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    » 09/10/2008, 00.00

    PAKISTAN

    Christian girl, kidnapped and converted by Muslims, returned to family

    Qaiser Felix

    The alleged conversion has been found to be invalid, because the girl is just 10 years old. But her sister, who was also kidnapped, has been judged to have married by her own will, because she is "more than 16 years old", although her relatives say she is only 13, and that they will appeal to the supreme court.

    Lahore (AsiaNews) - The Multan bench of the Lahore high court ruled yesterday that Saba Younas, the Christian girl kidnapped together with her sister Aneela on June 26 by a group of Muslims, and forced to become a Muslim and to get married, is an adult, because she is over the age of 16. So her conversion and marriage to one of the kidnappers have been found to be "voluntary", and the request that she be returned to her Christian family has been denied.

    But judge Malak Saeed Eiaz has instead given Aneela back to her family, because she is only 10 years old.

    "We are at least happy over Aneela", her uncle Khalid Raheel comments to AsiaNews. "And for Saba’s custody, we will appeal to the supreme court". Aneela has now been taken to a secret location, because the Muslims who kidnapped her insist that she converted "spontaneously", and that there is a risk that her family will look for her.

    "The girl told me", her uncle continues, "that in order to convince her, some of the Muslims threatened her with death, in addition to promising her expensive presents".

    The two girls were kidnapped from the village of Chowk Munda, in the province of Punjab, while they were visiting their uncle. Afterward, the kidnappers stated that they had converted, and that the older one had married "of her own will".

    On July 14, the Christian parents asked the Muzaffargarh Sessions Court for custody of their daughters, but the tribunal responded that, since they had converted to Islam, they can no longer live with their Christian parents. This verdict was overturned by the high court in Aneela's case, because she is only 10 years old. Her relatives say that Saba is only 13, as shown by official documents, but the court has accepted expert testimony that she is over 16 years old, and therefore capable of marrying "of her own will".

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    See also

    16/07/2008 PAKISTAN
    Kidnapped Christian girls, judge ratifies marriage and conversion
    The district of Muzaffargarh rules in favour of the Muslims, rejecting the request from the family that wants to bring home the two sisters - 13 and 10 years old - kidnapped last June 26. Christian associations charge that they could end up as prostitutes.

    31/07/2008 PAKISTAN
    Kidnapped girls, converted and married by Muslims, entrusted to assistance center
    The two girls, aged 13 and 10, are staying at a shelter for women only. The move was decided by the High Court, ahead of the ruling on August 4, when their fate will be determined. Support for the family from Catholics.

    16/04/2009 SAUDI ARABIA
    Saudi court confirms validity of marriage for eight-year-old girl
    Criticisms from UNICEF and the U.S. State Department. The Riyadh justice minister himself says that he wants to put an end to the arbitrary power of parents who arrange marriages for minor children, but does not mention any ban.

    14/07/2008 PAKISTAN
    Punjab: underage Christian sisters kidnapped and forced to marry Muslims
    The uncle of the victims launches an appeal for justice. He denounces a climate of silence and complicity on the part of the provincial government and the police, who are afraid of retaliation or episodes of violence. The support of Catholic associations, which are fighting to have the girls returned home.

    02/09/2008 PAKISTAN
    Balochistan, five girls buried alive for honor crimes
    Police have ordered an autopsy on the bodies of the women, who were killed because they married without their families' consent. It is a widespread practice in some areas of the country where the "law of the tribe" is still in effect. Strong condemnation from human rights activists.



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