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Pakistan (Morning Star News) – Police in Karachi, Pakistan are ignoring the kidnapping and forcible conversion to Islam of a 13-year-old Christian girl by a 45-year-old Muslim whose two brothers are police officials, sources said.
Ali Azhar, a neighbor of the victim’s Catholic family, abducted Arzoo Raja on Oct. 13, and her family went to police that same day, said her father, Raja Lal.
“When we failed to find Arzoo, we registered a kidnapping case with the local police station,” Lal said. “On Oct. 15 we were summoned to the station, where we were shown documents which claimed that Arzoo was 18 and had willingly converted to Islam after marrying Ali Azhar.”
Police have shown no interest in arresting the accused in spite of National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) records showing Arzoo’s age as 13, as she was born on July 31, 2007, he said. Sexual intercourse with a girl below the age of 16 is statutory rape and carries a death sentence or a minimum sentence of 10 years in prison in Pakistan.
Ghazala Shafique, a Karachi-based Christian rights and social activist, said police were doing little in the case.
“Two brothers of the accused are police officials, and they are using their influence to protect him,” Shafique told Morning Star News. “Attorney [Noor Naz] Agha brought this to the court’s notice during the hearing on Saturday [Oct. 24] and also demanded that Ali and all other people involved in the case, including the cleric who signed the Islamic conversion and marriage certificates of the minor Christian girl, be arrested and tried for their crime.”
Agha, a prominent Muslim lawyer, has taken up the case pro bono, a great relief to the grief-stricken parents who have lost their jobs in the search for justice, Shafique said.
“We have asked the police to include the Child Marriage Restraint Act [in the case], but the police are reluctant to include it,” Shafique said. “The court should also ask the police why it has ignored the documents issued by NADRA and Arzoo’s school that clearly state her age. We are also ready for conducting medical tests to determine Arzoo’s age, so why are the police reluctant to produce her in court?”
She said she is demanding that Arzoo be presented in court and that special arrangements be made for recording her statement in a way that would preclude fear from coercion by her abductor.
Shafique said it was the second case of forced conversion of underage Christian girls in Karachi in a year. In October 2019, 14-year-old Huma Younas was kidnapped and forcibly converted to Islam, she said.
“Forced conversion is often disguised as voluntary conversion and both the provincial and federal governments need to act against this persecution,” she said.
In Faisalabad, Punjab Province, 14-year-old Maira Shahbaz was kidnapped and forcibly married and converted to Islam earlier this year. After sending her to a shelter, a court in Lahore on Aug. 4 ordered her to be returned to her abductor based on forged documents, but she escaped on Aug. 22. She told Morning Star News her abductor had blackmailed her into giving false court statements that she had willingly converted and married him.
In Karachi, the accused in Arzoo’s case, Azhar, was Lal’s neighbor in the Muhalla Railway Colony West Camp Road locality.
Lal and his wife, who have three other older children, have been hard-pressed to feed them after losing their jobs and were thankful for the pro bono legal help.
“Thankfully, our pleas have been noticed by Christian rights activists and political leaders, and they are helping us in highlighting the case,” Lal told Morning Star News. “My wife and I have been running from pillar to post since [reporting the case], but the police are not showing any interest in arresting the accused and investigating the case impartially.”
Police did not respond to attempts by Morning Star News to contact them by phone and text message.
In spite of growing concern over a rise in abduction of girls from minority communities, particularly Christians and Hindus, and forcibly marrying them and converting them to Islam, successive national and provincial governments have failed to pass laws against perpetrators.
A bill against forced conversions introduced in 2016 in the Sindh Provincial Assembly remains pending after Islamists threatened violent protests.
Last week a federal government commission on minorities announced that it would draft a bill to curb forced conversions only after consultations with provincial and religious leaders. Christian political and church leaders told Morning Star News that state institutions and government parties should not succumb to pressure by Islamist parties.
