A Cape Town mother and her two young children have been freed in a dramatic rescue carried out in a remote corner of Pakistan and spirited out of the country by SA officials and the humanitarian organisation Gift of the Givers.
The rescue, carried out in a raid organised by Pakistani police and intelligence operatives, came after Sajida (*surname witheld) alerted SA embassy officials in Islamabad to her plight.
As she was unable to give authorities details of her location, Pakistani police and intelligence agents began a massive search, eventually locating her and her young daughter and son in a rural area where they had allegedly been held captive for two years. The woman said she had been abused physically, verbally and emotionally.
Once they had traced her, authorities placed her and her children in a closely guarded safe house, where they stayed for five days.
Through arrangements made by SA High Commission officials, Gift of the Givers – an internationally recognised humanitarian relief organisation – put the mother and children on a plane on Tuesday bound for SA.
Gift of the Givers founder Dr Imtiaz Sooliman said he strongly believed there were many more South Africans who were being held against their will, “especially in Africa”.
“The position that the family were in was terrible,” he said.
“Held without being allowed to contact one’s family is an emotional disaster.
“The abuse of South African women by foreign nationals is apparently a huge problem that is kept under wraps.
“Over the past few days we have been given the impression that… South African women (are) lured into marriage by smooth-talking, convincing, loving and caring foreign nationals… (leading) to severe oppression, abuse, emotional trauma and intense hardship.”
Sooliman said Sajida had married a Pakistani national and moved to Pakistan with her husband and daughter in 2010 just after the birth of their son.
He said that according to SA officials, Sajida was at breaking point. “She presented a 10-page testimony in a Pakistani court on Monday that detailed months of emotional, physical and verbal abuse, including prolonged periods of ‘captivity’, allegedly by her husband and his family.”
The isolation of the mother and her children had allegedly been done, according to her husband and his family, to “culturalise” them.
But Sooliman said what was done to Sajida and to others like her was “inexcusable”.
“We need to determine the prevalence of such dehumanising abuse and ensure that it is stopped.”
Sooliman said Sajida was expected, with her children, to be reunited with her family on Wednesday. She would receive trauma counselling.
Anyone aware of similar cases may call Gift of the Givers’ toll-free care line 0800 786 786