May 27 2014
SUDAN: Woman set to hang for being a Christian gives birth to baby girl in squalid jail and vows she’d rather be executed than convert to Islam
Hey Moochelle, isn’ it time for another hashtag? Or isn’t this woman black enough for you to express any outrage? Meriam Ibrahim, a doctor who has spent the past four months shackled to the floor in a disease-ridden jail, gave birth five days early. The baby was born at Omdurman Federal Women’s Prison in North Khartoum and is said to be healthy.
UK Daily Mail (h/t bains) Speaking exclusively to MailOnline, her lawyer Mohaned Mustafa Elnour said: ‘This is some good news in what has been a terrible ordeal for Meriam. ‘I am planning to visit her with her husband Daniel later today. I think they are going to call the baby Maya.’
Meriam, 27, was sentenced to death by hanging earlier this month after being found guilty of converting from Islam to Christianity and marrying a Christian man, U.S. citizen Daniel Wani, who lives in Manchester, New Hampshire. She will receive 100 lashes before she is executed – sometime in the next two years. Before the birth, Meriam made the defiant claim that she would rather die than give up her faith.
In a heart-wrenching conversation with her husband during a rare prison visit, Meriam told him: ‘If they want to execute me then they should go ahead and do it because I’m not going to change my faith.’ An Islamic Sharia judge said she could be spared the death penalty if she publicly renounced her faith and becomes a Muslim once more. Meriam insists she has always been a Christian and told her husband she could not ‘pretend to be a Muslim’ just to spare her life.
She told him: ‘I refuse to change. I am not giving up Christianity just so that I can live. ‘I know I could stay alive by becoming a Muslim and I would be able to look after our family, but I need to be true to myself.’
Daniel, a 27-year-old biochemist, revealed his wife’s defiant stance during an exclusive interview with MailOnline at his modest home in the dusty Sudanese capital city of Khartoum. Sitting beneath glamorous photographs of his wife taken at their wedding in December 2011, he said: ‘My wife is very, very strong. She is stronger than me.
‘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. It was amazing to see, particularly because she is the one facing the death penalty.’
Daniel was in Khartoum trying to arrange for Meriam and their 20-month-old son Martin to live with him in the US when his wife was arrested in September. She was three weeks pregnant with their second child. She has been held since February in Omdurman Federal Women’s Prison, North Khartoum, with Martin.
The authorities will not release Martin into the care of his father because they claim he is a Muslim too. She spends much of her time shackled to the floor, is not receiving enough nutrition in her food to cope with the rigours of a difficult pregnancy and is rarely allowed outside. Both she and her bewildered son have contracted various illnesses because of the poor sanitation at the jail.
A report by Human Rights Watch claims the prison is ‘beset with overcrowding’ and suffers from ‘poor sanitation, disease and the deaths of many children living with their mothers’. Daniel, who is originally from South Sudan, but is now a naturalized American, was initially refused permission to visit her. Describing his first visit after she had been inside for two months , he said: ‘The first time I only had ten minutes and we never even had a conversation with each other.
‘I had to attend to my son first and once I had done that I was told by the prison guards that my time was up. ‘I wanted to take Martin away with me, but I knew I couldn’t. It’s not good place to be for a little boy to be. I am not allowed to spent time with them because the Sudanese officials do not recognise them as my wife and son.
‘They say the marriage is void. Now, even my wife is no longer my wife. And my son is not mine and my new daughter is not mine. They say I am a stranger to them. ‘I know my wife puts on a brave face but I can tell that she is in quite a bit of pain. She doesn’t get to leave the room for weeks. ‘She has suffered medical complications while in jail, but no one knows the full extent of what they are because she is in prison. It’s a difficult time. To see her walking in chains is difficult.’
Daniel, who is wheelchair-bound because he suffers from muscular dystrophy, cuts a forlorn figure as he wheels himself around his empty house. His child’s bed lies unused, as does a child-sized toothbrush. Daniel keeps himself busy by studying the regular barrage of paperwork that his legal team send him.
Like many in Sudan, both Daniel and his wife’s childhood were blighted by civil war. Daniel managed to escape the brutal conflict in 1998 when he travelled to America with his brother Gabriel.
The biochemist returned to Sudan to marry Meriam at a Christian service in a chapel which was attended by around 500 people in December 2011.
Most who were at the wedding ceremony could vouch for the pair being committed Christians, defence lawyers say. But witnesses who were willing to give evidence on her behalf were barred from testifying because they were Christian. She even produced a marriage certificate identifying herself as a Christian.
Despite this, the judge determined that because her father was a Muslim, even though he abandoned the family while they were living in a refugee camp in the South East of Sudan when she was six, she too was a Muslim who had broken the law by leaving Islam.
Daniel went to the American Embassy in Khartoum for help. ‘I thought this would be the one place which would help me, but they told me they didn’t have time to do anything,’ Daniel said. ‘I was upset because now that I am American citizen I thought they would help me. ‘I was threatened. They said “well your wife isn’t American, so we can’t help”. I felt disgusted. My home is in America and still they won’t help. It’s getting uglier and it’s not going in the right direction.’
Mr Wani said the State Department asked him to provide DNA evidence proving that Martin was his biological son. He added: ‘I have provided wedding documents and the baby’s birth certificate, but this is clearly not enough. It’s very upsetting that they don’t believe me.
‘They want me to take a DNA sample in Khartoum, then send it to the US for testing. It’s as if they don’t believe a word I say.’