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PAKISTAN: A 12 year-old Christian is gang raped for eight months, forcibly converted and then 'married' to her Muslim attacker

October 10, 2011

ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION - URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME

Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-199-2011

 

10 October 2011
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PAKISTAN: A 12 year-old Christian is gang raped for eight months, forcibly converted and then 'married' to her Muslim attacker

ISSUES: Gang rape; abduction; forced conversion of religion; child rights; miscarriage of justice; impunity
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Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information that A 12-year-old Christian girl was abducted and raped for eight months. The rapists have not been arrested because of their affiliation with a militant Muslim organization. The police are also refusing to order a medical checkup. The Judicial Magistrate of the area took her statement under section 164 Cr Pc (Criminal Procedure Code) but has not made any orders for her security. One of the rapist claims that he has married the girl but she denies that any marriage took place during her abduction and captivity.

The police have warned the Christian parents that it would be better to hand over the girl to her 'legal' husband (the rapist) otherwise a criminal case will be filed against them.


CASE NARRATIVE:

Miss Anna (name withheld), is a 12-year-old Christian girl and the daughter of Arif Masih. Arif is employed as a street sweeper (scavenger) at WAPDA. He is a resident of quarter number 44, WAPDA colony, Shahdra, Lahore, the capital of Punjab province. Anna was kidnapped by two Muslim men on December 24, 2010, one day before Christmas. According to the report sent by the Pakistan Minority Movement, on that day in the morning her friend, Miss Nida, who lives in her neighbourhood, came to her house and asked Anna to go shopping. According to the plan of the perpetrators, her friend took her to a street where they waited in a car. Miss Nida introduced the perpetrator her as her uncle.

Anna was then taken a long distance and dropped at a house where she was raped. After two days some women, relatives of the rapists, namely Mumtaz Bibi.Farzana Bibi, Kiran Bibi along with her friend Nida came with some papers and told her to sign them otherwise she would not be released. Eventually she did sign with hesitation but was not released. The papers were about her marriage to one of the perpetrators, Muhammad Irfan. She was taken to several places and was forced to convert to Islam. When she refused she was manhandled and beaten.

After her abduction, her father filed an FIR against unknown people on 5/1/2011.F I R NO 18/11. Sr. No 2138 to the Factory area police station district Shaikhupura, Lahore. However, the police took no action for eight months.

In the first week of September 2011, more than eight months after her disappearance, Anna called her family from Tandianwalla, district Faisalabad, 190 kilometers from Lahore, and told them that she had been abducted but had escaped and was hiding at a bus stop. The parents went there and recovered her. She was brought back to her home and the parents produced her before the First Class Magistrate, factory area, Shadra, Miss Aasma Tehseen, who recorded her statement under section 164 of Cr Pc but did not order any action for her protection or a medical checkup.

The rapists then immediately contacted the police through their religious group and produced a marriage certificate showing that one of them, Muhammad Irfan, was married to her. When Anna's parents went to the factory area police station to change the FIR to include the names of the rapists in the case the police flatly refuse to allow this and said she that as she had married and converted to Islam it would be better to hand over the girl to her legal husband. If they refused they were told that a criminal case would be filed against them.

The Christian family is in hiding from the rapists and the police and according to the Christian community, the religious extremists, who are from a banned organization, the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, are searching them. The abductors are claiming that she is pregnant but her mother denies that this is true. And in fact, make no difference whatsoever to the girl's plight.

The irony of the matter is that the police never thought to ask the rapists and their religious groups as to how a girl of 12 could be married when according to the law marriage under the age of 16 is illegal. This is yet another example of how the Punjab provincial government is allegedly patronizing banned militant organizations.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

In Pakistan it is has become a common practice from the religious groups to abduct girls from religious minority groups and rape them and when caught they produce marriage certificates and even then do not allow them to meet their parents. The law enforcement authorities never try to prosecute such perpetrators because the religious groups are doing great work in the name of Islam.

