Meriam Yahia Ibrahim, a Christian mother who birthed her second child while in prison, was sentenced to 100 lashes and death by hanging on charges of adultery and apostasy on May 15. Born to a Muslim father who left her and her mother at age 6, Meriam was raised an Orthodox Christian in Western Sudan. Meriam is a graduate of Khartoum University, a medical professional (she studied to be a doctor) and married to a Christian by the name of Daniel Wani. Daniel, who possesses dual South Sudanese and American citizenship, is confined to a wheelchair as result of his struggle with muscular dystrophy. Before her arrest, detention, conviction, sentencing, release, and now ongoing attempt to depart Sudan, Meriam and Daniel regularly attended St. Matthew’s in Khartoum with their then-only son, Martin.
Meriam was arrested by Sudan’s Public Order Police for committing adultery and apostasy, who were allegedly tipped off to Meriam and Daniel’s marriage by an immediate family member. Some have speculated the tip was placed in response to financial or familial conflict.
Meriam was formally charged with adultery and apostasy on March 4, convicted of both charges on May 11 and subsequently sentenced to 100 lashes and death on May 15. Having been birthed to a Muslim father, Meriam was considered a Muslim in the eyes of the Sudanese court. As such, Meriam’s Christian faith was considered an act of apostasy (or the crime of leaving Islam, which is punishable by death in Sudan) and her faithful marriage to Daniel, an act of adulterous sexual relation.
On May 22, Meriam’s defense team—composed of lawyers provided by a Khartoum-based human rights organization—submitted her letter of appeal to the Khartoum Court of Appeals. That court convened a committee to issues a determination as to whether the Court of Appeals will or will not hear Meriam’s case on May 29, which formally began its deliberations on Sunday, June 1.
After Sudanese Foreign Ministry official, Abdullahi Alzareg, implied to the BBC while in London that Meriam was going to be released, the government of Sudan released its only official statement regarding Meriam’s case thus far. The statement can be read in-full here.
In the early morning of May 27, Meriam gave birth to hers and Daniel’s second child, Maya. Denied access to a private medical facility, Meriam was forced to give birth while shackled to the floor of the Omdurman Federal Women’s Prison hospital wing. Daniel was barred from witnessing the birth.
On June 12, International Christian Concern (ICC) co-sponsored a protest #ForMeriam in front of the White House. More than 100 concerned citizens, human rights and religious freedom activists and spiritual leaders gathered to call on President Obama and Secretary Kerry to publicly mention Meriam by name, exert pressure on the government of Sudan for her release and to grant Meriam asylum. Later that same day, Secretary Kerry issued formal remarks condemning Sudan’s executions, calling for Meriam’s release and stressing the importance of the respect of human rights and religious freedom. Read the remarks in-full here.
On June 13, ICC co-sponsored a follow-up protest in front of the Sudanese Embassy in Washington, D.C. With more than 30 gathered, demonstrators called on the government of Sudan to release Meriam. ICC’s Advocacy Director, Isaac Six, was granted access to the embassy to submit ICC’s petition with more than 10,000 signatures demanding Meriam’s “immediate and unconditional release.” Though the embassy refused to accept the petition, ICC has since delivered the petition (which can be viewed here) to the Embassy electronically.
On June 23, Meriam, Martin, and Maya were released from the Omdurman Federal Women’s Prison. That morning, the Khartoum Court of Appeals overturned the decision of a lower court, acquitting Meriam of all charges, recognizing her previously annulled marriage to Daniel as legal and ordering hers and her children’s immediate release.
The following morning, Meriam, Daniel, Martin and Maya were detained by 40 members of Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) at an airport in Khartoum for “national security concerns.” The Ibrahims were attempting to board a flight to South Sudan, at the time of the arrest.
After the Ibrahims’ “brief” detention, Meriam was released into the custody of local law enforcement for questioning over what Sudan considered to be “irregularities” in documentation she and Daniel had provided airport staff: travel papers issued by the South Sudanese Charge d’Affaires and a U.S. visa.
On June 25, Meriam was charged with falsifying documents and presenting false information, punishable by up to 7-years imprisonment, and detained at the al-Shareed police station in Khartoum. Initial reports that Daniel had been charged as an accessory to the fact have since been excused.