“The government should bring the legislation on forced conversion to parliament without capitulating to any party that objects to its contents or underlying spirit,” said National Council of Churches in Pakistan President Bishop Azad Marshall.
He said that forced conversion is not seen as a crime, much less as a problem that should concern “mainstream” Pakistan.
“But it is a very serious crime against the minority population, and the government must show some spine in addressing the matter,” he said.
Marshall added that Pakistan’s entire legal system, from police to the courts, are violating laws and facilitating such conversions especially of minor girls.
“When the parents present a certificate that the age of the girl is below 18 years, the police usually do not attach this document in the FIR [First Information Report], but we have women protection laws in the country, and we need to implement them,” he said. “Besides that, Pakistan is signatory to several international obligations, and such incidents bring a bad name to the country.”
Pakistan is a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that no one shall be subject to coercion to change their religion. The European Court of Human Rights has given some guidance regarding the distinction between permissible persuasion and coercion.
Amir Naveed Jeeva, a Christian lawmaker of the opposition Pakistan People’s Party and a member of the parliamentary committee tasked with investigating forced conversions, said the committee is trying to build consensus on the draft bill.
“One suggestion is to introduce a new marriage rule that includes the mandatory presence of a guardian at the time of marriage and the establishment of shelters managed by the district administrations to house underage girls who want to get married, in order to clear the confusion between force and consent,” he said.
Shunila Ruth, a ruling party Christian lawmaker and parliamentary secretary on human rights, said that forced conversion needs to be addressed at the federal level.
“There is a difference of opinion on the issue at the state level, but things are gradually heading in a positive direction, and we hope that all stakeholders will succeed in formulating a solution to this issue,” she said.
According to data compiled by the Peoples Commission for Minorities’ Rights and the Centre for Social Justice, of 156 incidents of forced conversions which took place between 2013 and 2019, a vast majority of the girls are minors, with numerous cases of girls as young as 12 years old. Muslim groups oppose a minimum age for conversion or marriage, claiming that this is not sanctioned by Islam.
Although intercourse with a girl below the age of 16 is statutory rape, in most cases a falsified conversion certificate and Nikahnama, or Islamic marriage certificate, influences police to pardon kidnappers.
Pakistan ranked fifth on Open Doors 2020 World Watch list of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian, and on Nov. 28, 2018, the United States added Pakistan to its blacklist of countries that violate religious freedom.
Pakistan (Morning Star News) – The Muslim who regained custody of a 14-year-old Christian girl he had kidnapped threatened to kill her and her family unless she gave court statements that she had married him and converted to Islam of her own free will, the girl told Morning Star News.
Maira Shahbaz, who escaped from Nakash Tariq five days ago, told Morning Star News by telephone that he had raped her and filmed her naked in order to blackmail her into giving the court statements. The Lahore High Court on Aug. 4 ordered her return to Tariq after dismissing documents proving she was a minor and evidence of a fake marriage certificate because she testified that, “she’s 18 years old, recited the Kalma Tayyaba to prove she had embraced Islam without any duress, and married Nakash Tariq by choice.”
Tariq and accomplices kidnapped Maira, of Medina Town, Faisalabad, on April 28, according to family members.
“Nakash and two other men took me to an unknown place at gunpoint, where Nakash repeatedly raped me,” Maira told Morning Star News. “He also videotaped me naked and threatened that he would kill me and my family and also upload the video on social media if I told anyone what he had done to me.”
She said she had been forced to sign blank papers and denied that she had willfully become a Muslim.
“I was coerced into making those statements in the courtrooms,” she said. “They threatened to kill us all.”
When her family challenged the underage marriage, a judge had sent Maira to a women’s shelter on July 28 before the Aug. 4 verdict returning her to Tariq.
Maira contracted false marriage with the already married Tariq on Oct. 25, 2019. A family attorney asserted that the cleric whose name was listed on the marriage certificate denied involvement in the sham marriage.
Maira’s attorney, Sumera Shafique, said she had applied for police protection for the girl at the Lahore High Court’s Rawalpindi Bench because Tariq posed a serious threat to her life.
