want newcomers, especially those who were minorities in their home countries, to fully engage in the freedoms they are now afforded and for them to feel safe in their new home.

Thailand is Canada’s second largest trading partner in Asia and place known for their hospitality industry. Organizers are calling on Thailand to live up to their reputation for hospitality. It is unfathomable that Pakistani Christians that are registered as persons of concern are targeted for simply being Pakistani. This is just not something that Canadians accept as reasonable behaviour. The arbitrary arrest and detainment needs to stop and Thailand should release the detainees and treat them with basic common decency.

This year there has been a concerted effort by the Pakistani High Commission in Canada to launch a public relations campaign in the press claiming that religious minorities are not persecuted in Pakistan.

Pakistani High Commissioner, Nadeem Haider Kiani claims, “People belonging to all faiths including Muslims, Hindus, Christians, Sikhs and Ahmadis are living with complete freedom of worship. No one has been subjected to persecution on the basis of religion, race, or sect.”

Canadian Citizen and BPCA Volunteer Keri-Lynn Gibbs, said:
"We want the Pakistani High Commissioner to Canada to understand that in a country as literate and connected on social media as Canada is, that that making statements like this is not good public relations.

"Though we all wish what he said was true, his statement is incongruent with the reality of Maherwar Ishaq, Asia Bibi, Rimsha Masih, and countless others whose stories are left unheard upon ears stopped with ignorance and wishful thinking." 

She added:

"In Alberta, where the city of Edmonton is located, there is a provincial government campaign against sexual assault that uses the phrase, 'I believe you,' to help people come out of the anguish of that experience.

"When I think of the violence suffered at the hands of neighbours, the kidnappings, gang rapes and forced marriages that are reported out of Pakistan; the Pakistani immigrants who remain fearful even in Canada; and the vulnerability of young women like Maherwar Ishaq whose scream rung out as she fled her pursuing attacker; We want these women to know that we believe them. We want all Pakistani religious minorities to know it too."

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