Catholic Christian Noreen Bashir, 14, who was kidnapped and forced to embrace Islam was returned to her parents and provided with free legal aid and shelter by CLAAS.

Her parish priest Rev. Fr. Mushtaq Piyara contacted CLAAS for help and support after she was abducted by 35-year-old Muslim Aftab Sarfraz aged 35, converted to Islam and forced to marry him.

Noreen is from Thatta Gondal, a small village close to the city of Hafizabad, and has two Christian families who are living among more than 100 Muslim families. The majority of people are illiterate.

Christian families are deprived of religious freedom and they do not go to the church for prayers . Noreen’s family have lived here since the time of her forefathers.

Noreen’s parents are Bashir Masih aged 45, and Ruqqiya Bibi, aged 30, and they do not have a lot of money. She has six brothers and sisters

Her father is a labourer and her mother is a house wife. She lived in a clay house along with her family, and during the monsoon the roof was damaged.

In November, despite his limited means, Bashir Masih hired local mason Aftab Sarfraz to carry out the work. But because they could not afford to hire more than one worker, the family, including Noreen worked alongside Aftab to repair the roof.

Sometimes when the other family members were away from the house she had to work alone with Aftab. And on one occasion Aftab took advantage and forcefully took Noreen with him to his friend’s place in Sargodha, where he married her under Islamic rites and converted her to Islam

Noreen’s family informed Dr. Rafaqat, the president of the Christian community and who runs his own clinic and pharmacy in Thatha Gondal. Dr. Rafaqat Masih promised to help Bashir Masih. He gathered a few influential Muslims to pressurize Aftab and his family to return the girl to her parents as she is a minor and been forced to embrace Islam and get married.

In December Noreen’s parents reported the matter to police and applied for a case to be registered against Aftab for kidnapping Noreen.

In the same month, Fr. Mushtaq asked CLAAS for shelter for Noreen as they were afraid Muslims extremists would harm the Christian community or Noreen’s parents, to make sure Noreen kept her forced Muslim faith for life.

Eventually Aftab and his family went to Dr. Rafaqat’s house with Noreen and they returned her. Aftab apologise to Noreen’s parents and also requested them to withdraw the legal case against him, saying that he would never disturb Noreen and her family in the future. He also said that Noreen is not his wife any more. The police was also present at the time and completed all written requirements.

CLAAS arranged for the safe travel of Noreen to Lahore through Dr. Rafaqat Masih and his wife Razia Bibi. Dr. Rafaqat and Fr. Mushtaq asked CLAAS for legal assistance in this case as there isneed to file for the dissolution of marriage petition in the Session Court get her legally divorced.