KHARTOUM, Sudan – A Sudanese woman who was sentenced to death by hanging for refusing to convert to Islam has given birth in prison, reports state.
As previously reported, Meriam Ibrahim, 27, was officially sentenced on May 15th after she was convicted of apostasy against Islam for professing to be an Orthodox Christian. Ibrahim was born to a Muslim father, but was raised by an Ethiopian Orthodox Christian mother as the father left the home when Ibrahim was a child. In Sudan, children are expected to follow the religion of their fathers, and her father’s family had reportedly turned her into authorities for rejecting Islam.
Ibrahim was also sentenced to 100 lashes for allegedly committing “zena”—that is, having illegitimate sex by marrying a non-Muslim. The expectant mother married a professing Christian man, Daniel Wani, in 2011, and the two have an 18-month old son together, along with the child in Ibrahim’s womb. Sudanese law prohibits women from marrying non-Muslims, although men can marry whomever they wish without penalty.
Ibrahim was convicted of apostasy on May 11th for rejecting Islam and was given four days to recant, which would have saved her life. Unlike others who have faced similar sentences in Sudan, she refused to convert.
“I am a Christian,” she declared before the court, “and I will remain a Christian.”
“We gave you three days to recant, but you insist on not returning to Islam,” Judge Abbas Khalifa told Ibrahim, as reported by the AFP. “I sentence you to be hanged to death.”
‘My wife is very, very strong. She is stronger than me,” her husband Daniel told the Daily Mail. “When they sentenced her to death, I broke down and tears were streaming down my eyes. Our lawyers were passing me tissues. But she stayed strong.”
“She did not flinch when she was sentenced,” he added. “It was amazing to see, particularly because she is the one facing the death penalty.”
The court had also ruled that after Ibrahim gives birth, she was to receive the 100 lashes, and would be permitted to nurse the child for two years before the execution would be carried out.
On Tuesday, Ibrahim gave birth to a baby girl in the hospital wing of the prison, who she named Maya. According to reports, Ibrahim’s husband sought to visit his wife and newborn daughter in prison, but was not allowed.
In the meantime, international human rights groups are decrying Ibrahim’s sentence, which is now on appeal.
“The fact that a woman could be sentenced to death for her religious choice, and to flogging for being married to a man of an allegedly different religion, is abhorrent and should never be even considered,” Manar Idriss of Amnesty International told reporters.
Over 60 percent of Sudan identifies as Muslim, and the nation’s president, Omar al-Bashir, also an adherent to Islam, seeks to enforce Sharia law.
“Conversion from Islam is a crime punishable by death, suspected converts to Christianity face societal pressures, and government security personnel intimidate and sometimes torture those suspected of conversion,” reads a report written by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.