Saturday, February 9, 2008

Unwilling Bride Recovered Four Months after Her Abduction, Still in Danger

The Washington-DC based human rights group, International Christian Concern (ICC), has learned that in an all-too rare occurrence, Tahira Salamat, 20, a Christian woman, was released from her Muslim kidnapper on January 23, 2008. Tahira had been abducted, forcibly converted to Islam, and forcibly married to a Muslim man four months ago in Vehari district, Punjab.Two Muslim men, Abdul Sattar and Muhammad Khalid, reportedly abducted Tahira while she was on her way to the workplace in Chak 136/10 - R, Tehsil Jahaniyan, Khanewal district on September 14, 2007. After kidnapping her, these two men forced her to marry Muhammad Ramazan, a Muslim. In order to be a suitable wife for a Muslim, the two men also made her convert to Islam against her will. Meanwhile, her father, Salamat Masih, and her mother gathered their relatives and searched frantically for her in shelter houses, morgue rooms, and hospitals for over a month, but failed to turn up any leads. To make matters worse, the local police reportedly did not cooperate with them in searching for Tahira. They only agreed to register a First Information Report, #498/07, against the culprits on October 1, 2007, more than two weeks after Tahira was first reported missing. In desperation, the victim's family turned to the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP), a human rights body of the Catholic Church in Pakistan. The CCJP then approached the Lahore High Court, Multan Bench, on behalf of Salamat Masih and his family. Their case was forwarded to the Session Court, Vehari district, by the High Court, which instructed local police officials to locate the girl. Tahira was finally found at Muhammad Ramazan's house on January 23, 2008, and from there police handed her over to her parents. However, the kidnappers have so far escaped any reprimand. At the time this story was written, none of them had been arrested. The court still has to make a decision regarding the status of Tahira and Ramazan's "marriage."If the court directs Tahira to stay with her Muslim husband, Ramazan, they would be officially endorsing a forced conversion and forced marriage as well. On the other hand, if Tahira is allowed to go back to her Christian parents, there is a threat that she would be killed by radical Muslims. Islam does not allow an individual to leave the Islamic faith, regardless of whether their conversion to Islam was legitimate.

As in the days of Noah....

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