“The judge has ordered the regional police officer to ensure Maira’s security and also probe the video used to blackmail her,” she told Morning Star News. “I have also filed a suit for cancellation of her marriage and forced conversion in the family court.”
She said that Tariq had filed a kidnapping case in Faisalabad against Maira’s mother and other relatives alleging that they had forcibly taken away his “lawfully wedded wife” from his home.
“The family is in hiding due to the case registered by Nakash,” she said. “I was told that the accused is searching for the girl to stop her from revealing the truth, which is why we decided to appear before the Rawalpindi bench of the LHC as a security precaution.”
She said Maira will appear before the Regional Police Officer on Friday (Aug. 28) to record her statement.
Earlier this month, while ruling on a petition filed by Tariq seeking custody of Maira, a Lahore High Court bench presided by Justice Shahid Mahmood Abbasi stated, “The statement of Maria [sic] Shahbaz as well as her general appearance unambiguously show that she is a grown-up young lady who seems to have attained the age of puberty and who acknowledges Nakash Tariq as her lawfully wedded husband.”
The verdict acknowledged that the judge dismissed evidence her family’s attorney provided that the minor could not have contracted marriage without the consent of her guardian and that the marriage certificate was fake.
“As far as proof of marriage is concerned, the other formalities can be ignored and simple acknowledgement of husband and wife regarding their Nikah [marriage] is sufficient to prove the same,” the verdict states. “In such circumstances, the mandatory requirement of presence of two witnesses can be ignored.”
Regarding authenticity of the marriage certificate, the verdict stated, “Only the family court would be in a better position to resolve the controversy between the parties regarding genuineness or otherwise of ‘Nikah Nama.’”
In February the forced conversion to Islam and marriage of another 14-year-old Christian girl was validated in a court ruling in Pakistan. The High Court in Sindh Province on Feb. 3 dismissed a petition to have the marriage and forced conversion of Huma Younus overturned, ruling that both were valid since a girl under sharia (Islamic law) can marry after her first menstrual cycle.
Huma, a Catholic, was taken from her home in Karachi’s Zia Colony on Oct. 10, 2019 while her parents were away and was forced to marry the man who abducted her.
‘Forced Conversions Must Stop’
National Council of Churches in Pakistan (NCCP) President Azad Marshall said that Maira’s case and similar incidents called for immediate steps to ensure that minors from minority communities are not forced into false marriages and conversions.
“Forced conversion and marriages of children belonging to the minority communities is a major issue facing our communities,” said Marshall, who is senior most bishop of the Church of Pakistan.
Pakistan’s senate has introduced a bill calling for seven years of prison and a fine of 100,000 rupees (US$590) for those found guilty of forced conversion. The bill also proposes 10 years in prison and a fine of 100,000 rupees for forcing someone to change religion for marriage.
Marshall said enforcement would be key.
“Legislations are made by parliament, but unfortunately we have witnessed that their implementation is lacking,” he told Morning Star News. “The bill for protection of minority rights is a step in the right direction, and we hope that the government will not only ensure its approval but also make sure that the law enforcement agencies implement it in letter and spirit.”
Under the Protection of the Rights of Religious Minorities Bill, the state would take measures to curb forced conversion of minority communities and would also support victims. Marriage of a minor arranged after changing her/his religion would be considered “coerced” and be declared void.
In a bid to further strengthen protections for minority communities in the 96-percent Muslim country, the draft proposes three years of prison time and a fine of 50,000 rupees (US$295) in case of hate speech or maltreatment of a member of a non-Muslim community. It also bans discriminatory chapters in textbooks.
Those found guilty of discriminating against anyone on the basis of religion would be jailed for one year in addition to a fine of 25,000 rupees (US$147). The bill also protects religious symbols of non-Muslim Pakistanis, proposing a seven-year sentence and a fine of 50,000 rupees in such a case. All of these sentences would be non-bailable.
