By Abdulla Gaafarelkhalifa
On December 22, 2021, 14-year-old Arzoo Fatima, a girl who was kidnapped and forcibly married to a 44-year-old Muslim man, has agreed to return to her parents after being away from them for over a year. The agreement carries the condition that she is allowed to continue to practice Islam while being raised by her Catholic parents.
A year after being sent to shelter home 14 yr old #Arzoo today gave statement before Hon' SHc that she wants to remain Muslim but wants to return back to her parents who are Christian. Parents submitted they have no objection to her change of faith. Court will give order today... https://t.co/ND4fGj5vag
— M. Jibran Nasir (@MJibranNasir) December 22, 2021
On October 13, 2020, Raja Masih, Arzoo’s father, filed a First Information Report (FIR) saying that she was kidnapped from her home. The police found that she had been married to 44-year-old Syed Ali Azhar, who presented a nikkahnama (Muslim marriage certificate).
Although Azhar had the marriage certificate, the marriage was invalid, as the legal age of marriage for women in Pakistan is 16. One month later, on November 23, authorities took Arzoo to a shelter home, as she declined to go with her parents. The court allowed her to stay in the shelter until she decided what to do.
Arzoo remained in the shelter until last week, when she filed an application to be returned to her parents. On Twitter, Azroo’s parents’ attorney, Jibran Nasir, announced “A year after being sent to shelter home 14 yr old #Arzoo today gave statement before Hon' SHc that she wants to remain Muslim but wants to return back to her parents who are Christian. Parents submitted they have no objection to her change of faith.”
Although Azhar admitted to having sexual relations with Azroo, he is now out on bail. Nasir is currently working to prosecute Azhar under the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act and rape laws.