Christian girls in Pakistan rescued from sex slavery

KARACHI, Pakistan (BP)--Two Christian girls in Pakistan have been rescued after more than a month of captivity as sex slaves to Muslim lawyers in Karachi.

According to International Christian Concern, a human rights organization focused on Christians who are persecuted for their faith, Parvisha Alam, 18, and her 14-year-old sister Sanam of Gujranwala, Pakistan, were abducted Nov. 12 by a neighbor, Muhammad Irfan, who offered them training in cosmetology and jobs in his beauty salon.

When Irfan arrived to take the girls to his shop, he and an accomplice, Muhammed Mehboob, reportedly gave the girls drinks that were drugged. When the sisters awakened, they were locked in a hotel room nearly 500 miles away from home. According to ICC, the two men raped the girls at gunpoint, then took them to Karachi where, after several more days of sexual assault, the girls were forced to convert to Islam.

Promised that if they cooperated they would be released soon, the two girls were taken to meet with two lawyers, identified by ICC as Kokab Sahab-Ul-Din and Nayer Zia-Ul-Din. Irfan reportedly told the lawyers both girls had embraced Islam and wished to enter a government women's shelter. The girls were told the lawyers would present them in court the next day and they would be free to go.

The lawyers then allegedly took the girls to an apartment for the night and gave them a room to sleep in. After the girls had fallen asleep, the lawyers returned and dragged Parvisha Alam into another room and sexually assaulted her, according to the ICC report. Her sister ran to help her, then saw a cell phone lying on a table, which she used to call police. The police arrested Sahab-Ul-Din, and Parvisha was taken immediately to a hospital.

The girls' father, Sharif Alam, who is a pastor, traveled to Karachi to bring his daughters home then contacted CLAAS, a Christian legal group for help. When the CLAAS team visited the family Dec. 31, a crowd of about 35 people gathered outside the house, demanding the "converted" girls be turned over to local Muslim authorities, according to ICC. The crowd began throwing bricks and stones at the house and when Alam went out to talk with them a gun was fired. The mob beat Alam's son Sheraz and was trying to break into the house when police arrived. Three people were arrested for the attack.

Since that incident, Alam's son-in-law, Stian Akram Khokhar, has disappeared, according to the family.

"Christians in Pakistan are often targeted not only for their faith but because they live in poverty and have little means to defend themselves," an ICC spokesman said in a written statement.

The spokesman also requested prayer for the Alams.

"Please pray for Parvisha and Sanam and their family," the spokesman said. "Pray that God would strengthen their faith and heal their wounds. Pray that those responsible for these heinous crimes would be caught and punished appropriately."

About 500,000 young women worldwide are sold into sex slavery each year -- 150,000 of them in southern Asia, according to U.S. State Department figures reported by The New York Times.

ICC suggests concerned parties contact Pakistani embassies and request that the government of Pakistan work harder to protect the rights of religious minorities. A call placed by Baptist Press to Pakistan's embassy in Washington, D.C., was not returned by publication deadline Jan. 15.


Mark Kelly is an assistant editor with Baptist Press.

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