A U.K. Catholic charity has launched a petition to grant asylum to a 14-year-old Christian girl in Pakistan who was kidnaped, raped, and forced to wed a Muslim man.
The girl, Maira Shahbaz, was abducted in April by a man named Mohamad Nakash. The Lahore High Court ruled that Shahbaz had to remain with Nakash despite the fact that she had been abducted at gunpoint, drugged, gang-raped, forced to convert to Islam, and married against her will. Nakash also fabricated Shahbaz's age on the official marriage certificate, claiming she was 19 to circumvent Pakistan's child marriage laws.
Shahbaz ran away from Nakash several weeks later and has been hiding in the Faisalabad area.
Earlier this month, a high court nullified the marriage in a similar case with a 44-year-old man and a 13-year-old girl. While the charity – called Aid to the Church in Need – is hopeful the courts will rule to protect young girls, they argue Shahbaz's life will remain in danger no matter the ruling.
"Regardless of what the court eventually decides, Maira's life will forever be in danger," said the charity. "There is the threat of honor killing. Extremists in Pakistan consider her an apostate and will kill her at the first chance. Her lawyer said men have been looking for her, knocking on doors, and asking for her whereabouts."
This continued danger is the charity's justification for the petition to bring Shahbaz to the U.K.
"[This] shocking case is a chance for Britain to show its commitment to Christian welfare who so often feel abandoned by the West," said Aid to the Church in Need's spokesperson John Pontifex.
🔦 According to one study, there are around 1,000 Pakistani women and girls every year who are abducted and forced to convert to Islam and wed their captors.