A pregnant mother in Khartoum, Sudan is facing the death penalty for “leaving Islam.”
Because Meriam Yahia Ibrahim married Daniel Wani, a South Sudanese Christian man – which is forbidden for Muslim women in Sudan – she could be given 100 lashes for “adultery.” If she is found guilty of “adultery” and “apostasy,” Ibrahim will be whipped and executed after the birth of her second child, who is due next month.
Ibrahim was born to an Ethiopian Orthodox mother and a Muslim Sudanese father. Because her Muslim father disappeared from her life when she was 6 years old, Ibrahim was raised as a Christian.
Ibrahim and Wani were married in 2012; last year, a man who claimed to be related to Ibrahim opened a case against Ibrahim for marrying a Christian, a crime that amounts to adultery.
As a rights worker for Justice Center Sudan in Khartoum explained, “according to Islamic laws, if a Muslim woman gets married to a non-Muslim man, then their marriage is not acknowledged legally.”
“She is then committing adultery, and her children are not recognized by law as children of legal marriage. That is why she is facing charges,” the worked said.
Ibrahim, however, does not identify as a Muslim. Although she declared to the court that she was Christian, and even had three witnesses testify to her Christian faith, Ibrahim was charged with adultery and apostasy on March 4.
The 27-year-old medical doctor has been incarcerated since February.
Ibrahim and Wani have a 20-month-old son who has been staying in jail with Ibrahim because Sudan law forbids Wani, as a Christian, from carrying him.
“We are fighting for Meriam’s life, freedom, and fair treatment – according to the law, if she had been a Muslim she should be killed soon after she gives birth to her child,” a rights worker said.
During her time in prison, Ibrahim has suffered a series of injustices including beatings, denial of bail and insufficient health care for her and her unborn child.
Rights workers are pressuring the government to give Ibrahim fair treatment in prison, and to allow the baby to be with his father.
Authorities have taken Wani’s passport and forbidden him to travel. Although Wani obtained American citizenship several years ago, the American Embassy in Sudan has offered him no help in attaining papers to travel to the U.S. with his wife and child.
Wani has appealed to the U.S. government for help, to no avail. “She is psychologically tired,” Wani said of his wife. “My wife was never a Muslim. As an American citizen, I ask the people and government of the USA to help me.”
U.S. Embassy officials in Khartoum will reportedly help him only after he proves that he is his child’s father with a DNA test.
At an April 18 hearing, the court requested that more witnesses testify that Ibrahim never practiced Islam.