09/25/2019, 13.30
PAKISTAN
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A 14-year-old Faisalabad Christian girl is kidnapped, forced to convert and marry

by Shafique Khokhar

Her name is Samra Bibi. In their report, the police deliberately wrote that she is 15 or 16 years old, above the legal age for marriage. Her father says that the Muslim man who kidnapped her "had long set his sights on Christian girls”.

Faisalabad (AsiaNews) - Samra Bibi, a 14-year-old Pakistani girl, was abducted by a Muslim man, Muhammad Ramiz, forced to convert to Islam and forced to marry him in what is but the latest in a long series of kidnappings and forced conversions of underaged minority girls, often obtained under threat and after sexual violence.

Robin Daniel, president of the National Minorities Alliance of Pakistan, says he is “unable to understand why these girls are treated just like a commodity, why they are not brought to court?”

“According to the law, no minor girl can be converted to any other religion but here no one has courage to challenge the radicals who are committing such crimes,” he told AsiaNews.

Samra is the daughter of Munir Masih, a Christian from Rasulpura, near Faisalabad. On 16 September, whilst her father and brother Shahzad were away for work, she was taken away by her abductor and four accomplices.

Her brother saw her as she was being taken from the house and forced into a car with the kidnappers, but failed to reach the car before it sped off.

When Munir Masih went to the police station to file a complaint, police officers refused to file a report for two days. Instead, the investigative officer, Abdul Rasheed, used abusive language against him rather than take action to secure the girl’s safe return.

Only on 18 September, following the intervention of leaders of the local Christian community, did police start to hear witnesses.

The opening of the investigations led to the arrest of Muhammad Ashfaq, one of the accomplices, who was released an hour later thanks to the payment of a bribe and to the pressures on police.

Munir complains that "Muhammad Ramiz had long set his sights on Christian girls and teased them. When they told him to stop, he used abusive language against them. When we were not at home, he abducted our underage girl. About ten days have passed and no one has been arrested.”

The family asked the Human Rights Focus Pakistan (HRFP) association for help. The latter spoke with police and started legal action. The advocacy group hopes to bring Samra Bibi home, and see justice done.

“Minority girls are easily targeted for abductions, forced conversions and forced marriages,” lamented NHFP president Naveed Walter. “They are soft targets for blackmail, rape and killing.”

“Some cases are passed off as a suicide attempt, like that of Nimrita Chandani, a young Hindu killed by some radicals.” In other cases, rescue is successful, “such as that of Jagjit Kaur, a young Sikh from Nankana Sahib, in Punjab, who returned home thanks to the intervention of the government after a media campaign".

The case of the Sikh girl "shows that if the authorities take strong steps, they can do anything; everything is possible. Then why the same actions are not taken for all minority girls?”

"Sometimes courts seem to be more supportive of perpetrators. For example, in Samra’s case, the girl is 14, a juvenile who cannot be married; yet police deliberately wrote in their report that she is between 15 and 16 years. We will also challenge this aspect during the trial.”

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