Asia Bibi tells story of death row ordeal and eventual freedom in new memoir

Asia Bibi with French journalist Anne-Isabelle Tollet(Photo: François Thomas/Éditions du Rocher)

Asia Bibi, the Pakistani Christian woman who spent nearly a decade on death row for blasphemy, is speaking about her ordeal in a new memoir. 

The book Enfin Libre, or Finally Free, has been published in French by Éditions du Rocher and is co-written by French journalist Anne-Isabelle Tollet. An English edition is to be released later this year.

It charts her long and painful journey to freedom, from when she was first accused by colleagues in 2009, to her conviction in 2010 and eventual acquittal in 2018, before finally being able to start a new life as a free woman in Canada with her family last year. 

In an excerpt, she asks: "How could I ever imagine in 50 years that I would become a global symbol of the fight against religious extremism when I am but a simple, illiterate peasant?

"From my small windowless cell, I often wondered why Pakistan was targeting me."

In other publicity material for the book, she reveals her desire to give readers an understanding of her experience.

"You may know my story through the media, you may have tried to put yourself in my place in order to understand my suffering," she said.

"But you are far from understanding my daily life in prison or my new life and that's why, in this book, I will explain it all."

Extracts from AFP shed light on the cruelty of guards and other inmates as she recalls one occasion when her neck was "encased in an iron collar that the guard can tighten with a huge nut". 

In another harrowing memory, she recounts: "I am startled by the cry of a woman. 'To death!' The other women join in. 'Hanged!' Hanged!'."