The senate chairman has forwarded the bill to the relevant standing committee for consideration.
Pakistan ranked fifth on Open Doors 2020 World Watch list of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian, and on Nov. 28, 2018, the United States added Pakistan to its blacklist of countries that violate religious freedom.
Pakistan (Morning Star News) – A high court ruling in Pakistan validating the marriage and forced conversion to Islam of a 14-year-old Christian girl has heightened fears that it will encourage others to commit such crimes, sources said.
The High Court in Sindh Province on Feb. 3 dismissed a petition to have the marriage and forced conversion of a Catholic girl overturned, ruling that both were valid since a girl under sharia (Islamic law) can marry after her first menstrual cycle.
Huma Younus was taken from her home in Karachi’s Zia Colony on Oct. 10 while her parents were away and was forced to marry the man who abducted her, identified as Abdul Jabbar of Dera Ghazi Khan, Punjab Province, her attorney said.
“The hearing on Feb. 3 lasted only five minutes,” the family’s attorney, Tabassum Yousaf, told Morning Star News. “The court, in just a few words citing the sharia, has justified the violation of the girl’s body since she has already had her first period.”
Yousaf added that the family was prohibited from seeing Huma because police said her life would be at risk if she was brought to the courtroom.
He said the family challenged Huma’s marriage and forced conversion under the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act 2013, which declares marrying a person under 18 years old an offense punishable by up to three years in prison.
Although the Sindh government takes credit for becoming Pakistan’s first elected assembly to pass a bill on child marriage in April 2014, the law is still poorly implemented, sources said.
Yousaf said he submitted Huma’s baptismal and school documents in court that proved she was 14 years old, but nevertheless Sindh High Court judges Muhammad Iqbal Kalhoro and Irshad Ali Shah ruled that the marriage was valid based on her menstrual cycle.
The legal battle has been going on for months with constant delays and excuses cited so as not to present the underage girl in court, sources said.
The family has filed an appeal to the Court of Justice in Sindh Province, and Yousaf said a hearing is scheduled for March 4. Police will thus have more time for medical tests to determine Huma’s age, he said.
Guardian Consent Needed
The girl’s parents were informed via text message that Huma had converted to Islam and had married Jabbar “of her free will,” sources said.
Since forced conversions are not illegal in Pakistan, her attorney said he believed the case hinged on Huma’s age.
Prominent Supreme Court Advocate Saiful Malook told Morning Star News that even though sharia allows marriage of a minor girl if she has her first period, the marriage has to be validated by the girl’s guardian.
“In no way can any court of law endorse an underage marriage unless it is supported by the girl’s guardian,” Malook said. “Marriage is governed by the Contract Act, wherein no minor can enter into a contract or agreement without the explicit approval of her guardian. In this particular case, the court must take into account whether the girl’s legal guardian has consented to her marriage even if it’s judging the act under the sharia.”
He added that a 14-year-old minor cannot be deemed mature enough to change her religion by her own will, considering the fact that she could have been coerced or blackmailed into renouncing her faith. Huma reportedly filed an affidavit declaring that she married of her own free will, but Yousaf has said that such an affidavit can’t be filed legally until she obtains an identity card at age 18.
The high court must order Huma to record a statement in the courtroom, Malook said.
“If the police are not producing the girl before the court on various pretenses, the court should be wise enough to see through the police’s mala fide and hand the custody of the minor back to her parents,” he said.
Malook, who represented Pakistan’s most high-profile blasphemy convict, Aasiya Noreen, better known as Asia Bibi, before the Supreme Court and won her freedom, said that abducting for the purpose of forced conversion and underage marriage is a major problem in Pakistan. He added that legislation effective in curbing the practice is long overdue.
Christian rights activists believe that the ruling of the Sindh High Court will encourage more perpetrators of such crimes to hide behind sharia. Pakistan Center of Law of Justice Executive Director Napoleon Qayyum told Morning Star News that the high court’s ruling would result in a surge in cases of forced conversion and underage marriages of Christian girls.