Religion can also function both as a primary motivation and as a determinant of criminal complaint outcomes. The increase in forced marriage and forcible conversion by Muslim extremists may owe in part to the aversion of the state to protecting the rights of religious minorities. The U.S. State Department 2009 Human Rights Report for Pakistan concludes that both organic reluctance and outside pressure contribute to the courts’ religious bias: Courts routinely failed to protect the rights of religious minorities. Judges were pressured to take strong action against any perceived offense to Sunni orthodoxy. The judiciary rarely heard discrimination cases dealing with religious minorities. Other manifestations of religious bias include socially condoned instances of harassment at work.

Information regarding this incident can also be found from the following links:
http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory?id=10317283;
http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory?id=10317283
;
http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory?id=10317283;
http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory?id=10317283.

As many as 20 to 25 girls from the Hindu community are abducted every month and converted forcibly, according to Amarnath Motumal, an advocate and council member of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. Many abducted girls are raped, others are never heard from again by their families; all cases involved a struggle to access their right to redress. The AHRC has documented numerous cases in which police have ignored or excused themselves from investigating crimes that involve a Madrassa or Muslim cleric. The protection of the national religion does not involve the promotion of its figureheads above the law; this tendency has simply allowed Islam to become a shield behind which human rights violations can take place.

SUGGESTED ACTION:
Please write the letters to the following authorities on the gang rape and abduction of a 12 years old Christian girl for eight months. Please urge the authorities that to prosecute the perpetrators and the officials of the Factory area police station, Lahore for providing protection to rapists and members of banned religious groups. Also urge to provide protection to Christian family and the victim and also to the religious minority who are facing such practices from the extremist Muslim groups.

Please note that the Asian Human Rights Commission has written seperate letters to the UN Special Rapporteurs on Violence against Women and on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Chairperson of the Committee on the Rights of the Child and the Independent Expert on Minority Issues requesting their urgent interventions on this regard.

To support this appeal, please click here:

SAMPLE LETTER:

Dear ___________,

PAKISTAN: A 12 year-old Christian is gang raped for eight months, forcibly converted and then 'married' to her Muslim attacker

Name of victim:
Miss Anna (not her real name) 12, daughter of Arif Masih, employed as street sweeper (scavenger) at WAPDA, resident of quarter number 44, WAPDA colony, Shahdra, Lahore, capital of Punjab province,
Names of alleged perpetrators:
1. Muhammad Irfan, (rapist) resident of Shadra, factory area, Lahore, Punjab province
2. Muhammad Irshad, (rapist) resident of Shadra, factory area, Lahore, Punjab province
3. Mumtaz Bibi.resident of Shadra, factory area, Lahore, Punjab province
4. Farzana Bibi.resident of Shadra, factory area, Lahore, Punjab province
5. Kiran Bibi resident of Shadra, factory area, Lahore, Punjab province
6. Nida, resident of Shadra, factory area, Lahore, Punjab province
7. Station House Officer (SHO), factory area police station, Shadra, Lahore, Punjab province,
8. Investigation officer, Arif Masih, employed as street sweeper (scavenger) at WAPDA, resident of quarter number 44, WAPDA colony, Shahdra, Lahore, capital of Punjab province,
Date of incident: WAPDA Quarters resident of Shadra, factory area, Lahore, Punjab province
Place of incident: December 24, 2010

I am writing to voice my deep concern regarding the gang rape of a young Christian girl who was then forcibly converted to Islam and then 'married' to one of her attackers by the members of a banned religious organization.

I learned that Anna was kidnapped by two Muslim men on December 24, 2010, one day before Christmas. According to the report sent by the Pakistan Minority Movement, on that day in the morning her friend, Miss Nida, who lives in her neighbourhood, came to her house and asked Anna to go shopping. According to the plan of the perpetrators, her friend took her to a street where they waited in a car. Miss Nida introduced the perpetrator her as her uncle.

Anna was then taken a long distance and dropped at a house where she was raped. After two days some women, relatives of the rapists, namely Mumtaz Bibi.Farzana Bibi, Kiran Bibi along with her friend Nida came with some papers and told her to sign them otherwise she would not be released. Eventually she did sign with hesitation but was not released. The papers were about her marriage to one of the perpetrators, Muhammad Irfan. She was taken to several places and was forced to convert to Islam. When she refused she was manhandled and beaten.

It is very distressing that after her abduction, her father filed an F I R against un known people on 5/1/2011.F I R NO 18/11. Sr. No 2138 to the Factory area police station district Shaikhupura, Lahore. But police did not take action on the case for eight months.

