Kinza is just 14 years old, lives in Lahore, one of Pakistan’s main cities, and was kidnapped from her home on 19 September last year by five men. Raped, forced to convert to Islam and marry one of the kidnappers, the young girl was eventually released after her parents alerted the police and the case reached court. But the problems did not end there and the family has been threatened.
It’s not just a story, or another story. It is a real life drama that is happening in Pakistan. Girls, teenagers and women belonging to religious minorities are kidnapped, raped and forced to marry, after they are also forced to convert to Islam. Every year, hundreds of girls fall prey to extremists who feel they can act with impunity. Data from the European Parliament for 2018 pointed to around a thousand cases every year. The Christian minority is one of the hardest hit. Many of the kidnapped girls never return to their families, but those who manage to free themselves from their captors often continue to be the target of intimidation.
Kinza Sindhu is still very young, only 14 years old, but she is fearless enough not to remain silent. Kinza told her story to Kamran Chaudhry of Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) Pontifical Foundation. She always spoke in Urdu, her native language. With the help of an interpreter, she recalled what happened to her on September 19, 2022.
“My parents, both cooks, were away at work. My older sister was in the kitchen when I heard a knock on the front door around noon. When I opened the door, armed men pulled me out and pushed me into a van. I recognized two of them, but the rest were unknown.” Forced to take a pill, Kinza was knocked unconscious. She was taken to an unknown location where she was raped at gunpoint.
“The next day, the boy who raped me brought a bearded man to register the nikah [Muslim marriage]. I told them I was a Christian and refused to repeat the Arabic verses. I was told to just listen calmly. They forced me to sign a white paper and take my fingerprints. They also made videos of the ceremony with the phone.”
Threatening phone calls
As soon as they found out what had happened, Kinza’s parents went to a police station to file a complaint, asking for help with their daughter’s release. A legal battle began. The kidnapper who raped Kinza and who tried to forge her conversion to Islam and also the marriage, presented the ‘nikahnama’, that is, the Islamic marriage contract, to the authorities. The case was taken to the Lahore Court. Before the judge, the young Christian girl told her story, denying the conversion.
“The judge let me go back to my family after the second hearing,” reports Kinza. But the problems did not end there. As often happens whenever a young girl manages to free herself from the hands of her captors, they threaten their families, to the point of sometimes being forced to move house, leaving the neighborhood or even the city where they live. The same thing is happening now with Kinza.
“I am concerned for my family who are still receiving threatening calls from unknown numbers,” she says. On the phone, they threaten her parents that if she doesn’t return to her kidnapper, they will be caught and beaten. “They are planning to move to another neighbourhood”, says the young Christian girl. “I worry about them,” she adds.
“I want a normal life…”
During these six months of ordeal, Kinza Sindhu felt courage in faith and prayer. Even when she was kidnapped, this happened. “I prayed in my heart, sometimes I recited the Rosary”, she said during the conversation with ACN. During this time, there were many moments of despair; of almost resigning to fate.
“I had lost all hope. It was God who sent help in the form of the lawyers who fought my case and brought me back.” Now, despite the kidnappers’ threats, Kinza is already thinking about the future. “I dropped out of school during 5th grade in 2019. Now I want to continue my studies and try to lead a normal life. I want to do something big with my life and become a police officer. I want to help others…”