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December 23, 2013

Working With Frontline Activists to Protect Religious Freedom

In 2010, Shehrbano Taseer  accompanied her father Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab province in Pakistan, to a prison to visit Aasia Bibi, a poor Christian women who had been sentenced to death for allegedly committing blasphemy. After the visit, Governor Taseer called for reform of the blasphemy laws. Two months later, his bodyguard strolled up behind him and assassinated him.

Shehrbano committed herself to the cause for which her father had died. “Everything I do know is with him in the back of my mind, wanting to make him proud, wanting to carry on his work,” she said.

In 2011, the United Nations considered a “defamations of religions” provision— a global blasphemy code. At an event we organized at the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, Shehrbano explained to ambassadors that while the ostensible purpose of blasphemy laws is to protect religious freedom, the effect the opposite as the religious majority uses them to target members of minority faiths.

Thanks to her courage and eloquence, we won. The U.N. General Assembly passed a provision that protects freedom of speech and religion. “My collaboration with Human Rights First has been a partnership and a friendship,” she said. “With Human Rights First, I have an international support system of kind people who genuinely care, who are working hard to make a difference, and who have met with great success.”

Watch her story: