AMSTERDAM: The Overseas Pakistan Christian Association (OPCA) on Wednesday, the occasion of International Women's Day, organised a protest in the Netherlands over the violation of the rights of Christian women and girls in Pakistan.
According to the Netherlands based human rights organisation Global Human Rights Defence (GHRD), a group of close to 102 protestors gathered at Plein 1813 outside the Pakistan Ambassador's residence at 13:00 pm and a protester started by explaining the thought behind the protest.
The protest was covered by the GHRTV crew. It included a live stream of the event, along with videos and pictures. According to GHRD, the occasion of International Women's Day was chosen to convey the terrible condition of minority women and girls in Pakistan, to the Pakistan government, and the Dutch parliament and also to send the message across to the rest of the world.
They displayed various banners reading 'Women's Rights are Human Rights', 'I'm a Child, not a Bride', 'Stop forced conversions of minor girls in Pakistan' and 'Stop forced conversion of Minorities in Pakistan'. The protestors then marched towards the Pakistan Embassy chanting slogans; "Stop forced conversions", "We want justice", and "Save our Daughters".
They then gathered outside the Pakistan Embassy and continued chanting the above slogans and also said that they want freedom everywhere, in cities, villages, schools, colleges and all walks of life-that minorities should enjoy equal rights as any other Pakistan resident and not have to live in constant fear.
A protestor said that they were the voice of all the Christian and other minority women and girls in Pakistan who are being terrorized and are unable to live a normal life there. He said that this was not their first time protesting and that they had organized several such protests in Pakistan and other places and would continue to do so till their voices were heard by the Ambassador of Pakistan and conveyed to the Pakistan government.
He appealed to the Ambassador saying "Is it a crime to be a minority in Pakistan?" "Are our daughters and sisters criminals who can be subject to rape, abductions and forced conversions? "He said all such perpetrators should be caught and punished and till justice was not done, such protests would continue. Stories and thoughts on the forced conversions were shared by a number of protestors.
They shared how young minor girls aged 12-14 years were abducted and forcibly married to much older Muslim men. Once they were converted to Islam, very often people claimed that it was done with their consent. They, however, argued that it was more out of fear than consent, as an underage minor was not capable of making such life-changing decisions by themselves.
The protestors then marched towards the Dutch Parliament and the OPCA President Wilson along with three other association members went with the petition to meet Stieneke van Der Graaf, a Member of the House of Representatives of the Christian Union in the Netherlands. The remaining protestors stood outside the building and continued with the protests and appealed to the Pakistan government to help every Christian girl and woman in Pakistan, especially working women who also faced discrimination at work.
MEP Stieneke van Der Graaf promised that she would raise her voice in the parliament and also ask the Dutch government to act with the EU against Pakistan, for trade and protecting minorities in Pakistan. The protest then dispersed outside the Dutch Parliament at 1500 hours, according to GHRD.
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