After being kidnapped at the age of 16 by a group of thugs and enduring a year of rapes and beatings, Assiya Rafiq was delivered to the police and thought her problems were over.
Then, she said, four police officers took turns raping her.
The next step for Assiya was obvious: She should commit suicide. That’s the customary escape in rural Pakistan for a raped woman, as the only way to cleanse the disgrace to her entire family.
Instead, Assiya summoned the unimaginable courage to go public and fight back. She is seeking to prosecute both her kidnappers and the police, despite threats against her and her younger sisters. This is a kid who left me awed and biting my lip; this isn’t a tale of victimization but of valor, empowerment and uncommon heroism.
“I decided to prosecute because I don’t want the same thing to happen to anybody else,” she said firmly.
Assiya’s case offers a window into the quotidian corruption and injustice endured by impoverished Pakistanis — leading some to turn to militant Islam.
“When I treat a rape victim, I always advise her not to go to the police,” said Dr. Shershah Syed, the president of the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Pakistan. “Because if she does, the police might just rape her again.”
Yet Assiya is also a sign that change is coming. She says she was inspired by Mukhtar Mai, a young woman from this remote village of Meerwala who was gang raped in 2002 on the orders of a village council. Mukhtar prosecuted her attackers and used the compensation money to start a school.
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The Pakistani police and the thugs who raped her are cowards. Do they not fear the wrath of Allah? Do they not fear the hellfire? I pray that Allah delivers justice. I pray to Allah that those who forbid the evil and promote the good are victorious. Ameen!