Fathima Rifqa Bary, the Ohio teenage runaway whose story of Muslim-to-Christianity conversion and charges of family abuse sparked debates about personal freedom, is going back to her home state.
[Orange County Circuit Court Judge Daniel] Dawson last week decided Rifqa’s case belonged in an Ohio court and asked that lawyers provide documentation regarding her education and immigration before he sent her home.
He learned this week that the girl could continue her education from Ohio. It is unclear what documentation Dawson was provided Friday about her immigration status. Statements made by Rifqa and her guardian ad litem, suggest there are issues with that status.
The teen has been living with a foster family in Central Florida. Ohio officials have indicated that she will be placed with a foster family in that state. It is not clear when — or if — she will live with her own family again.
Rifqa has been in Central Florida since she ran away from her Columbus-area home in mid-July. Her story became public when a custody battle ensued in an Orange County courtroom, and it quickly gained national media attention because of her allegations against her Muslim father.
The petite girl, who was 16 when she ran away, said she feared Mohamed Bary would harm or kill her because she converted to Christianity.
Investigators in Florida and Ohio have found no credible threats against Rifqa, and her family has also denied such threats.
Rifqa Bary tells FDLE she was abused, was supposed to have arranged marriage
Ohio teen runaway Fathima Rifqa Bary told [audio] Florida investigators about her religious conversion, explained how and why she ended up in Florida and detailed a fearful life with her Muslim family, including the fact she was supposed to be in an arranged marriage.
Rifqa’s case drew attention from investigators after she was reported missing by her parents in Ohio and then surfaced in Orlando while living with husband-and-wife pastors. She claimed that she had converted to Christianity and feared that her Muslim father would harm or kill her because of her religious conversion.
Her father, Mohamed Bary, has denied those claims, and the FDLE investigation did not uncover any evidence of abuse. Officials in Ohio also found no such threats.
Among the other things Rifqa told investigators:
— Her parents didn’t initially know that she had converted to Christianity and had been baptized in a river by a friend who was college student.
— Rifqa’s home-life went bad this summer. “This summer was when my entire life was shifted,” she told investigators.
That’s when, Rifqa said, the Muslim community found out she was talking about Jesus on her Facebook page. Rifqa said her dad confronted her and threatened to strike her with a laptop.
Later, her mom found a Christian book of Rifqa’s. “She seemed fanatic,” Rifqa said.
Rifqa said that’s when she knew she had to leave her house. She wrote her parents a note.
“These are the exact words it said, Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior and I refuse to deny him. I pray and hope you find his mercy and forgiveness. Love you both dearly, Rifqa,” she said. “I put it on the bed.”
– Rifqa said her dad had threatened to kill her. She also told investigators of another threat: she could be sent back to Sri Lanka.
“All the laws are very different than here, it’s allowed there um, so they could do whatever they wanted and that, I was in very much fear of,” she said.
– Rifqa said she thought the threat against her was real because she had heard of other Muslims being killed for similar reasons.