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Family fears for missing Christian woman in Pakistan

Country/Region: Pakistan, South and East Asia

The family of a young Christian woman in Pakistan who was allegedly kidnapped by a Muslim man fear that she has been forcibly converted and will be married to her captor.

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Farah Hatim (24), a student nurse in Rahim Yar Khan, South Punjab, went missing on the morning of 8 May as she left for work. Her mother, Bilquees Marriam, said Farah was abducted by the man and his two brothers, and that this family kidnaps Christian girls and forcibly converts them. She said the alleged kidnapper had been threatening Farah in a bid to get her to convert and marry him.

Farah’s mother and six siblings went to the police station to report the incident, but officers refused to accept their complaint, tearing up the application for a First Information Report (FIR), which launches an investigation. The local Christian community gathered in protest outside the police superintendent’s office, demanding the arrest of the suspects and recovery of Farah. Several protestors were injured as the police used force in a bid to disperse them.

The Superintendent ordered an FIR to be registered but this was delayed, giving the suspects time to take Farah to the district court, where she gave a statement. Farah, who was clearly injured, told the judge that had converted voluntarily and wanted to marry the man in question. She was not questioned about her injuries or the statement and did not sign it.

Barrister Zahid Hussain said the judge would normally send everyone out of the courtroom when such a statement was given to ensure it was not being made under duress, but in this case the suspected kidnappers were present.

He added:

The judge even ignored the fact that Farah Hatim was injured, he didn’t question her about the wounds, she didn’t even sign the statement. This clearly shows that she was forced to give the statement and the whole system is supporting and protecting the culprits.

An FIR was eventually registered, but no arrests have been made, and Farah remains held at an undisclosed location.

Human rights activist Rizwan Paul said south Punjab was a safe haven for extremists and that there were many cases of anti-Christian persecution that went unreported. He added:

Unfortunately the administration is protecting the culprits, the local politicians are also protecting them. Hatred for Christians is common here, most of them are treated as animals. We have highlighted several cases of forced conversions and brought it [to] the notice of the authorities, but they put a deaf ear [to] it.

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