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11/03/2020 Pakistan (International Christian Concern) – Sources in Pakistan report that Arzoo Raja, a 13-year-old Christian girl abducted by her 44-year-old Muslim neighbor, has been recovered by police in Karachi, Pakistan. Arzoo will remain in police custody until she appears before the Sindh High Court on Thursday, November 5.

Yesterday, November 2, the Sindh High Court ordered police to recover Arzoo after an intervention by Pakistan’s Minister for Human Rights. Later that day, Arzoo was in police custody and her abductor, Ali Azhar, was arrested.

On October 13, Arzoo was abducted from her family home in Karachi by Azhar. Arzoo’s parents reported the incident to local police and were informed two days later that their daughter had converted to Islam and married Azhar.

Arzoo’s parents have challenged the validity of the marriage to Azhar claiming that it violates the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act. However, on October 27, the Sindh High Court ruled in favor of the marriage, applying an interpretation of Sharia law that allows for underage marriages.

Before Thursday’s hearing, Arzoo is set to undergo medical testing to definitively determine her age. If proven to be a minor, she will likely be returned to her family.

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. Many of the victims are minors. Sexual assaults and fraudulent marriages are used by perpetrators to entrap victims and authorities are often complicit.

The issue of religion is 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.

For interviews, please contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator: [email protected].