Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Her Unending Nightmare

The best-laid plans of those anxious to escape a nightmare are all too often dreams more difficult to realize than reality instructs us to expect. Meriam Ibrahim of Sudan aroused the outraged conscience of the world in a roar of condemnation for Sudanese justice when her plight became known. She was a 27-year-old Sudanese woman, raised by her mother, a Christian, to worship Christianity. In Sudan as elsewhere in the Muslim world, Christians are under deadly attack.

In Sudan, apostasy, turning away from Islam, is considered a capital offence. Muslims are not free to disown Islam, and all the more so if they turn in their defiance to another religion. In Meriam Ibrahim's instance, this was never an issue in reality, for she had never been a Muslim, had not been raised in Islamic tradition, and had lived all her life as a Christian. Which didn't stop the authorities from persecuting her, incited by her distant Muslim relatives.

Meriam Ibrahim stood accused by her father's family of abandoning Islam for Christianity. Even her half-brother called for the death penalty for her. She had married a Sudanese Christian who has dual Sudanese-American citizenship. She was herself Christian. When her father abandoned her mother when Meriam Ibrahim was a young child, her Ethiopian-Christian mother raised Meriam in the belief of Christianity, and that was the only religion she had ever known.

She is a physician by profession, and she has a two-year-old son with her husband. She was arrested while very pregnant with her second child, and charged with apostasy as well as "adultery", because a court in the capital Khartoum did not recognize her Christian marriage to American citizen Daniel Wani. She was to be hanged for refusing to "return" to Islam. A few weeks after she was sentenced and imprisoned with her infant son, she gave birth to a little girl.

Authorities had mandated that during the birth of her daughter Maya, Meriam Ibrahim's legs must remain shackled. Under these mercilessly tortuous conditions, international outrage fueled condemnation of the Sudanese government and its justice system. The justice who had passed judgement on this woman ruled her execution would be held off for two years, until baby Maya was weaned; this is what passes for compassion in a Sharia court of law.

Meriam Ibrahim steadfastly refused to recant her Christianity. "She is not going to renounce her religion, though. She told me that", her husband said. Her husband lives in Manchester, New Hampshire and had been trying to move heaven and earth to enable his wife and their then-only child to move to the United States, before her imprisonment. And then, suddenly she was released from prison on Monday.

The family planned to leave Sudan as swiftly as possible. Two senators from New Hampshire had introduced legislation to grant Meriam Ibrahim and her children permanent legal status in the United States. With her release, she was moved to an undisclosed safe house. A day later, at Khartoum airport as the family of two adults and two children attempted to fly out of the country, the mother of the two children was re-arrested.

Meriam Ibrahim holding her baby daughter Maya, with her legal team and, far left, husband Daniel Wani and son Martin Meriam Ibrahim holding her baby daughter Maya, with her legal team and, left, husband Daniel Wani and son Martin -- Photo, The Telegraph

No reason for their detention was given, according to their lawyer, Elshareef Ali Mohammed, with them at the time, seeing them off, as they attempted to leave the country through South Sudan and then on to America. Reports began circulating that she was accused of travelling with false paperwork, the very documents provided by South Sudan with U.S. assistance.

She was released again on bail conditions; the unnamed individual who provided the surety for her bail would be charged with the same offences as Meriam Ibrahim, should she once again attempt to leave the country of her birth and her judicial agony before the 'case' was fully resolved.

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