A Catholic charity has launched a campaign urging Prime Minister Boris Johnson to grant UK asylum to a young Christian girl in Pakistan receiving death threats from a Muslim rapist who forced her to marry him and convert to Islam.
During the coronavirus lockdown last April, Mohamad Nakash kidnapped at gunpoint Maira Shahbaz, a 14-year-old Catholic girl from the Punjab Province, gang-raped her with two other accomplices, blackmailed her, and forced her to convert to Islam.
In early August, the Lahore High Court ruled that Shahbaz had voluntarily converted to Islam and therefore is legally married to Mr. Nakash, who claimed that a “marriage certificate” in his possession listed the girl’s age as 19, even though her family has a birth certificate proving she is only 14.
Two weeks later, Maira escaped from Nakash’s house and informed police of the ongoing abuse she had suffered at his hands. Nakash responded by making death threats against her, accusing her apostasy, as well as threatening to release videotape of her being gang raped.
A Pakistani court on Saturday convicted a Muslim professor of blasphemy, sentencing him to death for allegedly spreading anti-Islamic ideas. https://t.co/i9VtOiw441
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Following a request for annulment of the marriage based on Maira’s age and the absence of her consent, a Rawalpindi court has requested new evidence, including medical reports proving sexual abuse, police reports, and certificates of birth and marriage.
In its petition, the pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) notes that regardless of what Pakistani courts eventually decide, “Maira’s life will forever be in danger,” with an ongoing threat of honor killing, since Pakistani extremists “consider her an apostate and will kill her at the first chance.”
Maira’s lawyer, Sumera Shafique, stated that “Maira’s family fears that Nakash wants to kidnap her again and kill both her and her family.”
“Having abandoned Nakash and returned to her family, Maira will always be considered an apostate who has abandoned Islam in the eyes of Nakash and the members of the group, and the latter will continue to demand that she be killed,” Shafique said.
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According to the lawyer, Maira and her family continue to receive death threats. For this reason, although they are now in a place protected by the police, as ordered by the court, their safety cannot be guaranteed.
“We call on the UK Government to grant Maira asylum so that she can rebuild her life, free from the ever-present threat of death,” Shafique said.
Neville Kyrke-Smith, UK National Director for ACN added that it is “urgent that the Prime Minister acts to save the lives of Maira and her family. They are in grave danger. We have a duty of conscience to act.”