More than 8,500 poeple have signed a petition urging the British government to grant asylum to a young Pakistani girl who was abducted, raped, and forced to convert to Islam. Maira Shahbaz, 14, is now at risk of being killed for apostasy if she is not granted safe haven outside of her native country.
The young girl was kidnapped at gunpoint close to her home in Madina Town, near Faisalabad, back in April. She says that her abductors — three men — drugged and then raped her; Shahbaz says that her tormentors filmed the rape and used it as blackmail, forcing her to marry a Muslim man, and to convert to Islam.
Shahbaz fled her captor, Mohamad Nakash Tariq, in August after Lahore's High Court ruled that she must stay with him and be a "good wife".
Maira is now in hiding and the family’s lawyer, Sumera Shafique, has penned an open letter pleading for her asylum, saying: “Maira’s life is in constant danger because she is condemned as an apostate by her abductor and his supporters.
“Unless Maira and her family can leave Pakistan they will always be at risk of being killed.”
Mr Nakash Tariq has accused Maira of apostasy after she renounced her forced conversion to Islam. Apostasy can be punishable by death under Pakistan's draconian penal code.
Now, ahead of the upcoming "Red Wednesday" event in solidarity with persecuted Christians across the globe, a petition urging the government to grant asylum in the UK is gaining momentum.
Neville Kyrke-Smith, National Director, ACN (UK), said: “It is a week to go until #RedWednesday and it is great to see so much support for Maira. Yet, we need even more people to see red about such terrible injustice and lend their voices to this vital campaign.
“Maira’s life is in grave danger. People have been going door to door looking for her. Extremists within Pakistan consider Maira an apostate and will kill her if they can.
“That is why we call on the UK government to grant her asylum so that she can be free of these constant threats to her life.”
You can sign the petition here.