The Fight for Huma’s Freedom
10/20/2020 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – Last October, a 14-year-old Christian girl named Huma was abducted by a Muslim man in Pakistan. Days later, Huma’s parents were informed that she had “converted” to Islam, and “married” her abductor. Since then, Younas and Nagina have waged an uphill battle against her captor and Pakistan’s biased legal system to recover their missing daughter.
We recently sat down with Huma’s mother and ICC’s Regional Manager for South Asia to discuss the latest updates on her case. Although we learned about some positive developments in her case, Huma remains in captivity while her abductor remains at large.
The Pakistani government knows that the world is watching, so it’s our responsibility to increase the pressure surround this case. Help us call out on Huma’s behalf by signing the petition calling for her release today.
Alrighty. Well, we’ve got a very interesting, very tough, heartbreaking topic today. We’re going to talk about abduction, forced conversion, forced marriage, rape, et cetera, and how this goes on in fundamentalist Muslim countries, and we’re going to focus mostly on Pakistan. It happens in others, but we work a lot in Pakistan.
One case we’ve been working on is the case of Huma, which if you followed our information website or social media, you’ve seen her story, really heartbreaking. We’re going to unpack that, we’re going to start there, unpack that and kind of get into the broader issue.
Our guest today is William Stark, and he is one of our regional managers. If you’re wondering why his face is blurred, it’s because he goes back and forth and so he has to stay incognito. This is one heavy subject, and Will has worked in this area for many, many years. It’s kind of a love-hate thing because the persecution is very real, it’s very tough, and you’ll see from the subject matter just how tough it is.
First of all, let’s talk about the case du jour, and the case that means a lot to us right now, it’s the case of Huma. Tell people what is this case all about. Who is Huma and what’s happened to her?
Yeah, sure. Huma is a 14-year-old girl from Karachi, Pakistan who, in October of 2019, was abducted from her home by an adult Muslim man, taken to another province in the country of Pakistan, forcibly married and forcibly converted to Islam. Since then, she’s remained in the custody of her abductor, unfortunately, facing sexual assault fairly regularly as far as we understand and her parents, Nagina and Younas, are fighting, frankly speaking, every day to have her returned. It’s forced conversion, forced marriage.
This issue is probably, of all the issues that I work in and all the countries that I’m working, is probably one of the hardest issues to work on because not only is it devastating to the victim themselves, but it’s also devastating to the family as well. Having interviewed dozens, if not more than 50 of these families over my time at ICC, you just see how crushed, I mean, I guess that’s the best word I can use, how crushed the families are, whether their daughters are still gone, like Huma is to this day, or if their daughters have been returned. I mean, the damage that this issue does to them is, unfortunately, lifelong.
So, yeah, very difficult issue to be talking about today, very difficult issue to handle, but it’s really important for us to be talking about it, to be raising awareness, to be thinking about the victims of this particular issue and specifically talking about Huma.
And so heartbreaking, and maybe for the same reason. But let’s talk about the case. What happened to Huma? What’s her story?
Yeah. On October 10, Huma and her sister Roma, who’s 12 years old, were at home. Their parents Nagina and Younas had left, they were gone for work. A man named Abdul Jabbar who the family had hired, essentially on and off, as kind of like an Uber driver to take Huma and Roma to and from school, came to the house and told Huma that her father had been in an accident and that she needed to come with him right away to come see him. Huma had some doubts about what was going on here and asked or told Jabbar at this moment, “All right, let me call my dad before I go with you.”
At that point, Jabbar grabbed her, dragged her out of the house, put her in his car and drove away. According to witnesses who we’ve talked to about the incident itself, at the time of the abduction, Jabbar was actually brandishing a gun as well. So we clearly know by the circumstances surrounding the actual abduction, she didn’t run away with Jabbar. This was a forced abduction.
She was then taken in the next couple of days, and this is according to the paper trail that’s been set up here, or at least the false paper trail, she was then taken to another province, the Punjab province, which is the province north of Sindh, where she’s originally from. We’re talking hundreds, if not over a thousand, miles away from her home.
The next thing that we have coming up in essentially the court documents following this case is Huma has converted to Islam and Huma again, a 14-year-old girl, just to remind everyone, has now married this adult Muslim man, Jabbar.
