Kidnapped Woman, Arti Kumari Sharma, is Niece of Pakistani Origin Immigrant Based in HoustonWashington, DC (September 12, 2017) — The Hindu American Foundation (HAF) called for the immediate release of Arti Kumari Sharma, a 20 year-old Hindu woman who was kidnapped at gunpoint this past Saturday near her home in Khairpur District in Pakistan’s southern Sindh province.
Arti’s uncle, Kishwar Sharma, a Houston resident and native of Pakistan, recently escaped religious persecution in Pakistan to immigrate to the US.
"I am deeply distraught to find out my niece was kidnapped at gunpoint near her house,” said Sharma. “Arti is engaged to be married in November and is the second girl to be kidnapped in my family."
Arti, a teacher at Qasim Model School, was abducted on her way home by a Muslim landlord, Ammer Wassan, taken to a local mosque where she was forcibly converted to Islam and married against her will to a man named Amir Bux. She was also reportedly coerced into signing an affidavit claiming that she married Bux and converted out of her own free will.
Despite her family filing a First Information Report with local police, Arti has not been allowed to return home and will be brought before the Sindh High Court on September 12.
“Arti’s basic civil rights and freedom have been flagrantly violated, in contradiction of Pakistani law and international human rights law,” said Rishi Bhutada, HAF Board Member and Houston resident. “We urge the Sindh High Court to order the immediate release and safe return of Arti to her family.”
Many NGOs and human rights groups, including Global Human Rights Defence (GHRD) and the Movement for Solidarity and Peace, have estimated that more than 1,000 Hindu and Christian girls and women are kidnapped and forced to convert to Islam annually. The courts and legal system in Pakistan are often complicit in sanctioning this practice by accepting false documents and statements obtained through force, threats, or coercion.
The Foundation has extensively documented this trend and other human rights violations against Pakistani Hindus in its annual human rights report, Hindus in South Asia and the Diaspora: A Survey of Human Rights, 2017.