Pakistani Christians in Sindh province are demanding justice after a 35-year-old sanitation worker died, having been exposed to toxic sewage and refused medical care by Muslim doctors who refused to touch his “unclean” body during Ramadan.

Ramadan is the holy month of Islam, in which Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset to strengthen their faith. The doctors refused to touch the sanitation worker because he was covered in sewage and touching the sewage during Ramadan would “displease Allah,” according to witness accounts given to the British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA).

“My brother left our family home and arrived at his workplace at 7am as per usual on the 1st of June. The sewerage lines had been blocked for a few days and it is know [sic] this causes a build up of poisonous gases,” Parvaiz Masih, brother of victim Irfan Masih, told the BPCA. “Despite this knowledge senior managers demanded that my brother Irfan and his colleagues Shaukat and Yaqoob Masih enter the sewerage tunnel without safety gear to remove the blockage.”

It is not uncommon for sanitation workers to be forced to dive into raw sewage without protection in Pakistan. Most sanitation workers are Christians as Muslims refuse to do this necessary work, while Christians often belong to the lower classes and find no other choice to secure an income.

All three went down into the sewage. Irfan Masih lost consciousness and died of asphyxia, covered in sewage, because three doctors refused to treat him, his brother said. The doctors were named as Muhammad Yousuf, Allah Daad, and Jaam Kambar. The first doctor, BPCA says, protested that touching Masih’s body would “ruin his fast or make himself unclean which would displease Allah.” The others agreed. The man’s family tried to wash his body to prepare him for the doctors until a fourth arrived, who attempted to administer oxygen, “but the hospital had no available supply,” the victim’s brother said.

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