Meriam Ibrahim, the Sudanese woman who was released on Monday this week only to be re-arrested later in Khartoum for travelling to the U.S., is troubled over the future her family has in store. Ibrahim, who gave birth on death row and still is in the U.S. Embassy in Sudan, is now worried about the future of her baby girl, who seems to have developed physical challenges, possibly attributed to the crude manner she was birthed in the jail.
Ibrahim, who breathed a sigh of relief upon her release after being arrested two months ago, was back in jail on charges of forgery and falsifying travel documents. While the family is safely housed in the embassy in Khartoum, a phone interview with CNN, revealed how bad the entire ordeal for a pregnant Ibrahim was, as she voiced concerns over her troubled future.
Ibrahim, who was pregnant at the time of the initial arrest was worried about giving birth in jail. She claimed that the authorities at the jail refused access to a hospital, and as she was scared of giving birth in prison, this gave her fair reason to be alarmed. She gave birth in chains rather than handcuffs. This forced Ibrahim to give birth in a very constricted manner with her legs close together. The women had to lift her off the table and thus she was unable to fully lie down to at least lessen the pangs of child-birth. Doctors who examined the baby feared that the circumstances the baby was born in might result in serious physical challenges as she grows.
Ibrahim, whose one-month old baby girl Maya was born in prison, is unsure if her daughter will need support in the future to walk. Ibrahim is married to physically challenged Daniel Wani who has a 21-month old son, Martin. Wani says that baby Maya in safe place now, but it is definitely not comfortable. Ibrahim’s trips to the court have not ceased after her release, since charges of falsifying documents have now been leveled against her, causing an unnecessary delay in flying the family safely to the U.S.
Ibrahim, who gave birth two weeks after her arrest on charges of apostasy and adultery, became the victim of harassment when her Muslim relatives filed the charges leading to her arrest. The relatives were shocked to find that the missing Ibrahim had married a Christian, while she maintained that she was Christian all her life, refusing to denounce her faith even in court. She recalled that while in jail, Islamic priests and sheiks would try to convince her to convert to Islam, while the women at the prison taunted her with anti-Christian sentiments. The police who joined in with the women regularly in taunting Ibrahim, called her a non-believer and a Christian, as if it were an insult, even refusing to share the food with her.
Ibrahim, troubled over the prospects of her safety, is still as helpless as she was in prison. In spite of many people offering help, with legal representatives, humanitarian workers and politicians regularly visiting her in prison, she says help never really came. Sudanese authorities who have arrested Ibrahim on charges of false paperwork, say she holds South Sudanese papers, (although she is not a Sudanese citizen), and was trying to travel to the U.S., where her husband holds joint citizenship. The National Intelligence and Security Services who investigated the matter charged her with forgery and falsifying information, while Ibrahim is adamant that she is entitled to the travel documents in her possession. Calling it a tip-off by travel agents, Ibrahim says that the papers were approved by South Sudan and American ambassadors and therefore simply cannot be false. While Ibrahim, has been given an American visa, she is entitled to use the papers issued by South Sudan, since her husband Wani is both Sudanese and American. Legal counsel for Ibrahim has requested the district attorney to drop the charges and ensure a safe flight from Sudan.
At the airport, where they hoped the nightmare might finally end, the terror only came back to haunt the family of four. Ibrahim described the way the Sudanese police officers arrested her and wheel-chair bound Wani as “terrorizing,” as they were taken by surprise in the VIP departures hall. The scared couple was trying to figure out why they were arrested as they were locked in a room for four to five hours. A shocked Ibrahim claimed that the arrests came even before the police investigated the claim leveled against the couple in a court of law. The allegations have now left Ibrahim in a confused state, wondering if she should travel after this legal mess the authorities have landed her in or not.
Meriam Ibrahim, who is troubled by baby Maya’s health, her husband Wani and son Martin, is still hopeful that she will leave safely. Despite the harrowing ordeal, she trusts her husband and counts on him to take them to safety. Wani, she says, is responsible for the safety of the kids and herself in the face of future challenges, promising to go wherever he deems safe for the family to get a fresh lease on life.
Opinion by Rathan Paul Harshavardan