Sudanese Doctor Sentenced to Death Forced To Give Birth in Shackles

Maryam Ibrahim

Twenty-seven-year old Sudanese doctor, Meriam Ibrahim, who was sentenced to death for apostasy, gave birth to a baby girl named Maya on May 27, while still in shackles. This is Ibrahim’s second child with husband Daniel Wani. Her first child, 20-month-old son Martin has been confined along with her inside a prison cell since February 2014.

“They didn't even take Meriam to a hospital - she just delivered inside a prison clinic,” said her lawyer As Elshareef Ali Elshareef Mohammed.

Ibrahim was sentenced to death on May 15 by a court in Khartoum, capital of Sudan, after it found her guilty of apostasy and adultery for refusing to renounce Christianity and convert to Islam and marrying a man of the former faith. However, after she gave birth to her baby on Tuesday, her sentence has been postponed to be carried out after two years of her nursing the newborn.

In the meanwhile, Amnesty International has circulated a petition globally to have her sentence quashed. Even though the petition has received signatures from more than 640,000 people so far, unfortunately the rights group continues to be banned in Sudan since 2005.

“The human rights situation has been deteriorating for the past few years. It’s an extremely repressive regime, with opposition activists tortured, and the targeting of anyone who dares to defy the regime,” said Manar Idriss, researcher at Amnesty.

On May 29, Ibrahim’s lawyers filed an appeal at the Appeal Court of Bahri and Sharq Al Nil. If the appeal does not follow through, they plan to take the case to Sudan’s Supreme Court.

Apostasy, the crime for which Ibrahim has recently been sentenced to death, is the renouncing of one’s religion. While certain divisions of Christianity also view apostasy as a sin, it is essentially seen as an Islamic crime. Despite several scholars pointing out that the Koran does in fact guarantee freedom of belief to its adherents, a certain Hadith suggests death to those who change religion.

According to Nina Shea, director of Centre for Religious Freedom, apostasy is criminalized in many but not all Muslim states. For instance, Turkey does not criminalize it but Saudi Arabia and Iran do imprison converts. However, executions for conversion are almost unheard of today.

“In the case of Ibrahim, the government of Sudan is adopting the practice of Islamic extremist groups like Boko Haram, al-Shabab, and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria… All of those groups do put Christian converts to death,” said Shea.

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