March 30, 2012 – SAPAC, Washington, DC: On 24th February, 2012 , a young Hindu girl named Rinkel Kumari was abducted from her home in a small village in Sindh, Pakistan. It was a full twelve hours before her family discovered where she was. Rinkel, aged 19, had been forced to change her religion to Islam and to marry a young man named Naveed Shah. Her parents immediately filled a first information report and brought her case before a civil judge. The court house was surrounded by thugs and supporters of the Pakistani Peoples’ Party Member of the National Assembly (PPP MNA) who was assisting Naveed. Under tremendous pressure, and obvious duress, Rinkel testified that she had married and converted to Islam of her own will. The judge released her into Naveed’s custody. Unsatisfied with the verdict, the Hindu community in Sindh rallied together to demand justice for Rinkel and other Hindu girls who had faced the same fate.
Rinkel’s case was brought to our organization’s attention just a few short weeks after Rinkel was first forcefully taken. We began advocating on Rinkel’s behalf on March 8th. In the three weeks since, we have written multiple letters to Members of Congress urging them to take action to ensure the safe return of Rinkel to her family. We have met with several Congressmen’s offices and raised awareness about Rinkel. One of these meetings was with Congressman Louie Gohmert (R-TX). We have sent out emails, written letters, and posted information on online message boards. Our hope is that our efforts to increase awareness will bring justice to Rinkel and her family, and that her alleged kidnappers will be held accountable for their actions. Congressman Brad Sherman (D-CA) sent an open letter to President Azif Ali Zardari asking for just that.
Rinkel’s case has caused a huge stir both nationally and internationally.
On March 26th, Rinkel appeared before the Pakistani Supreme Court. Rinkel was clearly distressed. We held our breath, prayed and hoped that justice would be done. But we are still waiting. The Chief Justice deferred the case until April 18th and ordered that Rinkel be placed in a protective custody at Darul-Aman women’s shelter in Karachi where she could be free to consider her testimony without pressure from either side. Despite this apparent setback, we continue in our efforts to free Rinkel and bring an end to this abhorrent practice of kidnapping and forced conversion. Although fearful for Rinkel’s life, we continue to work on her behalf and hope for her safety daily. We long for the day when Rinkel will be reunited with her family and it is our hope that that day will be April 18th.