Further to my information, in the first week of September 2011, after more than eight months of her disappearance, Anna called her family from Tandianwalla, district Faisalabad, 190 kilometers from Lahore, and told them that she had been abducted but had escaped and was hiding at a bus stop. The parents went there and recovered her. She was brought back to her home and the parents produced her before the First Class Magistrate, factory area, Shadra, Miss Aasma Tehseen, who recorded her statement under section 164 of Cr Pc but did not order any action for her protection or a medical checkup.

The rapists then immediately contacted the police through their religious group and produced a marriage certificate showing that one of them, Muhammad Irfan, was married to her. When Anna's parents went to the factory area police station to change the FIR to include the names of the rapists in the case the police flatly refuse to allow this and said she that as she had married and converted to Islam it would be better to hand over the girl to her legal husband. If they refused they were told that a criminal case would be filed against them.

It is appalling to know that this Christian family is in hiding, not only from the rapists but also the police and according to the Christian community, the religious extremists who are from a banned organization, the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, are searching them. The abductors are claiming that she was pregnant but her mother denies that this is correct.

The irony of the matter is that the police never thought to ask the rapists and their religious groups as to how a girl of 12 could be married when according to the law marriage under the age of 16 is illegal. This is yet another example of how the Punjab provincial government is allegedly patronizing banned militant organizations.

In Pakistan it is has become a common practice by the religious groups to abduct girls from religious minority groups and rape them and when caught they produce marriage certificates and even then do not allow them to meet their parents. The law enforcement authorities never try to prosecute such perpetrators because they are told that the religious groups are doing great work in the name of Islam.

I am shocked that the government who always claim that religious minorities are enjoying full security and rights as equal citizens turn a blind eye to the actual situation which is that the religious minority groups have no protection, even by the law enforcement authorities, who prefer to work under the pressure of religious groups.

The situation of rule of law is that the police also accept the marriage of a 12-year-old girl and her forcible conversion to Islam whereas according to Pakistan law that no girl can be married before the age of 16 years.

I urge you to investigate the case of Miss Anna and prosecute all the perpetrators involved in the gang rape of a 12 years old girl for eight months. The police officers who failed to act of the complaint of the father must be prosecuted for their negligence. The tolerance of the government toward the actions of the religious militants and the forcible conversation of minorities must be brought to a halt. The government must put a halt to the abduction, rape and forcible conversion of young girls.

I also urge you to provide full protection to the girl and her family and all possible medical and counseling treatment.

Yours sincerely,

----------------
PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

1. Mr. Asif Ali Zardari
President of Pakistan
President's Secretariat
Islamabad
PAKISTAN
Tel: 92-51-9204801-9214171
Fax 92-51-9207458
Email: publicmail@president.gov.pk

2. Mr. Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani
Prime Minister
Prime Minister House
Islamabad
PAKISTAN
Fax: +92 51 922 1596
Tel: +92 51 920 6111
E-mail: secretary@cabinet.gov.pk or pspm@pmsectt.gov.pk

3. Federal Minister for Human Rights
Ministry of Human Rights
Old US Aid building
Ata Turk Avenue
G-5, Islamabad
PAKISTAN
Fax: +92 51 9204108
Email: sarfraz_yousuf@yahoo.com

4. Mr. Lateef Khosa
Governor of Punjab
Governor House
Mall Road
Lahore
PAKISTAN
Fax: +92 42 99203044
Email: governor.sectt@punjab.gov.pk

5. Mr Nasir Mehmood Khosa
Chief Secretary of Government of Punjab
Punjab Secretariat
Lahore
PAKISTAN
Fax: +92 42 7324489
E-mail: chiefsecy@punjab.gov.pk

6. Mr. Rana Sana Ullah
Minister of Law
Government of Punjab
Punjab Secretariat
Ravi Road
Lahore
PAKISTAN
Fax: +92 42 99212004
E-mail: law@punjab.gov.pk

7. Dr. Faqir Hussain
Registrar
Supreme Court of Pakistan
Constitution Avenue, Islamabad
PAKISTAN
Fax: + 92 51 9213452
E-mail: mail@supremecourt.gov.pk

8. Mr. Tariq Saleem
Inspector-General of Police, Punjab
Police Head Office, Lahore, Punjab province
PAKISTAN
Fax: +92 42 9921006


Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (ua@ahrc.asia)

Document Type :
Urgent Appeal Case
Document ID :
AHRC-UAC-199-2011
Countries :
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Extended Introduction: Urgent Appeals, theory and practice

A need for dialogue

Many people across Asia are frustrated by the widespread lack of respect for human rights in their countries.  Some may be unhappy about the limitations on the freedom of expression or restrictions on privacy, while some are affected by police brutality and military killings.  Many others are frustrated with the absence of rights on labour issues, the environment, gender and the like. 

