News of Saima Iqbal’s forced conversion to Islam via an abduction, severe beatings and coerced Nikah (Islamic marriage contract), first circulated onto the public domain last month.
Holding a passion for persecuted Christian cases can be deeply frustrating – from a writing/spreading awareness vantage – as such cases are barely registered at local police stations, much less become international headlines. This situation is no different. I’ve researched Saima’s ordeal yet any information is limited and repetitive. There are reports that the incident occurred in February, but was only recorded in March. Although this can’t be confirmed this is hardly surprising.
As I delved through Asia Bibi Vs The State ( http://www.supremecourt.gov.pk/web/user_files/File/Crl.A._39_L_2015.pdf) , it was noted on numerous occasions that the local police delayed registering a FIR (first information report), which by law must be recorded by police as soon as complainants/eye-witnesses report an incident. In all the blasphemy and religious minority cases I have researched in Pakistan, the delaying of , or a blatant lack of the FIR procedure is paradigmatic.
Enclosed below is a personal video account from Saima herself. Given the sparse reporting of persecuted Christian cases, video uploads are crucial and I truly hope they become more utilised, at a time where even villagers possess mobiles. They an excellent tool in granting us a first-hand insight, into the Minority experience in Pakistan.
This was devastating to witness, but necessary: Saima’s pain is raw, palpable and speaks for itself.
Naveed, husband to Saima, encourages her to not cry and relay her ordeal: ‘people don’t know what happens to us in this country, this is our fate. We’re Christians!’
Saima recounts two men abducting her, one of which she identifies as ‘Khalid’ and the other a friend of Khalid. She recalls being beaten severely in a room, proceeding to show the bruises she is able to on camera. Naveed points out some of these overt scars: ‘can you see this? The police didn’t see it, neither did the Commissioner’ . Saima recalls further, shoving her kameez up her arm to reveal more of her bruises: ‘I have more on my body, if I was uncovered I could show you, I became very uncovered, I can’t show you!’
She goes on to talk about her forced marriage contract, after having coerced sexual relations with him for two days. She told by Khalid that if she spoke about her ordeal and if she didn’t become a Muslim, he would kill her entire family, including her children. The police willfully ignored her account, leaving her to conclude ‘you tell me, what am I supposed to do?’
This two minute clip reveals the plight of the average Christian in Pakistan, particularly those who already part of the working class and predisposed to degradation. Women are especially a target, on a daily basis , whilst working on farms, brick kilns or simply walking to and from their homes. The dishonouring of Saima is painful. The fact that a middle-aged mother and wife is able to be violated in this manner – and with a silent aftermath- is telling of the dismissive and largely indifferent mentality towards the systematic suffering of religious minorities in Pakistan.