Monday, February 04, 2008

China - No room for Muslim refugees

Shafaqat Mehmud is one of the 130 Pakistani Ahmadiyya Muslims** for whom China has, until now, been a safe haven. But with the summer Olympic Games due to descend on Beijing this year, the Chinese government wants to be rid of them.

They're all Ahmadiyya Muslims** and they all fled to China because of the aggression and violence which their religious minority faces back home in Pakistan Shafaqat has lived in Beijing with his parents, brothers, sister-in-law and a baby since 2005. The seven of them share an apartment in the same suburb. Their home may not be very large, but here, at least, they no longer have to fear for their lives as they once did in Pakistan.

** The Ahmadiyya Muslims are a religious minority group in Pakistan. They believe that Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1835-1908) was a messiah sent by the Prophet Mohammed. They are, however, regarded by many other Muslims as unbelievers. The authorities in Pakistan persecute this group by imposing all kinds of legal restrictions on them.

Shafaqat is sitting on a sofa, next to his father. The old man looks around somewhat vaguely, speaking to his son in a whisper every now and then. Then he shows his swollen feet covered with blue-coloured welts. Shafaqat explains: "That happened in jail. My father was arrested a couple of years ago [in Pakistan] because he'd said he was a Muslim**. He was tortured and threatened with death. They looted our house, burned the fields and killed our livestock. I was also beaten up."


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