04/24/2006, 00.00
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Imprisoned and exiled for denouncing man who raped her

Isma Mahmood, of Pakistani parents, reported a man who raped her in Medina. She was chained for six months in jail and then expelled from the country. The perpetrator, a Saudi man, got away scot-free.

Karachi (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Expelled after six months in prison in Saudi Arabia for reporting the man who raped her: this was the fate of Isma Mahmood, 16 years, who has been in the care of the Ansar Burney Trust for a month in Pakistan. "It's difficult for me to talk about what happened to me," admitted the teenager, now in Karachi with her sister Muma, 18 years, who was also deported.

Twenty years ago, Isma's parents were victims of a criminal  trafficking network that takes people from Pakistan to Saudi Arabia. But being born in Saudi Arabia was no help to Isma and her sister when she was raped last year in the holy city of Medina.

"I was the victim, I was raped but I was named as the accused, and the man who committed the crime was not touched," she said. "He first kidnapped me, dragged me into his car. At first he asked to sleep with me and offered good money. When I refused and tried to resist, he warned me of dire consequences and raped me in the car."

The man warned her she would be imprisoned if she went to the police, and said the "sponsor" who brought her parents to the country would have them all expelled. They were also threatened with harsh consequences if Isma and her sister talked.

"I and my sister went to police anyhow as we expected justice. But after a few hours of filing the report, we realised this would not be the case," Isma said.

Under pressure from the sponsor, even Isma's parents asked her to withdraw her allegations. "I never wanted my parents to get into trouble so I did not speak much but police still put me behind bars," she said. Muna was also arrested and jailed, just because she testified on her sister's behalf. "They don't support immigrants and protect Saudi nationals," Isma said.

The two women said most detainees in the cell were Pakistani, Indonesian and Nigerian women. Many had come to Saudi Arabia illegally and had been accused of prostitution.

Muna said: "We were chained all during this period. The only time jail officials removed the chain was during lunch or when anyone went to the bathroom or at prayer time."

The chairperson of the Ansar Burney Trust many Asian women drawn to Arabia by pledges of good wages as domestics or nurses, were later forced into prostitution.

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