WASHINGTON — A nationally-recognized Christian organization is urging the Obama administration to provide a safe haven to a Sudanese woman who was recently sentenced to death for refusing to convert to Islam, but is reportedly expected to be freed.
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.”
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.
But amid international outcry, reports on Saturday stated that Ibrahim will be freed by the Sudanese government and will not face death.
“The related authorities in the country are working to release Meriam through legal measures,” Abdullahi Alazreg, under-secretary at Sudan’s ministry of foreign affairs, told reporters. “I expect her to be released soon.”
Following word that Ibrahim will reportedly be released—although some remain skeptical, calling the notion “absurd”—Tony Perkins of Family Research Council in Washington urged Obama to grant the woman asylum in the United States.
“We are encouraged by reports that Meriam and her two small children may be released from a prison that is notorious for torture and its high infant mortality rate,” he said in a written statement. “The Obama administration should grant immediate refugee status to Meriam and her children so that they will have the option of finding safe haven in the United States.”
Ibrahim’s husband already has U.S. citizenship.
Perkins pointed supporters to an online petition to the White House, which asks that the administration likewise grant citizenship to Ibrahim.
“We strongly urge the administration to take action in the case of Dr. Meriam Ibrahim,… [who] is languishing inside a prison in Khartoum,” it reads in part. “We urge you to pressure the Sudanese government to release Meriam and her children so she can escape execution and possible death of her children and be rejoined with her husband in the U.S. Please grant her expedited safe haven in the U.S., where she could seek asylum.”
The petition has generated over 32,000 signatures in less than a week.