Pakistan Gang Rape Victim Still Seeks Justice After 5 Years; Losing Brother

Watch Outlawed in Pakistan on PBS. See more from FRONTLINE.

Five years later, Kainat Soomro, an 18-year-old Pakistani woman, is still seeking justice for a violent gang rape committed against her involving four men when she was barely a teen.

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Soomro says she was kidnapped, drugged, and raped by four men when she was 13. She claims she was raped in a shop owned by Shaban Shaikh, one of the accused. The men, led by Habib-Ullah Shaikh, Shaban's uncle, argued in court that she eloped with one of them, Ahsan Thebo.

PBS's popular show "Frontline" ran a documentary "Outlawed in Pakistan" telling her story Tuesday night. The hour-long film tells her story, from the rape to the trial to the continuing search for justice.

"In Pakistan, women and girls who allege rape are often more strongly condemned than their alleged rapists," ran Frontline's press release. "Deemed impure and shameful, some are even killed by their own families."

"They wanted us to kill her and declare her an outlaw," Kainat's brother, Sabir Soomro, testified in the film. Her father proclaimed, "We do not believe in the tribal justice system….We will fight until Kainat gets justice."

"We live in Karachi because of Kainat," Sabir said. "I had my own store in the village, but they forced me to close it. Life is completely upset."

Sarah Zaman, director of the group War Against Rape, to which Kainat's family fled to, explained that tribal councils – Jirgas – "can pass judgments without the aggrieved or the complainant ever actually entering into the formal criminal justice system." She argued that "these guys have been proven time and again to really give bad decisions."

Faisal Siddiqi, Kainat's lawyer, agreed that the council must be wrong. He asked "why will a 13-year-old girl lie that she has been gang raped by four people in a traditional Sindhi society?"

"I mean, she's an outcast," he explained. "She will never get married. She's destined to be killed by someone from her own family because she's impure now. So why will this girl lie?"

He could only see two reasons for Kainat's testimony: "She must have a very strong motive. Or she must be mad."

Nevertheless, the girl could provide no physical evidence of her rape – only her testimony. Waqar Shah, the accused men's attorney, was also the lawyer for the president of Pakistan. "Gang rape is a offense which is a very heinous crime here in Pakistan, and the conviction and the sentence is death," he explained. The alleged rapists had a very strong motive to fight for acquittal, and a celebrity lawyer to defend them.

When they produced a marriage license and pictures of the elopement, the case was closed. Despite Kainat's testimony that they took her thumbprints and signature at gunpoint, the judge ruled in their favor.

The trial had lasted four years, and the alleged rapists were finally released from prison.

"I'm going to be with Kainat," vowed her alleged husband Thebo. "Even after four years in prison, I still want her. She's my wife and I want her with me."

A few months later, Sabir was found dead. "Kainat and her family believed the four men she had accused of rape were responsible," explained the narrator Habiba Nosheen.

"I'll never forget my brother's murder, never!" vowed Kainat. His death revived the story, which had fallen out of the national headlines. Politicians started to come to her side, and she decided to appeal the court's decision.

Habib-Ullah Shaika offered to forgive Kainat and her family. "We're businessmen, respectable people," he said. Then he insulted her – "If she was a decent woman, she wouldn't have gone to the court and the media. She would have just sat at home silently."

"Kainat is characterless," he added. "She has no honor. No honor."

However Siddiqi, Kainat's lawyer, saw hope in their story. "I cannot even imagine that people who are so vulnerable are willing to risk their lives, the lives of their family, they are willing to be displaced, and even then want to fight," he explained. "In their struggle there is so much hope."

Kainat continues to appeal her case.

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