A young Christian woman in Pakistan has described how she struggled for her life when a man entered her home at gunpoint, began raping her and tried to kill her after she refused to marry him and convert to Islam.
Neelam Majid Masih, 30, is determined to tell her story in spite of reports that friends and family of alleged culprit Faisal Basra are trying to hunt her down and kill her for standing up to him.
Mr Basra, who is in his late 20s, has pleaded guilty after being charged with rape under section 376 of the Pakistan Penal Crime and faces 10 years in prison.
Miss Masih told Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), which campaigns for persecuted Christians: “I want the world to know what happened to me.”
Her lawyer, Sumera Shafique, says her decision to go public is “very unusual” as most victims are cowed into silence.
Miss Masih said she was alone at home in Nanokay, a village in the Punjab province when Mr Basra “entered my home at gunpoint, dragged me to my bedroom and began to punch and kick me.
“He threw me on the bed and started to rape me. He demanded I marry him and convert to Islam. I refused. I am not willing to deny Jesus and he said that if I would not agree he would kill me.”
“He hit me on the face with his pistol and I shouted and screamed and tried to escape but he kept pulling me back, dragging me by my hair.”
Eventually, Neelam’s neighbour, Nasir Masih, who is also her second cousin, heard her cries and rushed round, at which point Mr Basra disappeared into the night.
Neelam says that had her cousin not acted, she would have been killed.
Nearly four months on, Neelam is still recovering from injuries to her face, shoulder and legs.
Underlining the continuing threat from Mr Basra’s family, she said: “I am determined to struggle for my faith, my life and my community.”
Neelam, who is studying for a Master of Philiosphy degree at the Gujranwala Institute of Fundamental Technology, said that, as the only educated Christian woman in her village, she is committed to speaking out against oppression and abuse.
Saying that Christians were very vulnerable in her village because there are only 15 Christian families there, she added: “My family is very poor. My mother has two jobs as a sweeper and has done everything she can for my education and it is very important that I stand up for my community.”
Stressing that Neelam is in hiding, Ms Shafique, said: “Neelam is a very brave woman. Struggling against this man has taken great courage.
“Most girls feel ashamed and submit to the demands of the attacker. They don’t want to tell anyone. They are usually easily threatened.
“But Neelam remains faithful to Jesus and is determined to tell her story to bring an end to attacks on Christian girls and young women.”
The Movement for Solidarity and Peace in Pakistan calculates that every year up to 1,000 young Christian and Hindu women and girls aged between 12 and 25 are abducted by Muslim men.