Lahore: January 12, 2018. (PCP) A Christian woman from Gujranwala, Pakistan was brutally gang-raped by three men and then left tied naked in the courtyard of a Muslim man’s house until she was found by police two days later.
At 3 pm on 28th October Sidhra (20 yrs) travelled from her husband Sunny Masih's (22 yrs) home in Talwinda Musa Khan, Gujranwala, on a visit to her mother in the same village but some 10 km distance away. Her father-in-law Boota Masih transported her by motorcycle, safely delivered to her mother's home where she spent three hours talking and helping with household chores.
At 6:30 Sidhra left her mother’s house after she saw her father in law on the other side of the road. Thinking he had come to collect her, Sidhra she rushed her goodbyes with her mother and headed in his direction.
As she started walking towards with him Sidhra it became clear that Boota had not seen her and started off on his way home. When Sidhra looked back she noticed her mother had already closed her door and was safely back inside, so she decided to walk back home.
Some distance away from her home Sidhra noticed three suspicious looking men were watching her, so she began to walk faster and crossed the road. The two men started walking behind her first at some distance but then they began to chase her. With the men in pursuit Sidhra fled running until the men caught up to her and grabbed her at which point Sidhra blacked-out. She is unable to recall the events of the next 36 hours at this time.
Sidhra's family at this point were not aware of her abduction and carried on as normal as both sides of the family assumed that Sidhra was with the other side. This delayed any help in rescuing her from her abductors.
36 hours later (30th October) while on cleaning rounds a local domestic cleaner named Sultan reported to Sajjida Bibi, Sidhra's mother, that he had seen Sidhra bound to a chair in the courtyard of a local neighbour's home. The residence belonged to a Muslim man named Mohammed Ilyas who was living abroad in Italy and had left his house in the care of relatives.
Sajjida and all her family ran to the house of Mohammed Ilyas and peered through the gates when the mother saw her daughter tied up unconscious to a chair with a gag in her mouth, restrained in the courtyard of the neighbours home she started to scream, as each sibling saw their sister they too began to scream and shout hysterically. They banged on the gates and one brother climbed over and unlocked the gate from inside and rushed towards his sister. Sidhra was fully clothed and tied at her wrists and legs the rope securing her was so tight bruises could be seen on her wrists. Despite attempts to wake her it took a few minutes to revive her and she remained dizzy - she showed signs of having been drugged.
Other neighbours also heard the screaming and loud noise and were alerted to the situation. They joined the family to search the home for the culprits of the heinous crime, but no-one was present in the home and it was assumed that the rapists had fled.
As Sidhra awoke it was obvious that she had been drugged as she was very groggy and was suffering short-term amnesia. She told her family that she saw three men form the local community chasing her before she became unconscious and was able to name them. Sidhra identified the three men Talha aka Moon (21 yrs), Zubair aka Zaidi (22 Yrs) and Ameer Hamza all who are well known for criminal activity in the local community and all three are nephews of Mohammed Ilyas the owner of the home. Sidhra had also throughout the last ten year been harassed by Talha who even offered her marriage which she had declined every time.
Sidhra's family members untied and rushed her home to recover and the father visited the police station the next day (31st October) to lodge a complaint for kidnap and rape. Sidhra was unconscious for the whole two days and believes that she was subjected to rape.
The Police refused to acknowledge her kidnap or rape and did not initially register a First Incident Report (FIR), as they told the family they had no evidence. They advised the family that in future before untying a victim they should inform and call the police to a crime location. However the next day (1st November) the family returned to the police station with the brother of her father Boota who is Councillor Salim and some elders and together they convinced local police to register a crime. The next day (2nd November) the police finally lodged FIR 943/17 at Saddar Police Station, Gujaranwala and arrested Zubair and Ameer however Talha had absconded to Karachi and is a fugitive. The boys are being charged under section 376 for offences of gang-rape they failed to charge the boys with kidnap.
Ameera was given bail within a week of his arrest to the chagrin of the family and it is believed that he bribed the local police and local politicians to obtain his freedom. Zubair remained in custody for 1 and half months after arrest but was recently released by police who have informed that family that there is no compelling evidence that permits his ongoing incarceration.
Sidra's medical reports were taken on the 1st of November and no trace of any penetration was found for Zubair and reports are still waited for any genetic trace of the other two assailants. However, the delay in the medical examination is believed to be a factor that may allow the assailants to escape justice, especially as the police have not listed kidnap as a crime. For the medical examination Sidhra was sent to District Headquarters Civil Hospital Gujranwala on the 2nd November and they have indicated that any evidence would have been stronger had she arrived at a sooner date.
The court hearings for Sidhra's case are going through the session court of Gujranwala and the next hearing is on the 12th January (today), however the family holds little hope of any prosecution, as the courts and the police are exhibiting little empathy and seem keen on exonerating the wealthy Muslims.
In a bitter rage against the defilement of his wife Sidhra's husband Sunny has left her and her daughter Maryam (2 Yrs) - an atrocious reaction that many community leaders are trying to engage with him on. In Pakistan's deep-set honour culture this reaction is not as common in Christians as it is in Muslim families but it happens, we are praying for God to break the pride of Sunny and for him to accept that this disgusting attack happened without her consent and that she is not to blame in anyway. The elderly parents of Sidhra are very upset as due to her trauma Sidhra is curently unable to care for her child so the burden for bringing up Maryam is temporarily placed on them. Sidhra is staying with a maternal uncle in Hyderabad for her safety and for her to convalesce while Maryam is with her grandmother Sajjida.
Sidhra spoke with Mehwish Bhatti lead officer of the BPCA, she said: "I am totally distraught, a visit to my mother has become a day of ruin for me. I have suffered a brutal kidnap and rape by disgusting men with no shame.
I have lost my husband and now my daughter and I will have to survive on our own and my elderly parents have had to endure so much pain for me."
"The thought of what the men done to me makes me shudder, I have nightmares and feel like my whole world has collapsed. I am terrified of walking on the streets at night and am finding it hard to cope with a deep depression that has consumed me.
"I had a happy life and that has been taken away from me, but the cruel men who stole my joy will soon be released to threaten me and to attack other women like me. There is no justice in this country."
Mehwish Bhatti, said: "Sidhra is one of many Christian women to suffer rape in Pakistan and then be ignored by police and the courts. Her trial is going through the courts through a fortunate coercement of local police via her uncle a local councillor, but that does not and probably will not gurantee justice.
"Sadly for Sidhra and other victims there is hardly ever any justice."
Wilson Chowdhry, Chairman of the British Pakistani Christian Association, said: "Pakistan's police force are morally reprehensible in all aspects of law enforcement but particularly when dealing with rape cases. They always begin with that standpoint that women who are raped are deserving of the attack and inevitably fail to register crimes against Christian girls.
"Often they share the 'benefit' of their experience and advise victims to remain silent about the rape and to get married quickly to prevent any further attacks - As if this is a quick fix. In cases where the women is married they suggest simply staying silent on the matter, demoralizing further an already broken woman.
"It seems less then hopeful that Sidhra will find any justice and more likely that her life will become a real mess despite her innocence. No counselling has been offered to her by Police or the local authority and like many other Christian victims it is God's church that will have to fill the gap.