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The curious and sad case of Farah Hatim

July 28, 2011 by  
Filed under Asia, newsletter-asia, Pakistan, Persecution

Farah Hatim

Farah Hatim

South Punjab, Pakistan, 26 July 2011: Farah Hatim, 24, a resident of Rahim Yar Khan, a city in South Punjab, Pakistan, was allegedly abducted on May 8, 2011 by a Muslim man and his brothers, and was forced to convert to Islam and then marry the Muslim.

Now a Pakistani human rights organization and the Catholic Church in the country has condemned the act and demanded action for what they call a “violation of human rights.”

The Justice and Peace Commission is leading the case, which they took to the Session Court, and since they took this action, there have been claims that the police had been threatening Farah Hatim’s family and also that the Session Judge, Khawaja Mir, decided to transfer the case to the High Court for a hearing due to the sensitivity of the matter.”

The appeal at the High Court was presented by the Justice and Peace Commission along with the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA).

Justice Khalil-ur-Rehman from the High Court Bahawalpur bench had instructed the Rahim Yar Khan district police, and the families, to appear before the court on July 20, 2011.

The Judge then questioned Farah Hatim and asked her if she had been kidnapped and also if she had gone with the Muslim man of her own will.

After a few moments of silence, according to an eye-witness, she said, “I went of my own will.” He then followed up with a more questions and the judge then announced that Farah will now be living with her “new family.”

The eye-witness told ANS that Farah Hatim then “broke into tears” as the court announced the decision.

Farah Hatim was allowed a few moments to meet with her family and later, Hatim’s brother said, “I am shocked at what Farah said in the court. She is under threat and now all hopes are gone for her return to us. Why did we have to face this? It is only because we are Christians!”

According to a spokesperson for the Justice and Peace Commission, “Farah has become a victim of a racket that is involved in prostitution. Her ‘husband’ tried to force her into prostitution while she was a student at the Sheikh Zaid Medical College in Rahim Yar Khan, but at the time she refused.

“Because of this, he decided to take his revenge. The current decision by Farah to not speak out is possibly because she is pregnant and fears that her family will be killed if she tries to go back to them. Even if she had taken the brave stance of returning, she wouldn’t have been accepted by society as she had been kidnapped and raped. The fear of rejection is also a possible reason.”
 
According to the spokesperson, “Thousands of girls from the minorities here in Pakistan are kidnapped and forced into marriage. We are fighting against the cancer of kidnapping and these forced marriages.”

The Hatim family, now in despair, has appealed to the high authorities to take actions or legislate laws against forced marriages that “convert” minorities.

Farah’s elder brother, with tears in his eyes outside the court, then said, “We don’t want this to happen again to any other girls. We have lost our sister and we know how it feels. The pain is unexplainable. We are targeted because we are minorities and we demand that the government not to abandon the minorities.”

According to the Catholic News Agency (http://www.catholicnewsagency.com), a leading Vatican diplomat said that the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights should intervene in the case of Farah Hatim.

Freedom of religion is “a test for the respect of all human rights,” said Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the head of the Holy See’s permanent observer mission to the United Nations in Geneva.

At least 700 Christian girls are kidnapped and forced to convert to Islam every year, Fides reports.

Archbishop Tomasi called the alleged crime against Farah “a violation of human rights, freedom of conscience and religion, and abuse of personal freedom, freedom to choose how to live one’s life.”

No one can communicate with Farah at present, the archbishop said on June 15, 2011.

He suggested a mechanism be created for these situations to allow the family and state officials to investigate and determine the truth.

Archbishop Tomasi recommended that the U.N. Council for Human Rights create such a venue. Some U.N.-accredited Catholic NGOs are receiving direct information from Pakistan and are collecting data to present a report to the council.

“Solidarity with Christians who suffer for their faith … must be remembered,” Archbishop Tomasi said.

International mechanisms to protect persecuted people should be used and the “indifference” of Western media should be “shaken” because “they often do not report the discrimination that millions of believers suffer.”

Pakistan faces problems in the education system, problems of corruption and “widespread extremism,” he added.

The Guardian newspaper in the UK has reported, “In much of Pakistan, marriage clearly is imposed on women against their will. Those brave enough to complain to the courts or run from their homes are hunted down by their families and forced to return or, all too frequently, murdered to restore a distorted sense of honor. The police usually turn a blind eye.”

The story added, “Many of the women need medical care and psychological counseling, but they are free to leave the house by day to work or shop for their children, if they wish.

“One woman, Razia, was forced into a marriage when she was 13 and regularly beaten and locked in a room by her husband. ‘He said if I told anyone he would kill me,’ she said.

“After a beating late one night she broke down, poured kerosene over her head and set herself alight. ‘I felt that death was better than this life,’ she said. Her husband quickly divorced her and married again.”

The United Nations views forced marriage as a form of human rights abuse, since it violates the principle of the freedom and autonomy of individuals. The Roman Catholic Church deems forced marriage grounds for granting an annulment — for a marriage to be valid both parties must give their consent freely.

Sadly, in this case, Farah Hatim now has to endure her “forced marriage” and “conversion,” and all we can now do for her is to pray that she will be protected in this situation.

– d. wooding & r. samsonans (ans)

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