Apostasy is the abandonment or renunciation of a religious or political belief and in Sudan, it can get you killed. On May 15, Meriam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag, a 27-year-old Sudanese woman, was sentenced to death for abandoning Islam by marrying a Christian man, Daniel Wani, despite being raised as in the Ethiopian Orthodox Christian faith. The Sudanese court ruled that because her father was a Muslim, she is also Muslim under the eyes of the law; therefore, she committed apostasy by marrying out of her faith. The ruling has sparked international condemnation.
Since the news broke, a number of governments and officials have spoken out against the sentence, the latest being UK Prime Minister David Cameron. On his Twitter account the Prime Minister wrote:
Religious freedom is a human right. I urge Sudan’s government to overturn the sentence and provide support for #MeriamIbrahim & her children
— David Cameron (@David_Cameron) May 31, 2014
He is joined by Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg in the UK and Hillary Clinton in the US:
Meriam Yahya Ibrahim’s death sentence is abhorrent. Sudan should stop threatening religious freedom and fundamental human rights.
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) May 24, 2014
Likewise, the US State Department has described the apostasy case as “horrific.” UK, American, and Canadian embassies in Khartoum have been pressing for Meriam Ibrahim, who has been commonly referred to as apostasy woman on the internet, to be released and US state officials have been attending public hearings and watching the appeals process. Daniel Wani is a US citizen and has urged his own government and the international community to pressure Sudan to drop the archaic apostasy charges. He is also deeply concerned about his 20-month-old son, who is living in prison with his mother.
The married couple have two children together, the youngest of whom was born in Sudanese prison, after the sentencing. The husband and officials report that Meriam Ibrahim and her new-born daughter are healthy. The Sudanese government will defer the death sentence for two years to allow the baby to nurse. However, Ms. Ibrahim faces another penalty — 100 lashes — for “illegitimate sex.”
The court believes that because Sudan will not recognize the cross-religious marriage, Ms. Ibrahim committed adultery.
International organizations have also started pushing the Sudanese government to reverse the apostasy and adultery charges. Amnesty International started a petition to stop the execution that has reached over 200,000 signatures. Amnesty International said, “Meriam has committed no crime. She is a prisoner of conscience and should be released immediately.” Additionally, Change.org has reached over 600,000 signatures in a separate petition.
“I’m standing by her to end,” her husband said.
Daniel Wani has appealed the apostasy charges and hopes his ordeal will come to a swift end.