“Another Christian girl aged 14 was recently abducted and gang-raped by some Muslim youths in Bihar Colony area of Lahore,” Qayyum said. “The victim is a student of grade nine and was abducted by four or five boys on her way to a local tuition center on Jan. 16, 2020. The abductors not only raped her but also obtained her signatures and thumb impressions on some papers.”
Police were able to recover her on Jan. 19, but Qayyum said he fears the suspects will use her signed documents to produce a fake marriage certificate and religion conversion letter in a bid to escape abduction and rape charges.
“This is common modus operandi of Muslims to confuse the court and avoid justice,” he said.
In nearly all such cases, he said, the rapists threaten to harm the girls’ families if they reveal the truth.
“Moreover, the girls are also forced to give false statements in court that they have changed their religion of free will and had married of their own choice,” Qayyum said. “Girls belonging to minority communities often succumb to pressure and consideration for their family’s security, which has further emboldened the men belonging to the majority faith.”
Most victims of forced conversion and marriage in Pakistan are reportedly Christian and Hindu girls and women forced to marry Muslim men who are much older than them. According to the Centre for Social Justice, at least 159 such cases were reported between 2013 and 2019.
The Sindh legislature in 2016 passed a law outlawing forcible conversions and conversions before the age of 18 but, under pressure from Islamic extremist groups, the governor declined to sign it. Each year about 1,000 Christian and Hindu women in Pakistan are forcibly converted to Islam and then married off to their abductors or rapists, according to the National Commission of Justice and Peace and the Pakistan Hindu Council.
Pakistan ranked fifth on Christian support organization Open Doors 2020 World Watch list of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian, and on Nov. 28, 2018, the United States added Pakistan to its blacklist of countries that violate religious freedom.
Photo: Huma Younas, 14, was abducted and forced to convert to Islam, her parents say. (Morning Star News courtesy of family)
(Voice of the Persecuted) NIGERIA: Boko Haram are not the only culprits abducting young girls. While visiting her relatives at their family compound in Siri village, thirteen -year-old Alheri Bawa went with one of her cousins to stay the weekend with another cousin in Bauchi city.
When she didn’t return, her father, Bawa Buba is an ordained Elder of Seventh-day Adventist Church contacted his family but was told she was visiting with his nephew, Mal Dauda Bawa in Bauchi city. He called Dauda Buba to see if his daughter was still with him. He was told that Alheri was converted to Islam and he would not be seeing her anytime soon. The father was shocked and thought it was a joke. He asked his nephew why he didn’t discuss it with him and that his daughter never mentioned the intent to convert. The nephew told him that he should understand and allow his daughter to remain with him. Bawa Buba along with his pastor and another Elder from the church traveled and met his nephew at the gate of his home. He was told that the issue was no longer family, but religious. That he should put family aside and accept the fact, or go to the Sharia Commission as only they had the power to release his daughter.
While they were talking, his daughter came out excited to seeing her father and wanted to go home with him. He held her hands and asked her to enter the pastor’s car. As she was going, Mal Dauda Buba rushed and held onto her hijab and told her that she is irresponsible and would not leave with father unless the sharia commission was there, since they were aware of her decision. Bawa Buba said his daughter shouted “Na FASA, Na FASA”which translates to “I’m no longer interested.” Both her father and cousin held onto the girl. Bawa said the place was instantly filled with hoodlums who wanted to turn the issue into a religious crisis. They threatened to burn the pastor’s car. Mal Dauda was shouting, “this religious issue, not family. He brought his church people.”
Some Muslim leaders in the area came and expressed their disapproval towards Mal Dauda’s action as unIslamic, but he insisted that he would not let her go. Bawa Buba said they told his pastor to take him out of the place. “I was no longer in my right mind because of the pains and trauma I have been through and my daughter’s willingness to follow me. I was ready to die with my daughter in my hand,” he said.
