Pakistani Christian woman rescued from Muslim rapist who enforcedly converted and married
16 Apr 2017
London: April 16, 2017. (PCP) A Pakistani Christian woman who escaped her rapist and abductor with the help of the British Pakistani Christian Association and was then returned to her persecutors by her family, until the BPCA could free her once more has won her freedom through the Pakistani law courts.
Fouzia Bibi was abducted on 23rd July 2015 whilst cleaning the home of her family's slave-master. Her abduction led to a dangerous escape plan enacted by her brother through help and support of the BPCA (click here). BPCA urged the United Nations Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and western nations to provide Fouzia with asylum, believing at the time she stood little chance of emancipation through Pakistani courts due to an Islamic bias (click here). Sadly none of them offered any assistance.
The poor response from UNHCR and safe nations in the west coupled with threats from the family of rapist Nazir Ahmed, led to the family of Fouzia returning Fouzia to her nightmare. In mitigation for the family Nazir Ahmed is their slave master and they found themselves in an extremely vulnerable position.
BPCA did not give up on Fouzia and once again we helped her escape by providing a phone. This time her family were not notified of the escape as we did not want to fall foul of a second poor decision or place them in unnecessary danger (click here).
In February 2017 BPCA got wind of a new law that penalized perpetrators of forced marriages (click here). In discussion with Fouzia it was decided that we would pursue a divorce case for her. We ensured that our solicitor informed her rapist that we would seek charges against him under the new law if he contested her divorce. Our threat seemed to have had its intended effect and resulted in Mr Nazir Ahmed going into hiding.
BPCA hired a solicitor Naiz Aamer who filed a divorce case within the Family Court in Lahore on 13th Feb 2017. The first hearing on Fouzia's divorce case was meant to be heard on 14th Feb which was postponed. On the order of Judge Shamim Akhtar Wattoo, the court sent a summons to the home of rapist of Fouzia Bibi, Nazir Ahmed. The summons was also printed in a local newspaper ''Nae Baat'' on March 2nd, 2017
On the second hearing on 17th March Nazir Ahmed failed to appear and he he had no legal representation. Our Solicitor Naiz Aamer argued that the failure for the defendant to appear at the court, without reason was in violation of court procedure. The judge ruled in his favour and an ex-party proceeding was passed.
On the last hearing on the 27th March Fouzia Bibi along with our Officer Ambar Saroya and advocate Naiz appeared in the Lahore family Court for a final judgement. In the court Fouzia had to record her statement of her kidnap, rape and forced marriage which was accepted and the court passed an ex-party judgement in the favour of Fouzia. After a tumultuous two years finally Fouzia had gained her freedom and her divorce has been granted.
Moreover, Mr Nazir Ahmed has still not returned to his home since absconding to escape facing the court. The family of Fouzia have as a consequence left the brick kiln and have started working in a factory with the help of the BPCA. The court ruling means that any attempts to re-enslave the family can be repelled by threatening Mr Nazir with legal action for his forced rape. We believe this emancipation for the family is now long term as well and a welcome subsidiary benefit of Fouzia's divorce.
Fouzia Bibi's story mirrors that of many other vulnerable Christians girls and a Muslim NGO 'Movement of Solidarity and Peace' in 2014 estimated 700 Christians girls are kidnapped, raped and forced into Islamic Marriage every year. A figure Christian NGO's believe is quite conservative estimating figures in excess of 1000 per year. Her stories differ as she was successful in escaping her abductor.
Wilson Chowdhry, Chairman of the British Pakistani Christian Association, said: "Fouzia's freedom will hopefully be a trigger for more escapees. Thousands of Christian girls are trapped in forced Islamic marriages and they are all praying for their emancipation.
"This judgement is a leap towards a more just Pakistan but our work has only started. We are making it an ultimate priority of our group to continue to free these poor girls.
"We have set up a series of safe houses for this specific purpose and are engaging with communities to ensure previously hopeless families know that help is on the horizon.
"Christians in Pakistan need to remember resolutely that their God is a mighty God who conquers all."