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Arzoo Raja, 13-year-old Pakistani Christian abducted and forced to convert and marry

On Oct. 13, Arzoo Raja, a 13-year-old Pakistani Christian, was abducted by her 44-year-old Muslim neighbor, Ali Azhar. She was forced to convert to Islam and marry him.

Her parents submitted a number of complaints to the police, asking for her to be recovered. The Sindh High Court initially ruled in favor of the marriage, on the erroneous basis that Arzoo was 18 and that she had willingly converted and married Azhar. After Arzoo's age was verified, the High Court ordered law enforcement to recover the teenager and arrest Azhar. Arzoo was then taken to a government shelter, where she has been since.

President of Human Rights Focus Pakistan
“Always the girls enter there and then they are brainwashed there, and in most of the cases, when the girls enter the women's shelters, they always decide in favor of the culprit.”

That seems to be the case with Arzoo. Her parents and lawyer reacted skeptically when they heard her court statement, in which she said she had willingly converted and married Azhar.

President of Human Rights Focus Pakistan
“I want to share that legal counsel and the mother of Arzoo Raja learned that she was drugged when she appeared in court.”

This video shows Arzoo's mother outside the courthouse, pleading for her daughter to return to her.

Instead of returning her to her parents, the court has ruled that Arzoo can remain at the women's shelter until she turns 18.

Naveed Walter notes that this is a common scenario in cases of abduction and forced conversion and marriage, where the targets are commonly Christians and other religious minorities.

President of Human Rights Focus Pakistan
“This is also discouraging for the other girls, for the other families who tried to take action against the abductors, and unfortunately, many of the girls who are abducted, most of their families become silent. They won't raise the issues.”

This silence is due largely to a lack of resources to go through the courts as well as pressure from abductors. It's in response to these violations, commonly carried out in the name of religion, that organizations like Human Rights Focus Pakistan are taking action. Walter explains that the HRFP counts on 100 volunteers, who are using peaceful and legal means to advocate for the basic rights and religious freedom of people in Pakistan.


Human Rights Focus Pakistan