PAKISTAN: Girl of 12’s life as chained slave

Farah Shaheen (©Aid to the Church in Need).
Farah Shaheen (©Aid to the Church in Need).

The father of a 12-year-old Christian girl – kidnapped, raped, shackled hand and foot, and forced to work from dusk till dawn – has at last spoken out about her ordeal.

When police rescued Farah Shaheen from the Faisalabad house of 45-year-old Khizar Ahmed Ali (Hayat) in December 2020, she was too traumatised to speak but, bit by bit, has revealed her harrowing five-month ordeal to her father, Asif Masih.

In a statement to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Mr Masih said his daughter was attached to a chain and forced to work all day “as a slave” damaging her shackled hands and feet in the process.

Mr Masih said: “Farah has told me she was treated like a slave. She was forced to work all day, cleaning filth in a cattle yard. 24-7 she was attached to a chain.”

Condemning Mr Ahmed for forcing Farah to marry him and convert to Islam, he said: “She was sexually assaulted by her abductor and raped multiple times by [his] landlords”.

Mr Masih described his “dismay” at the alleged failure of the police, the courts and medical professionals, whom he accuses of “repeatedly letting us down” for failing to do justice for his daughter.

He said that, in spite of an official birth certificate confirming Farah was only 12 in June when she was abducted, a medical report, commissioned by the courts assessing the legitimacy of her marriage to Mr Ahmed, gave the girl’s age as between 16 and 17.

Criticising the medics, who examined Farah’s teeth, bones and genitalia, he said: “The findings of this medical report we, as a family, dismiss as an utter fabrication, a travesty of justice and an insult to the independence of the medical profession. It is an outright lie.”

He spoke out against the judiciary which – pending a court case into the legitimacy of her marriage to a man more than 30 years her senior – placed Farah in a women’s refuge rather than allowing her to go home to her family.

Mr Masih said: “It is imperative that the courts annul the marriage conducted against Farah’s will and allow her to come home.

“It is urgent that she returns to us for the good of her mental health.”

He said: “Farah needs psychological help. She was already vulnerable as she lost her mother – my wife – five years ago.

“Farah has serious symptoms of mental distress… She speaks in broken sentences and her powers of reason and decision making are seriously impaired.”

Mr Masih blasted the police for failing to act in June 2020 when he reported that Farah had been abducted and for taking three months to register the case.

He said: “When I reported to the police that Farah had been abducted, I was called ‘churrah’ which means filthy, a term of rebuke often used against Christians.

“The police refused to listen to me and it was nearly three months before a FIR [First Information Report] was opened in this case.”

Mr Masih stressed: “The police, the courts, the judiciary and the medics have repeatedly let us down.”

Reports have now emerged that the Municipal Committee Hafizabad, the city where Farah was taken after her abduction, has declared her certificate of marriage to Mr Ali to be a false document.

Mr Masih went on to pay tribute to those who are supporting abducted girls in Pakistan, including Bishop Iftikhar Indryas, and called on people to pray for Farah and an end to abductions and forced conversions in the country.

Describing the mistreatment of girls from minority faith backgrounds as “a cancer in our society”, he said: “I beg you to demand that the Government stops this evil in its tracks and brings the culprits to justice.”

Pakistan’s Movement for Solidarity and Peace estimates that up to 1,000 young Christian and Hindu females between 12 and 25 are abducted each year.