Nayab Gill was just 13 years old when she was taken from her home in Gujranwala, Pakistan, by her Muslim employer. She was forced to convert to Islam and made to marry her abductor at gunpoint, a fate faced by dozens of minor Christian girls in Pakistan each year. Two years after her kidnapping, Nayab made a daring escape and is now sharing her story.
On May 20, 2021, Nayab Gill's employer, Saddam Hayat, a 30-year-old married father of four children, reportedly arrived at her home to "take her to work" in his vehicle.
"Saddam was a frequent visitor to our house," said Nayab. "He owned some shops in our area, one of which was rented by my father. Saddam promised to pay me a salary of 10,000 Pakistani Rupees ($34) and said the money would help my poor family to supplement its income. My father reluctantly agreed to his proposal because Saddam told him that I was like his own daughter."
Nayab recalls that Saddam at least twice tried to make advances on her at work, compelling her to keep a safe distance.
"I was afraid that if I told my family about Saddam's advances, my father would stop me from going to work, and my family would lose the money that we needed so desperately," she said.
On the day of the kidnapping, instead of taking her to the salon where she worked selling facial products, Saddam took her to a deserted house, where he forced her to renounce her Christian faith and sign a blank paper. Nayab says that soon after being held hostage, Saddam threatened her at gunpoint that if she did not succumb to his will, he would kill her and her father.
"I screamed and cried, but no one heard me. After getting the paper forcibly signed, Saddam locked me up in a room and left," she said. "I was kept there for two days, during which I was given food only once in 24 hours."
"On the third day, Saddam came and told me that my father had registered a case of abduction against him. He told me that I would be presented before a judge, and if I did not testify that I had converted to Islam and married him of my free will, my family and I would be killed on the court's premises."
Nayab recorded a statement in court in her abductor's favor. He was given custody of Nayab as his lawful wife in front of her helpless parents, who shed tears for their young daughter.
Nayab's ordeal worsened after the court gave custody to her abductor.
"Saddam then took me to his own house and locked me up in a room on the second floor," she said. "During my two-year captivity, he repeatedly assaulted me against my will and treated me like a slave. But I did not lose hope and my faith in Christ!"
"I prayed every night, saying, 'God, please help me.' I would also pray for my family's safety. They refused to give up and kept moving through the court system for my recovery. But I was too scared to reveal the truth. Each time I was summoned in court, I would say that I was an adult and had married Saddam with my free will."
"Saddam's family treated me like an outcast. They often humiliated me for being born to a Christian family. There were times when I thought I should end my life, but I think it was my faith in God that gave me the strength to face that situation."
In April 2023, Nayab found a chance to escape.
"It was the last week of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan when Saddam's former wife registered a case against him for threatening her," she said. "Fearing arrest, Saddam and his brothers fled the house, but in the rush of things, they forgot to lock me up.
"It seemed God had answered my prayers for freedom. I discreetly left the house and started running, not even knowing where the road would lead me."
"I stopped at a market to catch my breath when a Muslim woman approached me. She must have sensed that something was not right. She asked me if I needed help. I told her that I did not have any money or a phone to contact my father. She took me to her house, where I was able to get in touch with my family."
Nayab was soon reunited with her parents.
"I don't have words to express the joy I felt when I saw my father," she said. "Tears rolled down our eyes as he hugged me and kissed my forehead, promising to keep me safe forever."
Nayab's father filed a second petition with the Supreme Court in July 2021 after the High Court rejected his first petition and sent the girl with her abductor. The Supreme Court set a hearing for the newest petition a full two years in the future, dampening the family's hopes of recovering their child. Once the court finally heard the case in September 2023, it dismissed the petition as being "infructuous," or pointless, because the girl had been reunited with her family.
The Supreme Court's decision has left the door open for more sexual exploitation of underage Christian girls in Pakistan in the guise of religious conversion.
"I was expecting that the Supreme Court would hear my story, but it seems it wasn't interested. I now want to resume my education and make friends. I don't have friends anymore. I even asked my mother to let me cut my hair because I want to be like a boy. It's not safe to be a girl in Pakistan."
Global Christian Relief (GCR) is America’s leading watchdog organization focused on the plight of persecuted Christians worldwide. In addition to equipping the Western church to advocate and pray for the persecuted, GCR works in the most restrictive countries to protect and encourage Christians threatened by faith-based discrimination and violence.