Parvez Aslam Choudhry, 48, with his wife Neelam Shazia.
Pakistani refugee from Lahore, now living in Bangkok, Thailand
I’m a human rights lawyer. I have three masters degrees in History, Urdu and Political Science. In Pakistan I worked a lot on laws that discriminate against minorities, especially the blasphemy law which is used mainly against Christians. My human rights work has been recognised by the international community. In 2009, I was nominated for the human rights award by the European Union Bar Association. I have succeeded in getting relief for blasphemy victims from the high court of Pakistan and these cases have become law references in Pakistan.
Working on human rights issues made me a high profile figure in Pakistan which is why I received death threats. In 2006, my car was hit by Muslim extremists and a passenger was killed. My car was knocked 40 feet down from the road when it was hit by a truck. I sustained many injuries and remained in hospital for many weeks. My whole family became a target for muslim extremists. In September 2010, mullahs declared outside the High Court that my family and I were blasphemers working against Islam and were liable to be killed. This happened after I completed my argument in the Waji-Ul-Hassan blasphemy case in the Lahore high court. In this case the accused was condemned to death.
In January 2011, Sulemam Daseer, governor of Punjab, was assassinated by his security guard because he spoke out for an amendment to the blasphemy law. In March 2011, a Christian federal minister who had also called for an amendment to the law was assassinated by muslim extremists. I was already at the top of their list of people to be killed and was sure that I would be assassinated at any moment. So we left Pakistan on 7 April 2011 with support from the EU.
Our main fear here in Thailand is arrest by the police after our visas expire. My family can’t move around freely here. We want to live like free human beings but, like all refugees, we’re afraid of being arrested. We feel stateless. We have been declared refugees but the situation is the same as if we were asylum seekers. When my wife and children ask about our future I don’t know what to tell them. I feel that the fear and danger we faced in my country has been accepted by the UN and later we can hope to start a new life in another country whoever will take us. To live a life with a free mind is a necessity for every human being, and we are all the same.