The crowd was increasing in number and tensions were high. Her father explained, “The Muslim elders begged my pastor to take me away and that I should not worry. They said police would return Alheri, because my nephew’s actions and the and the others gathering were not Islam.” His pastor dragged Bawa Buba by force and drove away from the scene.
Buba relayed, “We went to GRA Division Police station and laid our complaints. The police were quick in action at the beginning. They attached a policeman to us who later arrested Mal Dauda and brought him to the station.
His nephew was asked to explain his side. Mal Dauda then made a call to the Sharia Commission and they requested to speak with the police. After they spoke, his nephew was called to the counter by Inspector in charge. Bawa said his nephew spoke boldly. Afterward, the police disregarded the case, treating it as a civil dispute. Bawa Buba was told to go to court and request for the custody of his daughter.
The father shared in a letter, “My 13-year old daughter is abducted, Islamized and forced to stay with a criminal and the police called it a civil case. We were [told] by the DCO to hire a lawyer and go to court over my daughter.”
“Were is the money to file a case? Which court should I go to? Sharia Court? I’m in trauma and pain. All I want is the custody of my daughter, Alheri Grace Bawa. Pls sir, use your office to return my daughter back to me. I’m home in the village back to my wife and remaining 5 children as we weep and wait for justice for me and my family.”
He had no choice but to go to the media for help. He shared an open letter on news forums and in comment sections of news articles on various news agency websites. It gained much attention and aided in his daughter’s rescue. The letter can be still be found on many sites.
After much pressure from the media and international community, the Inspector-General of Police, and the Bauchi State Commissioner of Police intervened and secured his daughter’s release. She is now reunited with her family. Her abductor, Mal Dauda Bawa is allegedly in police custody and would reportedly be charged to court soon.
Elder Bawa Buba with his wife and Pastor Rikwense Muri were at the State Command of the Nigeria Police Force to receive her.
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According to the reports, the incidents of gang rape in the central Punjab have drastically increased, and the law enforcing agencies are acting as silent observers.
Sara, a seven year old Christian girl, was reportedly gang raped by 4 Muslims in Mally ki Village of Daska Sialkot Pakistan. The minor was immediately transported to the DHQ (District Head Quarters) Hospital Sialkot in a critical condition. She is in the ICU in an unstable/critical condition.
The locals, with the help of the police, abducted the girl`s father, Iqbal Masih, to pressure the family not to file a case, and to come to an agreement with the culprits and to avoid a religious issue.
The Christian community tried to talk to the police, but the police seems helpless in recovering Masih from the local landlord. Despite several attempts, the police refused to comment/talk about the hideous incident. READ MORE
CIP reported that Yousaf Masih and his family were living in Sadiq Bazar became victims of persecution. On 4th March their daughter, Komal Yousaf was abducted and then forced to convert to Islam. Yousaf Masih and his wife Rubina worked in a factory to feed their family. Muhammad Aslam who worked in the same factory asked them to accept Islam, so he could marry their daughter. Aslam is already married and has 2 children.
On 24th February, Muhammad Aslam along with some Islamists came to the victim’s house and tried to forced them to convert their faith to Islam. Yousaf and his wife decline Aslam’s offer then he and his associates left in anger. Yousaf Masih complained to the manager of the factory, but no action was taken against Muhammad Aslam.
On the 4th March while on their way to work, Yousaf and his wife got a call from a neighbor who told them that Muhammad Aslam along with few armed men intruded their house and had taken their daughter Komal.
The couple rushed home and found their daughter missing. They went to the local police station to register a FIR against the culprit, but the police refused to registered the report. Instead they stated that their daughter had accepted Islam and married to Muhammad Aslam.
Muhammad Aslam and a Muslim Cleric, Qari Javed bullied Yousaf’s family and told them if they did not stop following the girl they will kill them. They said if they converted to Islam they could meet their family.
