Meriam Yehya Ibrahim, a Sudanese woman who is eight months pregnant, was sentenced to death last week for marrying a Christian man.
In Sudan, a woman is considered to be of the same faith as her father, but 27-year-old Ibrahim’s Muslim dad abandoned her family when she was six, and she was raised with the beliefs of her Christian mom. Ibrahim has identified as Christian her whole life (although her brother is Muslim), but the Sudanese legal system sees her as a converted former Muslim and now refuses to recognize her marriage to a Christian man. Men are able to marry outside their faith, but Muslim women in Sudan are only expected to marry men who are also Muslims.
Since 1983, Sudan has operated under Sharia law, which considers conversion of religion punishable by death and is often carried out through flogging or amputations. Ibrahim has been charged with apostasy (renouncing her faith) and adultery. In addition to her death sentence, she’s been sentenced to receive 100 lashes for the latter charge. When she was charged, Ibrahim was given the chance to renounce her Christianity and accept Islam as her faith to avoid her sentence, but she refused.
Ibrahim is currently imprisoned, and so is her toddler son, Martin. She and her husband, Daniel Wani, run several businesses together, and Wani had been living in New Hampshire to for work after fleeing Sudan in 1998. He’d gone to Sudan last year to arrange moving his family to the U.S., and upon hearing of his wife’s imprisonment, he rushed home to fight for her life. Wani uses a wheelchair and depends on Ibrahim for support, and he is currently forbidden from caring for Martin because he’s a Christian. Heartbreakingly, he is also banned from visiting his family in prison.
Sharia law does not permit the execution of pregnant women, so Ibrahim’s death sentence will be delayed for two years after giving birth, and will probably take even longer to carry out due to the nature of Sudan’s legal system. CNN reported that her lawyer filed an appeal today, which will be handled in an appeals court next week. But unfortunately, the appeal could still mean that Ibrahim will stay behind bars. The Telegraph reports that even at eight months’ pregnancy, Ibrahim is being shackled inside her cell.
The international community is not pleased about all this. The embassies of the US, Britain, Canada and the Netherlands came together in a joint statement to “call upon the government of Sudan to respect the right to freedom of religion, including one’s right to change one’s faith or beliefs, a right which is enshrined in the international human rights law as well as in Sudan’s own 2005 Interim Constitution.” International outcry has saved the lives of victims of apostasy sentences in the past, so attention like this is a very good thing for Ibrahim’s fate.
To help, sign the petition at Amnesty International or simply spread the word about this awful situation. The goal is to make it very clear that the rest of the world is angry with this unjust decision, by whatever means we can, to convince the Sudanese government to reconsider Ibrahim’s plight.
[Image via Telegraph UK]