Thursday, May 20, 2010
Forced conversion of Christian and Hindu girls at rise in Pakistan.
Islamabad: May 19, 2010. (PCP) A Christian girl who was kidnapped and forced to convert to Islam has been reunited with her family after three years apart. Tina Barkat, now 28, was kidnapped by the family of her friend Sobia, who together with her uncle forced her to convert to Islam and marry one of their relatives, Qaiser. Tina tried to escape from the family several times but says it was not until the security around her was relaxed following the birth of her second baby to Qaiser that she was able to escape.She alleges that while she was forced to live with Qaiser and his family, his parents were very abusive towards her and her husband used to beat her. She is now with her family and does not wish to return to her Muslim husband. His family have reacted by registering a case against Tina and her family. Her father, Barkat Masih, an elder in his local church, was detained illegally by the police over the incident but was freed after CLAAS appealed to the high court. He told CLAAS that the police did not help him when he went to them in a bid to secure Tina’s release. Instead of registering a kidnapping case against Sobia’s family, he says the police threatened him and told him not to come back to register a complaint again because his daughter had already converted to Islam and therefore had no further relationship with them - the custom in Pakistan when a person converts and marries into a Muslim family. Tina says her husband has made threats against her father if she is not returned. Qaiser maintains that since Tina converted to Islam, she cannot convert back to Christianity. CLAAS is providing her with free legal assistance and has filed for a divorce in the court on her behalf. Joseph Francis, director of CLAAS Pakistan, said the kidnapping and forced conversion of Christian and Hindu girls was on the rise in Pakistan. Nasir Saeed, director of CLAAS UK, agreed that it was a serious problem. CLAAS has brought the worrying trend to the attention of the Pakistani government and is pressing for legislation to end forced conversions and ensure the protection of women and young girls belonging to a minority group, who are particularly at risk.