It’s been a few weeks, but Mashal Naseem is already used to avoiding online death threats when she launched a campaign for justice for her father.
Tahir Ahmad Naseem – whom his daughter remembers as a very kind and gentle parent – was on trial in Pakistan for blasphemy after she was shot dead in a high-security courtroom last month. Was killed.
Thousands rallied in support of him, selfies surfaced online in which he was seen raising his thumb in front of an elite police officer, and lawyers tried to represent him.
Half the world away in Illinois, his grief-stricken, torch, 20, began to fear that the pain of losing his father would be multiplied while his killer escaped accountability for his crime.
So university students a Campaign, To get justice for Tahir – which includes a life without parole without his killer – and to reform the laws that made him a prime target.
An online petition he has launched More than 50,000 signatures. He has also targeted the torch for religious extremists, who have targeted his inbox with death threats and insults.
“I’ve received some really, really nasty threats about how people want what happened to my father to happen to me,” he said.
But they did not give up.
“I will stand up for justice for my father, and if anything happens to me, at least I got in the way of trying to fight for justice.”
Blasphemy is a provocative issue in Pakistan, where even unsubstantiated allegations of blasphemy can lead to corruption. Human rights activists say the allegations are often used to determine personal scores.
The case of Asiya Bibi, a Christian farm worker, who endured a decade-long ordeal over allegations of insulting the Prophet Muhammad in a dispute with neighbors, drew international attention to the issue.
Mashal, his sister and brother, visited Pakistan often in his childhood, but he had never heard of the law until two years ago, when family members called to say Tahir had been arrested. Is.
I remember, “It was a school night, and we got a call from one of my uncles who said he was really in jail. It was a complete shock to me. His brother was only nine, and he’s still high. Was in school
He first struggled to understand that expressing a religious opinion could be a crime punishable by death. “It simply came to my notice then that he had expressed his opinion, he had expressed his beliefs, and then they stopped.
“It was even harder to convince my friends and family; because no one here in the United States would have ever thought that you could be arrested with a straight face.”
Tahir was not a man who seemed to be stumbling. He was born in Pakistan, and as a teenager he moved to the United States, where he became a naturalized citizen. His job included working as a linguist for the military, and as a school bus driver, but Mashal said that sometimes he also lived with his father, taking care of the children while his mother went to work. Were
“He was very gentle, never misbehaved with anyone, and if he ever got angry with us he would immediately try to make us laugh again, because he didn’t want us to I am upset.”
He believes he was trapped by extremists who befriended him on Facebook. They challenged him to a religious debate, promising to have an open debate, but they lined up with the police to arrest him based on the ideas he had expressed online.
He said, “You never want to trust a random stranger on the internet, but I feel like my father said he was absolutely naive in the sense that he thought everyone was right, because he himself He was a true man. “
It has been a difficult two years since his father’s arrest, with him stating “at least” support for the US embassy, and the family does not realize it is a political priority.
“They knew the dangers of this,” he said. “And the fact that it happened under their supervision, it’s just disappointing.”
The day he was killed, the trial was coming to an end and his wife and children were daring to hope to see him again. Mashal says his lawyer. Those who are now allegedly in hiding – thought they had a good chance of being acquitted. He thinks that’s why he was shot.
Now he fears that he will back the killer in Pakistan, from the people and agents of the state like the police, which means he can get away with justice – even though another person who accused a politician of blasphemy laws Was shot. Executed two years ago For murder
The State Department has condemned the killing and called for legal action against the suspect, and Oklahoma Senator James Linkford has raised the issue of Tahir in Congress.
But Mashal says he wants action, not promises from authorities. “I like that they’re tweeting about it and creating awareness, but I feel like they’re empty words.”
He also laments the lack of co-operation within the country whose father considered him a second home, and fears he may never meet again.
“Right now I know it’s not right for me to go back, because being related to my father can kill me,” he said. “It’s really heartbreaking and sad that people will do this to us, to themselves, that they will turn their backs on us.”
Whatever the personal cost, as Mashal struggles to balance campaign with work, and his pre-med degree course, he is determined to keep fighting. “Obviously my priority is to give up everything to get justice for it.”
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