When Nagina and Younas, they get home later that day, Roma tells them Huma has been taken, all this stuff, the parents immediately go to the police station to let the police know, “Hey, our daughter has been taken by Jabbar. We’re want to file a case against him for kidnapping,” and this initial cry for help to the Pakistani police was ignored. It was ignored for 10 days. It took the parents 10 days to file an FIR, and a FIR for those who don’t know what that is, is a First Information Report. In Pakistan and South Asia, generally, an FIR is basically the police complaint that starts an entire legal case, so this is kind of the filing of the case. It took 10 days for the police to file an FIR, which just kind of speaks to you already the bias and discrimination that Christians in Pakistan face when trying to achieve justice in any sort of scenario. So she is taken away.
After a few days, Huma’s mother Nagina, received a call on her phone. Now this wasn’t from Jabbar himself. This was from a relative of Jabbar who actually is a member of a paramilitary force called the Rangers. This is like a special police force in Pakistan. He assured Nagina that Huma’s okay. She’s now married to Jabbar and she’s now a Muslim. Like that was a good thing. To which, of course, when I actually interviewed Nagina in January, I talked with her about what was that moment like to receive that call, to hear that your daughter has been taken, that your daughter has been converted, that your daughter has been forcibly married, she told me in that moment that she just went numb. She was so shocked, she couldn’t speak. It was essentially for her, all of her fears and concerns coming true in the course of a couple of sentences that she’s heard over the phone. Since I’ve talked to them, Huma’s parents have not seen their daughter, period.
So kind of looking back into the court, Jabbar has been able to allow Sharia law to be utilized to basically circumvent secular law, which is the Child Marriage Restraint Act, and the two high court justices in the Sindh high court found that because Huma has had her first menstrual cycle, she is now considered an adult and she can be married to somebody, which is a finding that they leaned heavily upon Sharia law to find.
This is something we see a lot in Pakistan where how I like to describe it is we have multiple bodies of law existing next to each other all the time.
You have secular law, you have religious law, you have ethnic law. What trumps at what moment really depends upon the circumstances of each case. Unfortunately, what we find in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is that when religion, specifically Islam, is added to a particular issue, it tends to trump everything else. That’s what we found happened in Huma’s case. We had secular law that said this is legal, period.
Okay. So there was one hearing and the court said that this is according to Sharia, based on Sharia, that this is a legal case. Have there been further developments?
Yeah, actually there’s been a positive development, which you actually had discovered in your interview with Huma’s parents earlier this week or last week, actually. The court in Karachi, now we’re going back down from a high court to a sessions court, they actually issued an arrest warrant for Jabbar in early September, basically saying that he did abduct Huma and that he needs to be arrested for that.
Unfortunately, it’s been about a month since that arrest warrant has been issued by the court, and he remains at large, as Huma also remains out of the parents custody and unseen. Huma’s case is, again, representative of hundreds of cases every year.
You kind of nailed it right there. It’s like how many cases like this have we seen, and how many girls have we seen come home? I’ll start crying if I talk about it.
Because it doesn’t happen too often. I don’t want to put a damper on Huma’s case because this is really promising. Like you said, we’ve gotten so much attention on this, and the name and shame game is what we’re doing and what we have to do. People have to sign this petition, so go out. We’ll put it in lower third, and give you a link, so people can get the petition and sign it and then send it to people, send it to everyone you know. It’s just this, we’ve got to get people talking about it, and the embarrassment will cause the upper officials in Pakistan to smack the lower guys around and say, “Hey, take care of this case.” So this case looks really promising. At the one hand, I want everyone to see the heartbreak and how tough these things are even to resolve, but we’ve got a real good shot with this case.
Yeah. I think just to all the listeners out there, be in prayer for Huma, for her family. As you can imagine, this is… I think when I first wrote the article on this particular case, I used the analogy of a waking nightmare and I think that’s really the best way to put it. So pray for them to have strength, endurance every day to be dealing with this. Hopefully, we can see her home and we can see her safe again. And that would be, I think for all of us just honestly, a great development.
Yeah. That’d be amazing. We’re praying for that day. Thank you for all your work on this.
Yeah, no problem. Thank you for having me on.
All right. See you. Bye.