Published: 10:45 GMT Daylight Time - Wednesday 19 October 2011
Christian girl escapes Muslim rapists after eight-month ordeal in Pakistan
Country/Region: Pakistan, South and East Asia
Amber and her family are now in hiding
A 12-year-old Christian girl in Pakistan has escaped from her captors after being abducted, raped, and forcibly married to one of her Muslim assailants in an eight-month ordeal.
Amber was kidnapped by two armed Muslim men, who are affiliated to a militant Islamist organisation, on 24 December 2010, in her home city of Lahore, Punjab province. They took her a long distance by car to a house where she was raped.
Two days later, female relatives of the rapists presented Amber with some papers and told her to sign them, saying that she would otherwise not be released. Reluctantly, the young girl signed, but she was not set free.
Amber had unwittingly signed marriage papers, which united her to one of her captors. They tried to force her to convert to Islam, and, when she refused they manhandled and beat her.
Over the ensuing eight months, Amber was subjected to daily sexual and physical assaults by her “husband” and another man.
Amber’s father had reported her abduction to the police when she disappeared, but they took no action.
Free but not safe
At the beginning of last month she managed to escape and called her family from Tandianwalla, Faisalabad, which is 190km from Lahore. She hid at a bus stop while her parents came to collect her.
Amber made a statement to a magistrate, but no action was taken for her protection, nor was a medical examination ordered.
Meanwhile, the perpetrators contacted the police and produced a marriage certificate showing that Amber was married to one of the accused. When her parents tried to register a case against the rapists with the police, the officers refused to accept it and said that, as Amber had married and converted to Islam, they should hand her over to her legal husband – despite the fact that it is illegal to marry under the age of 16 in Pakistan. The parents were told that if they refused, a criminal case would be filed against them.
The family, which includes Amber’s two-year-old brother, has consequently been forced into hiding as the police, perpetrators and Islamists from the banned organisation, Lashkar-e-Taiba, seek to hunt them down.
The abductors are claiming that Amber is pregnant and has converted to Islam; she and her family have denied these statements. They received this menacing threat:
That she is now Muslim you are not her parents. If you will not cooperate then we will kill you.
Sadly, Amber’s story is an all too common one in Pakistan, where it is estimated that there are over 700 cases of abduction and forced marriage of Christian girls to Muslim men every year; around 250 Hindu girls suffer the same treatment. The violations are often carried out by influential Muslim families, who threaten and severely beat the young girls to frighten them into compliance. The authorities rarely take action, and often the young girls never return to their families unless they manage to escape their captors.