Yousaf Masih contacted Pastor David, who is his cousin from Multan. He immediately called NGO WVIP for assistance. WVIP started making efforts to rescue the girl, however police refused to cooperate. On 15th March with the efforts of NGO and Local Muslim lawyer, the culprit was forced to produce the girl in the committee which was design to settle in clash. When Komal was produced she told that he by force took her from the house and made her sign papers. She also said that Muhammad Aslam sexually assaulted her everyday.
The report added, “Targeting minor Christian and minority girls in Pakistan is a [pleasurable] event for Muslim males. There are hundreds of girls like Komal who was abducted rape and then forcibly converted to Islam.”
by VOP Foreign Correspondent, Nigeria
In an area of Northern Nigeria where government forces have been fighting to crush an insurgency by radical terrorist group Boko Haram, a Christian girl finds herself as a prisoner on the front lines. Quite literally, in a battle for her own life. In an interview with our Nigerian Correspondent, she tells the story of her captivity and daring escape.
19 year old Hajja was asked by her grandmother (Kaka Saratu Musa) to go with her to pick and gather corn from her abandoned home at Ghwa’a village in the hills of Mandara Mountains—Gwoza local government area of Borno State, Nigeria. Some of Hajja’s freinds, ages 15yr., 12yr. and one under 12 yr. volunteered to accompany them.
After they reached the abandoned home where the grains were kept on the mountaintop, a slim black woman approached them asking to take the cornstalks. When Hajja’s grandmother refused, the woman left without saying a word. Unknown to them was the woman’s true purpose. She came to confirm their arrival and report it to the cousin of Hajja’s father, Isa Varah and Shuaibu Kalakwa Bala who had joined Boko Haram as active members.
In a short time, the woman, an informant and the Boko Haram members came to attack them. All the girls fled except Hajja’s grandmother who was not fast enough to run. Hajja hid among the rocks. When they caught the older woman and began beating her, she could no longer hide and let them hurt her grandmother. When she emerged from her hiding spot, they seized the young girl and released the elderly woman.
They took Hajja to a cave in Klala hills, an area of the mountainous region adjacent to the Cameroon border in Gwoza, Nigeria. There she met a heavy, black bearded insurgent called Kalakwa Wala. That night, they reached the Boko Haram camp inside a dreary cave of Ghraza hills. She spotted Ibrahim Tada Nglayike, the commanding leader of the camp. The following morning, the leader told her that she had been kidnapped because she was among the people that invited the Joint Task Force (JTF) who had killed many of their members. After beating Hajja mercilessly, he demanded she immediately convert to Islam. When she refused, he tied a rope around her neck and brought out a knife to slaughter her. Her father’s cousin intervened and took the knife from Ibrahim’s hand. She was then was given seven days to accept Islam or die.
FORCED INTO ISLAM
On the Seventh day, Isa came to plead with her to accept Islam. He told her even if she did not accept it in her heart, it was better she become a ‘pretend Muslim’ than be slaughtered like animal. He added by saying, “It is the only way to escaped premature death.” Under the extreme pressure and fear, she was forcibly converted and given a Muslim veil to wear. The leader himself started teaching her Quranic verses and how to pray five times in a day. The group was elated with her conversion, as it was the early days of Ramadan fasting. They claimed Allah would reward them bountifully for this great thing they had accomplished.
HER LIFE IN THE BOKO HARAM CAMP
Speaking to our correspondent, Hajja explained that throughout her captivity, they were always on the run. They slept in caves and open places in fear of the Joint Task Force (JTF). They gave her food only after they had eaten, though she had been the one to prepare it. Hajja was one of two women in the group with fifteen armed men. The other woman, named Amina was the wife of the camp leader.
In the Mandara Mountains, they continually moved from place to place and cave to cave. They based in the mountainous region, such as Ghwa’a, Jiga, Klala, Tighadighile, Hirdimbe (Kai-Ktha) to plan and carry out operations on Christians villages. Among their popular route was to mingle with civilians and pretend as innocent people through the Government Secondary School in Ville ward, which directly linked the valleys to the local government headquarters. On another route they waded through rivers.