Yet the expression of this frustration tends to stay firmly in the private sphere.  People complain among friends and family and within their social circles, but often on a low profile basis. This kind of public discourse is not usually an effective measure of the situation in a country because it is so hard to monitor. 

Though the media may cover the issues in a broad manner they rarely broadcast the private fears and anxieties of the average person.  And along with censorship – a common blight in Asia – there is also often a conscious attempt in the media to reflect a positive or at least sober mood at home, where expressions of domestic malcontent are discouraged as unfashionably unpatriotic. Talking about issues like torture is rarely encouraged in the public realm.

There may also be unwritten, possibly unconscious social taboos that stop the public reflection of private grievances.  Where authoritarian control is tight, sophisticated strategies are put into play by equally sophisticated media practices to keep complaints out of the public space, sometimes very subtly.  In other places an inner consensus is influenced by the privileged section of a society, which can control social expression of those less fortunate.  Moral and ethical qualms can also be an obstacle.

In this way, causes for complaint go unaddressed, un-discussed and unresolved and oppression in its many forms, self perpetuates.  For any action to arise out of private frustration, people need ways to get these issues into the public sphere.

Changing society

In the past bridging this gap was a formidable task; it relied on channels of public expression that required money and were therefore controlled by investors.  Printing presses were expensive, which blocked the gate to expression to anyone without money.  Except in times of revolution the media in Asia has tended to serve the well-off and sideline or misrepresent the poor.

Still, thanks to the IT revolution it is now possible to communicate with large audiences at little cost.  In this situation there is a real avenue for taking issues from private to public, regardless of the class or caste of the individual.

Practical action

The AHRC Urgent Appeals system was created to give a voice to those affected by human rights violations, and by doing so, to create a network of support and open avenues for action.  If X’s freedom of expression is denied, if Y is tortured by someone in power or if Z finds his or her labour rights abused, the incident can be swiftly and effectively broadcast and dealt with. The resulting solidarity can lead to action, resolution and change. And as more people understand their rights and follow suit, as the human rights consciousness grows, change happens faster. The Internet has become one of the human rights community’s most powerful tools.   

At the core of the Urgent Appeals Program is the recording of human rights violations at a grass roots level with objectivity, sympathy and competence. Our information is firstly gathered on the ground, close to the victim of the violation, and is then broadcast by a team of advocates, who can apply decades of experience in the field and a working knowledge of the international human rights arena. The flow of information – due to domestic restrictions – often goes from the source and out to the international community via our program, which then builds a pressure for action that steadily makes its way back to the source through his or her own government.   However these cases in bulk create a narrative – and this is most important aspect of our program. As noted by Sri Lankan human rights lawyer and director of the Asian Human Rights Commission, Basil Fernando:

"The urgent appeal introduces narrative as the driving force for social change. This idea was well expressed in the film Amistad, regarding the issue of slavery. The old man in the film, former president and lawyer, states that to resolve this historical problem it is very essential to know the narrative of the people. It was on this basis that a court case is conducted later. The AHRC establishes the narrative of human rights violations through the urgent appeals. If the narrative is right, the organisation will be doing all right."

Patterns start to emerge as violations are documented across the continent, allowing us to take a more authoritative, systemic response, and to pinpoint the systems within each country that are breaking down. This way we are able to discover and explain why and how violations take place, and how they can most effectively be addressed. On this path, larger audiences have opened up to us and become involved: international NGOs and think tanks, national human rights commissions and United Nations bodies.  The program and its coordinators have become a well-used tool for the international media and for human rights education programs. All this helps pave the way for radical reforms to improve, protect and to promote human rights in the region.