Mariam Ibrahim was sentenced to death in Sudan for her Christian faith but received asylum in the United States. She spoke to the BBC about her experience, saying that she wants to return to Sudan to help those who face religious persecution.
“The judge told me that I needed to convert to Islam,” she told the BBC. “And so these warnings made me anticipate I would be sentenced to death.”
She continued, “[Prison] wasn’t easy. I can’t describe it. But there are others who are in worse conditions in Sudan than those I was in. Sadly, this was all under the guise of the law. So instead of protecting people, the law is harming them.”
Her father was a Muslim, but she was raised by her Christian mother and married a Christian man, American citizen Daniel Wadi. A Sudanese court convicted her of apostasy, the crime of renouncing the Muslim faith. The punishment was death.
Ibrahim was sentenced to 100 lashes and death by hanging, but she said she never renounced Islam because she was raised Christian, not Muslim.
The courts also accused her of adultery because they did not recognize her marriage to Wadi since they consider her a Muslim. She insisted she was a Christian before the two met. She gave birth to her daughter Maya while in prison, reportedly with her ankles in chains.
She was eventually freed, but she was rearrested because authorities claimed she falsified her papers. Those accusations quickly died, and she flew to Italy. Pope Francis blessed her on July 24, before the family flew to America. Ibrahim and Wadi arrived in New Hampshire on July 31.
Sudan rules under strict interpretation of Islamic Sharia law. In 2012, Sudan President Omar Hassan al-Bashir promised the country the next constitution would be “100 percent Islamic.” Stoning and flogging are still acceptable punishments, and police are allowed to publicly flog women accused of public indecency. In 2010, a woman was flogged in public while police officers and spectators laughed at her. A court sentenced Laila Ibrahim Issa Jamool, 23, to death by stoning after she was found guilty of adultery. In October 2013, a woman was flogged in public because she was in a vehicle with an unrelated male.