Abuses against Pakistani Christian Girls and Women Continue Relentlessly

12-year-old Pakistani Catholic girl Farah Shaheen was found chained up and restrained in her kidnapper’s home on December 5, almost half a year after the search for her began. In late June this year, Farah’s father reported her missing, as well as likely forcefully converted to Islam and married to her captor, 45-year-old Muslim man Khizar Hayat.

Despite advocacy on Farah’s father’s part, police repeatedly refused to register the case against Hayat; however, they eventually did so in mid-September, three months after the initial incident. Regardless, police had no inclination to arrest Hayat for his crime nor return Farah to her home safely.

Now, on December 5, after facing public backlash for its reluctance and immobility on the case by the local government and court, police conducted a search of Hayat’s home, where they found Farah chained up in one of the rooms and with multiple bruises and injuries suggesting physical abuse and/or torture by not only Hayat, but also a few other accomplices, all of whom escaped during the police search. Farah is now recovering in police custody; however, her father has requested that the court return her to her family for proper healing and comfort.

The discovery of 12-year-old Farah came just days after the November 30th killing of 24-year-old Pakistani Christian woman Sonia Bibi. Bibi, who was on her way to work in the morning, was killed by two Muslim men, one of which – according to Bibi’s mother – had been urging Bibi to renounce Christianity and marry him. This man, who goes by the name Shahzad, had been pestering and harassing Bibi for about five months before the fatal incident, even going to great lengths to stalk Bibi many mornings during her commute to work.

On November 30th, at 10:30 A.M., local police found Bibi’s body which showed mortal bullet wounds in the neck, on the side of a road. While one of the men involved in the murder was detained by police, Shahzad is yet to be captured.

Sebastian Shaw, Catholic Archbishop of Lahore, stated that “an administrative and policy intervention on an urgent basis is necessary to protect the rights of religious minorities, especially of women and children.”

Another well-known and recent case is that of 13-year-old Pakistani Christian girl Arzoo Raja from Karachi, who was kidnapped by and forcibly married to her 45-year-old Muslim neighbor, Azhar Ali in October 2020. By early November, a high court in Pakistan found that the marriage had been illegal as it was non-consensual and with a minor; however, the court has not allowed Arzoo to return home to her family.

Only months prior, in April, 14-year-old Christian girl Mairaa Shahbaz was abducted, converted to Islam, and forcibly married to her captor Nakash Tariq. The Lahore High Court ignored documents proving Maira’s age as a minor and instead decided that she would be returned to her ‘husband’ Nakash. In August, Maira escaped safely and revealed during a call with Morning Star News that she was coerced and threatened into making false statements in court that the religious conversion and marriage had been consensual. Additionally, Maira explained that Nakash filmed himself stripping her and raping her as a means of blackmailing her into making false statements:

“Nakash and two other men took me to an unknown place at gunpoint, where Nakash repeatedly raped me. He also videotaped me naked and threatened that he would kill me and my family and also upload the video on social media if I told anyone what he had done to me. I was coerced into making those statements in the courtrooms. They threatened to kill us all.”

In October 2019, 15-year-old Pakistani Christian girl Huma Younus was kidnapped in Sindh province by her family’s employee Abdul Jabbar. Huma’s parents started receiving text messages of clearly falsified documents claiming that Huma was 18 years old, had willingly converted to Islam, and had married Jabbar according to her own will. Huma’s parents filed a case for their daughter, but an early court ruling declared that Jabbar’s marriage to Huma was legal as she had already began her menstrual cycles. Such is an Islamic law and is inconsistent with Pakistani national law stating that marriage under the age of 18 is illegal. Huma’s parents have repeatedly appealed the court’s decision to return Huma to her captor, with little hope. News is now reporting that Huma is pregnant with Jabbar’s child. In September 2020, Justice Ms. Nusrat Sikandar ordered a non-bailable warrant for Jabbar’s arrest, however, no moves have been made to carry out the warrant. In early November 2020, a medical examination board of experts determined that Huma is near 14 years old, contrary to the false documents Jabbar filed to Huma court claiming Huma was 18 years old. The court then decided to re-investigate the details surrounding the fraud marriage, notably whether Huma could give consent to marry at the young age of 14.

The kidnapping and subsequent forced religious conversion and marriage of minority religious girls in Pakistan is reprehensibly a common occurrence. To read more about this topic, please see Jubilee Campaign’s report Abduction, Conversion and Child Marriage of Religious Minority Girls in Pakistan.

Image by Black Zero on Flickr.