May 29th, 2021
By Ahmed Saeed & Asra Haque
The story of “Sunita Masih” is a terrible one. A Christian girl who had been gang-raped for refusing to convert to Islam. Her hair was cut off and someone had even revealed that her private parts had been burned. Thankfully the story proved to be fake.
According to the story which was tweeted by influencers, celebrities, rights activists, journalists, lawyers and politicians, the incident took place in Faisalabad where 14-year-old “Sunita” resided with her family. She had been abducted by a group of Muslim men and gang-raped during which they demanded she convert to Islam. Upon her refusal, the supposed assailants tortured her and shaved her head.
In the photo that accompanied the story, a young girl can be seen missing tufts of her hair and holding back her tears with a downcast face.
While it was clarified that the story was indeed false, the girl whose face was plastered all over social media remained an enigma.
Voicepk.net managed to trace the picture to a Facebook post dated May 24 where one Asif Firoz, a Lahore-based pastor who runs a school, called attention to an affliction plaguing one of his students.
He narrated that the girl, whose photo was used in the “Sunita Masih” story, had lost both her parents within two weeks of each other. Firoz was visiting the girl’s home to express his condolences when he saw she had bald patches all over her scalp. Upon inquiry, it turned out that she had a condition that caused her hair to fall out every year.
In the post, he appealed for medical or financial help for the orphaned girl. However, after the female student’s picture went viral for all the wrong reasons, Firoz has now filed a complaint with the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA).
Meanwhile, such spam will only end up in causing disbelief when there is actually a case of sexual assault. Civil society activists have condemned the story as an attempt to undermine efforts to combat sexual violence and forced conversions in the country, and delegitimize actual stories of rape survivors and forcibly converted children.
As for the girl whose identity was maliciously warped by miscreants on social media, at least some solace can be taken from the fact that she is more or less safe from harm, as Firoz and other caretakers refuse to reveal her real identity.