14-year-old Mary* lost her freedom and identity all in one day.
After being abducted by a Muslim man, Mary was taken to a Muslim Cleric who coerced her into signing a Qabool-e-Islam certificate, a document that cemented her conversion to Islam and handed her kidnapper even more control over her life and freedom.
With her religious identity legally changed, Mary was forced into marriage with the abductor, becoming his wife and essentially his property. This horrifying situation was made worse by the fact that the documents, despite being obtained through deceit with false claims of consent and age, often lead authorities to believe that no crime has taken place. This legal loophole denies justice to victims like Mary.
Following the forced marriage, Mary’s new husband ensured that the marriage was consummated, subjecting her to rape and further stripping away her choice and will. She endured this traumatic ordeal for five long months, unable to escape her captor’s control until the recovery and extraction team could locate and rescue her.
Now in a safe house, Mary finally has the opportunity to receive the much-needed care, therapy, and healing she deserves. However, her journey to recovery is far from over. Mary is now preparing for a legal battle to challenge the documents she was coerced into signing. Her father has regained custody, and with the support of the team helping them, he is actively involved in the trial against those responsible for his daughter’s suffering.
Unfortunately, the fight for justice comes with its own set of dangers. Mary and her father have received threats and grave warnings since the arrest of both the kidnapper and the Muslim Cleric. These threats serve as a chilling reminder of the lengths some individuals and groups will go to maintain their power and control over vulnerable victims.
In addition to the dangers faced by those who attempt to leave Islam, some Muslim leaders consider it an honor to convert non-Muslim girls and will not relinquish their efforts easily. Forced conversion and forced marriage are on the rise in regions where religious diversity and class systems contribute to the abuse and mistreatment of marginalized groups, particularly those living in poverty.
Read more about religious persecution around the world through Open Door’s World Watch List
By raising awareness and understanding of these issues, we can work towards ensuring that Mary’s story is not repeated and that support is offered to at-risk girls in similar situations.
Mary’s harrowing experience of being kidnapped, sexually abused, and forced to convert to Islam highlights the urgent need for action against forced conversion and forced marriage. This pervasive problem affects countless girls around the world, particularly in regions where religious and class dynamics amplify the abuse. Let us stand together in solidarity with Mary, her family, and the many other girls facing similar dangers by praying for their safety and supporting efforts to bring justice to those responsible.