Forced Conversion Survivor in Pakistan Escapes Kidnapper and Reunites with Family
09/30/2020 Pakistan (International Christian Concern) – On September 8, Mehwish Hidayat, a 22-year-old Christian, was reunited with her family after spending three months in captivity. In June, Khurram Shehzad, a Muslim, abducted Hidayat while she traveled to her job at a garment factory in Lahore, Pakistan.
According to Hidayat, Shehzad and several other armed men abducted her while she was waiting for the bus on June 3.
“It was around 7:30 in the morning when I left for the garment factory,” Hidayat told International Christian Concern (ICC). “I was waiting for my bus along with six to eight girls. Suddenly, two armed men appeared from a white car. They showed their guns and warned everyone not to interfere.”
“The kidnappers then dragged me into the car,” Hidayat continued. “All the other girls started shouting, but none of them was in a position to save me as the kidnappers threatened them with their guns.”
For the next three months, Shehzad kept Hidayat in his custody. To justify this captivity, Shehzad fraudulently claimed that Hidayat had converted to Islam and married him.
“For three months Shehzad kept shifting from one city to another and sexually assaulted me,” Hidayat told ICC. “He often tortured me for refusing to sign the conversion and marriage certificate. He forced me to recite Islamic proclamations and verses. However, I remained committed to my Christian faith.”
In June, Hidayat was produced before a court to make a statement regarding the marriage and conversion. Under threat, Hidayat gave tainted testimony in support of Shehzad.
“My statement in the court was in favor of my kidnapper, however, I made that statement to save my family and protect myself,” Hidayat explained to ICC. “Shehzad threatened me and my family with death threats if I went against his will.”
After three months in Shehzad’s custody, Hidayat seized an opportunity to escape. She fled Shehzad and reunited with her family in Lahore.
“I escaped from Shehzad’s custody and rejoined my family,” Hidayat told ICC. “However, our lives will always be in danger. My family is continuously receiving threats from Shehzad.”
According to a study by the Movement for Solidarity and Peace Pakistan, an estimated 1,000 Christian and Hindu women are abducted, forcefully married, and forcefully converted to Islam every year. Sexual assaults and fraudulent marriages are used by perpetrators to entrap victims and authorities are often complicit.
The issue of religion is also often injected into cases of sexual assault to place victims from religious minority communities at a disadvantage. Playing upon religious biases, perpetrators know they can cover up and justify their crimes by introducing an element of religion.
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