Sudan: Pregnant Woman Condemned to Death or Religious Conversion


Olivia Elswick, Contributing JournalistLast Modified: 00:13 a.m. DST, 16 May 2014

Atsbi village, Tigray, Christian Woman, Photo by Evgeni ZotovKHARTOUM, Sudan - Meriam Yehya Ibrahim, 27, has until Thursday to either denounce her Christian faith or face a death sentence.

When Ibrahim’s father, a Sudanese Muslim, abandoned her at age six, her mother, an Ethiopian Orthodox, raised her as a Christian. Ibrahim identifies herself as a Christian, but despite this she is considered by the courts to be a Muslim, as her father was.

She was reported by a family member in August 2013 and was arrested on charges of adultery. Ibrahim has been convicted by a Khartuom court for abandoning her Muslim faith in favor of Christianity, an action that, under Sharia law, indicates that she committed adultery with her husband, a non-Muslim.

Because the law considers her a Muslim, her marriage to a Christian man is considered void and adulterous. Marriage to a non-Muslim man is prohibited for Muslim women. Ibrahim and her husband have a 20-month-old son and she is expected to give birth to her second child sometime next month.

In past cases involving pregnant women, the Sudanese government has waited until the woman gave birth before executing a sentence. If sentenced to death she will likely be flogged with 100 lashes then hanged.

The blatant disrespect for freedom of religion and interference in the personal life of Sudanese citizens is outraging people in Sudan and abroad. Authorities have closed Khartuom University indefinitely after Sudanese students there mounted a protest begging for the end to human rights violations, more freedom, and better social and economic conditions.

In Khartuom, foreign embassies are urging the government to rethink its decision. A joint statement issued from the embassies of the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands says, “We 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 international human rights law as well as in Sudan's own 2005 Interim Constitution.

We further urge Sudanese legal authorities to approach Ms. Meriam's case with justice and compassion that is in keeping with the values of the Sudanese people,” the joint statement read.

Follow Olivia on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Contributing Journalist: @OCElswick