08/22/2008, 00.00
PAKISTAN
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Kidnapped Christian girls, forced to convert and marry Muslims: difficulties for the return of one

by Qaiser Felix
Saba and Anila Younas, both Christian, were abducted June 16 by a group of Muslims, and forced to marry and convert to Islam. A doctor’s report establishes that the eldest is 16 years old and thus capable of marriage. Their lawyer announces a legal battle: we will bring it to the Supreme Court.

Lahore (AsiaNews) – There are slim hopes for the return home of the two Christian girls kidnapped by a group of Muslims on June 26 from Chowk Munda village in Punjab. According to the defence attorney, the situation is more complicated for the older of the two sisters, Saba Younas, who was forced to convert to Islam and marry a young Muslim the day after her kidnap.

On August 6 the judge Malak Saeed Ejaz of Multan Bench of Lahore High Court ordered for the medical examination of Saba Younas to ascertain her age. The medical report concluded that the girl is 16 to 17 years old and had reached the puberty; despite the fact her Catholic birth certificate plainly states she is 13. “After the medical report the chances of Saba’s return are less” family lawyer Rashid Rehman says “because a 16 to 17 years old girl has reached puberty and ‘is able’ to get married’”. Rehman  noted another unfavourable factor was that on being questioned, the girl stated in the court that she is 17 years old and has ‘converted to Islam and got married on her own will’”.

If hopes for the older sister are virtually non-existent, the battle to free the younger of the two, 10 year old Anila continues.  What’s more the return of Anila could convince Saba to changer her mind, on finding herself alone in a family she is no part of.  According to the girl’s uncle, Khalid Raheel, Sbaba was “pressured and threatened” into given false testimony and that he has documents proving that “she is only 13”.

The family’s lawyers announce that the court hearings have ended; the sentence is set for Tuesday September 9th.  Until that moment both sisters must remain in the women’s shelter where there were brought at the beginning of August, under the judges orders.  “If there is no positive outcome – announces Rashid Rehman – we will appeal to Pakistan’s Supreme Court”.

 

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