“We just want our daughter back”: Saneha’s parents speak out

Saneha Kinza Iqbal is a 16-year-old Christian girl who was abducted last month by a Muslim man nearly twice her age in Pakistan. Below is an exclusive interview with her parents, undertaken by the IDS-led CREID programme. This blog is part of CREID’s overall work to shine an international spotlight on the endemic and under-reported issue of targeting women from religious minorities.

Saneha Kinzar Iqbal, the abducted Pakistani teenager, at a family celebration

Saneha Kinzar Iqbal, the abducted Pakistani teenager, at a family celebration. Image courtesy of Saneha’s family.

Saneha, 16, was on her way to church when she was abducted by a Muslim man. Her family is convinced this was against her will and that Saneha is to be forcefully converted and married.

Such incidents occur regularly in Pakistan, sometimes they are not even reported, and affect a large number of girls from religious minorities each year. Although the abductor is known – he used to work as a security guard in the hospital Saneha visited to see her mother who was hospitalised after injuring her leg – the police initially refused to register any case against the abductor and then took documents referring to her conversion to Islam to mean that no crime has been committed. However, with the help of a local organisation, Saneha’s parents got a case registered concerning her abduction. We spoke with her parents and they say… (see English translation below)

Read the introduction to Saneha parents’ interview in Urdu.

Interview with Saneha’s parents (Urdu)

English translation of CREID interview with Saneha’s parents

We have been living here for 30 years. We have 6 children, 5 boys and one girl. Saneha is the youngest. We always had a good relationship with the local community and with our neighbours. We have never done anything for which the people in the community should resent us. Christians and Muslims here live together peacefully.

Saneha was living happily with us and there wasn’t any discussion or instance that could have led her to change her religion. As far as we can remember, there is no instance that could make us think that she was interested in any other religion. She was happy with her brothers, and they would always take care of her.

She was mostly interested and focused on her studies. She always says that she doesn’t want to get married. She wants to get a good education, a good job and be independent. She wants to live independently after getting a good job.

The last time we spoke with our daughter was on the night of the 22nd of August. We were sitting together at home. When we woke up the next morning, she went to church, but she didn’t come back at night. We then started looking for her in the neighbourhood and at our relatives’. Then, slowly, our neighbours started to talk and told us that three people, two men and a woman, got her in a car and left. She never came back, and we haven’t had any contact with her since.

First, we tried to solve the situation through negotiation. We tried multiple times to get in contact with the abductors and their family and to talk with them through different people. They swore on the Prophet that they would return our girl and they would not keep her with them. Even the people that were negotiating for them promised that they would return the girl, but then they stepped back. When we realised that wasn’t going to happen, we went to the police.

However, we don’t know of any action taken by the police; they didn’t go after the abductor or his family, nor rescue our daughter. There wasn’t any effort by the police to bring her back or rescue her. We did not receive any reassuring news. We don’t know if and when our daughter will come back. We don’t know if the administration or the police are trying to do that. So, we are seeking legal help through a lawyer. We also receive support from an organisation, and we raise our voice publicly so that our daughter can return home as soon as possible.

We do need support to get our girl back. It is particularly the government’s responsibility to look into this matter since they have the means and the institutions to get justice for Saneha. We will keep looking for justice here in the lower court, and we will bring the case to the Higher Court if necessary.

People can definitely help by raising their voices against this injustice, negotiating or pressuring our government to help us bring her back and get justice. We would like to ask everyone to sign this petition. The more people that sign it, the more attention we will get so that it can reach the Prime Minister and other important people who can help us recover our daughter.

We would also like to appeal to all the people of Pakistan. They need to support us in our effort to get justice not only for our daughter, but for all the children that are facing the same situations and challenges. Every religion teaches good things and no true believer – no matter which religion they follow and if they are true to their faith – would do such things. The people who commit these crimes are damaging the true spirit of Pakistan where people from different faiths live together. These people and their families are damaging this harmony and the different communities who live here.

We hope that people will stand for justice and pressure the authorities.

Raise your voice for Saneha

  • On Sunday 20 September, Claire Thomas, Minority Rights Group’s Deputy Director, was interviewed on BBC Radio 4. She talked about Saneha’s case and that of other girls in Pakistan on the religious affairs programme. Listen to Claire Thomas’ BBC R4 interview – it starts at 12mins23.
  • Read Claire Thomas’ blog on why Saneha’s story matters
  • Sign the petition asking the Prime Minister of Pakistan to allow Saneha to decide where and with whom she lives.