Rizha, his wife and 2 young children lived peacefully in Pakistan. As an Ahmadi who did much volunteer work for his community as a youth leader, Rizha was forced to flee Pakistan because of death threats, which were brought home when an assassination attempt was made on his life. His wife begged him to leave as several Ahmadis in similar positions in the community had already faced brutal beatings and were even murdered. To save his family from persecution and his own life, he sought refuge in Thailand.
The family was denied refugee status by UNHCR on their first attempt, on the basis that that it is possible to live elsewhere in Pakistan as long as he lived unobtrusively. But as a prominent Ahmadi activist, it was impossible to relocate without coming to the attention of extremist Muslims. The persecution of the Ahmadiyya community is wholly legalized, even encouraged, by the Pakistani government. Pakistan’s “Blasphemy Law,” as section 295-C of the Penal Code is known, makes the death penalty mandatory for blasphemy. And Rizha knew that no matter where he was, he would work for the well-being of his people and be active member of the Ahmadi community.
With the help of a volunteer lawyer from Asylum Access Thailand, he was able to make his case persuasively regarding the dangers he faced in Pakistan, as the threats came not only from specific local communities but also from a state that did not protect Ahmadi people. Rizha worked on a detailed and revised testimonial with an AAT lawyer, and was able to make his case clear to the UNHCR officer in the appeal process. He and his family were recently given refugee status, and are now awaiting resettlement.