Meriem Ibrahim, the Sudanese woman sentenced to death by hanging on May 15 will be set free “within days.” Ibrahim, 27, was given the death penalty under the Islamic sharia law for converting from Muslim to Christianity after marrying American Daniel Wani. The law, which has been in place since 1983, calls for death for anyone who converts from Muslim. In addition, she was sentenced to receive 100 lashes for committing adultery by marrying a Christian. Her story was met with global outrage on social media with the hashtag “#savemeriam” going viral as well as condemnation from leaders from around the world.
Before her sentence, Sudan’s court gave Ibrahim the choice to convert to Muslim or be executed. The sentence of death was globally denounced and covered worldwide by the media. Citizens used #savemeriam to raise awareness about the case and to encourage others to contact the Sudanese government and pressure them to release Ibrahim.
Joining the outrage on social media was actress Mia Farrow, who tweeted the phone number to the Sudanese embassy in hopes that people would call them directly to express their feelings about the sentence. The Prime Minister of England, David Cameron, was quoted as saying that Ibrahim’s treatment was “barbaric.” His predecessor, Tony Blair, called the case “brutal” and a “sickening distortion of faith.” Both the White House and the U.S. State Department publicly called on Sudan to overturn the verdict under the auspices of their human rights commitments.
Sudan’s foreign ministry under-secretary, Abdullahi Alzareg has told BBC that Ibrahim’s release was pending. Alzareg is also reported to have said that his country guaranteed religious freedom to its citizens and would ensure that every effort would be made to protect Ibrahim.
Others are reporting that Sudan is planning to only temporarily release Ibrahim so that she can breast-feed her new child. They urge the world to continue the campaign to have Ibrahim freed permanently. Ibrahim’s own lawyers in Sudan have issued a statement regarding the reported release, saying, ““It’s a statement to silence the international media. . . . This is what the government does. We will not believe that she is being freed until she walks out of the prison.” Calls are also being made to the U.S. State Department to grant immediate asylum to Ibrahim if and when she is released. Meanwhile, neither her lawyer nor her husband has heard from any representative of the Sudanese government regarding Ibrahim’s possible release.
Ibrahim’s husband is American and makes his home in New Hampshire. He flew to Sudan earlier this month in an attempt to have the death sentence overturned. While Ibrahim’s father was Muslim, Ibrahim’s own mother was Christian, and she was raised in the Christian faith. During her trial, she told the court that she had never been a Muslim. At the time of her death sentence, she was almost nine months pregnant and has given birth to a daughter since, making her the mother of two young children. Wani was able to visit with his wife and their two children this week after having been denied access to her earlier.
There has been no confirmation by the United States State Department that Ibrahim’s release was expected.
By Jennifer Pfalz