Hajja described the insurgents locations as rocky and rugged with confusing routes where they traveled. The group journeyed to Shiya Dawe near the Sambisa Games Reserve to get ammunition from a larger insurgent group. They took Hajja and the woman as cover to mislead security personnel at checkpoints. The women were then left afar as the men traveled further into the reserve to meet with their members and returned laden with ammunition.
Hajja described some weapons as very heavy, and recalled an attack where four of the insurgents were unable carry a single weapon on their shoulder. She was not shown where they kept these sophisticated weapons. She also told our reporter that she was taught how to cock a gun, but her major duty was to carry bullets behind the insurgents while their operations were going on.
Hajja had been held in the camp for almost three months serving as cook to the insurgents. She described them as heartless people with wild behaviors. They beat her and warned that if she dared tried to escape they would kill her parents, burn their house and destroy whatever belonged to her. At this point, the insurgents started to trust their hold over her and assumed she would no longer try to escape. They were unaware she had planned to run away.
One day, Hajja pretended she was very ill with a severe stomach problem. The leader ordered his wife, Amina take her to the Hospital in Gwoza to be treated. When they arrived, they saw the hospital was locked and closed. The woman took her to the brother of one of the insurgents, but he refused to host them. Amina decided to take her back to the camp. Hajja decided to set her plan into action, she was not going back. She started struggling with the woman in midst of the populace. Out of the usual capacity of captivity, the leader’s wife tried to force Hajja, but the girl held her ground and alerted the people around them. For fear of being caught, her captor ran and disappeared. Hajja was then taken to her father’s house and later preceded to a different location for safety.
It was quite empathetic how Hajja’s parents suffered a double tragedy. Her brother had been labeled as a Boko Haram member by a powerful politician who disguised insurgents as civilian JTF. Her brother was arrested by the so-called civilian JTF and handed over to military personnel in Yola. After his innocence had been confirmed, her family had been celebrating his release when they saw Hajja freed physically, but suffering from psychological torture. She looked deeply traumatized with a ghostly appearance. They were all brought to tears. The young girl was very anxious and apprehensive, as if she would be returned to captivity at any moment.
Hajja told Voice of the Persecuted’s representative,
“I felt very bad about my conversion as if God would never forgive me.”
It took several counseling sessions before she finally agreed that God would not count it against her. The mental trauma she suffered was not yet fully healed. She was disturbed by sleepless nights with a series of nightmares about the activities of the insurgents. She told them she had not been raped, but she felt like her life had come to an end. She was taken to a medical specialist to be examine medically and psychologically. It was recommended that she change her environment to help her eventually get over the ordeal.
Hajja was then taken to Polytechnic school in Nigerian State to study an engineering course. Her education fee was paid by a bank draft ($1,260) offered to her by VOM. She was given a Bible as well to serve as her companion, she said.
The recent campaign by Boko Haram kidnapping young women and girls like Hajja, continues. They threaten them with death to convert to Islam and then force them into marriage. Many are raped and brutally beaten when they cry or try to speak. They are forced into submission and become their slaves. The Boko Haram has also been using these women as decoys to capture Nigerian soldiers. They suffer even greater psychological torture when the soldiers are caught and throats slit in front of them. Though some may gain their freedom by escape, many remain trapped by the mental trama of what they have endured. Unable to bear what has been done to them, they are often at risk of committing suicide.
Please pray for all those suffering by Boko Haram and other extremists.
Pray for Divine protection of all Nigerian women and girls.
Pray for endurance of those who have been taken captive and for their grieving families.
Pray these captives will be quickly freed from the terrorists.
Pray that God will quickly heal the physical and mental injuries of those who have been abused. And that they will become productive for Him, their communities and in their own lives.
Pray for the insurgents hearts and minds to be severely convicted by God for the atrocities they are committing. Pray they will turn from evil and become followers of Christ. Pray these lost men will come know the love of Jesus and be saved.