After a three-day detention, Meriam was released from the al-Shareed police station, at which time she joined her family under the protection of the United States, where they now remain.
After her release from the police station, the family filed a claim for custody of Meriam, which they later dropped just one day before their hearing in Family Court, which had been scheduled for July 17.
On July 18, the family filed an appeal to the decision to release and acquit Meriam with Sudan’s Supreme Court, which has yet to announce its decision as to whether it will or will not hear the appeal.
Prosecutors have threatened to press criminal charges against Meriam for her having allegedly forged documents and provided false information in trying to leave the country with her family in June, though no charges have formally been raised at this time.
At present, the Ibrahim’s defense lawyers, along with U.S. and other foreign diplomats, continue to push for travel documents to be issued to Meriam, Martin and Maya so that the family can legally leave the country. Sudanese authorities have yet to do so.
Wednesday, July 23, just hours before the Ibrahims’ departure from Sudan, the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations held a hearing on “The Troubling Case of Meriam Ibrahim.”
That same night, Deputy Minister Lapo Pistelli of the Italian Foreign Ministry chartered a plane from Rome to Khartoum in order to pick-up the Ibrahim family. Arriving in the early morning hours of Thursday, July 24, Meriam, Daniel, Martin and Maya stepped onto the tarmac of Rome’s Ciampino Airport free at last. Within hours, the family was received by Pope Francis himself at the Vatican, who characterized Meriam as “a symbol for standing up for religious freedom.”
What You Did
ICC delivered more than 10,000 of your signatures to the doorstep of the Sudanese Embassy in Washington, D.C. on June 14 as a co-organizer of two, back-to-back rallies demanding Meriam’s freedom. See a copy of the final petition, here. Thank you to all of those volunteered their signature for a mother’s freedom and a family’s safety!
For more information detailing how Meriam’s case has developed, International Christian Concern (ICC) has listed all of its publications detailing Meriam’s now quickly evolving situation below. Please feel free to reference and distribute any of the following materials to your family, friends and colleagues:
07/24/23014 NEWS RELEASE Meriam Ibrahim and Family Safe in Italy
07/03/2014 FEATURED ARTICLE “To Be Honest, I’m Really Miserable”
06/27/2014 NEWS RELEASE Meriam Conditionally Released from Khartoum Police Custody
06/26/2014 FEATURED ARTICLE Meriam Released from al-Shareed Police Station?
06/25/2014 NEWS RELEASE Meriam Detained and Questioned over “Irregular” Paperwork
06/24/2014 NEWS RELEASE Meriam, Husband, Toddler and Infant Re-Arrested for “National Security Concerns”
06/23/2014 NEWS RELEASE Mother Sentenced to Death for Christian Faith Released, Returns Home
06/19/2014 NEWS RELEASE 38 Members of Congress Urge Sec. Kerry to Prioritize Case of Meriam Ibrahim
06/17/2014 FEATURED ARTICLE 120 Days in Chains: Meriam Ibrahim’s Infuriating Incarceration
06/11/2014 Why is Obama Silent about Meriam?
06/10/2014 NEWS RELEASE ICC to Host D.C. Demonstrations on Behalf of Mother Sentenced to Death in Sudan
06/04/2014 NEWS RELEASE Concerned Christians Hold Protest Outside Sudanese Embassy in Ottawa
05/31/2014 NEWS RELEASE Christian Mother to be Released to Nurse Newborn Before Being Executed
05/15/2014 FEATURED ARTICLE Hanging a Mother for Her Faith
05/11/2014 NEWS RELEASE: Pregnant Mother Convicted of Apostasy by Sudanese Court as US Celebrates Mother’s Day
05/02/2014 NEWS RELEASE: ICC Calls on Government of Sudan to Release Christian Mother on Death Row
For Interviews, contact Cameron Thomas, Regional Manager for Africa:
In disseminating this article, we request that you reference International Christian Concern and www.persecution.org. ICC is a human rights and faith-based organization, headquartered in Washington, D.C., that exists to help persecuted Christians worldwide. We provide assistance to those in need, lend a voice to the voiceless, and write the stories of the worldwide persecuted Church. For additional information, please contact us by phone at 800-422-5441, or by email at email@example.com.