Mariam Ibrahim, the Sudan woman who escaped a death sentence imposed for renouncing her faith, says she wants to campaign for others who face religious persecution. Speaking to the BBC in the US, where she is seeking asylum, Ibrahim said she hopes to return to Sudan one day.
Her sentencing – by a Sudanese court that did not recognise her Christian faith – sparked outrage this year. Born to a Muslim father, she was raised a Christian by her mother and married a Christian man. Under Sudan’s version of Islamic law, however, her father’s religion meant that she too was still technically a Muslim. A court found her guilty of apostasy, or renouncing one’s faith.
Sentenced to hang, she gave birth to her daughter while shackled in prison. Under intense international pressure, her conviction was quashed and she was freed in June. She told the BBC that she had been threatened by the guards while she was in court.
“The judge told me that I needed to convert to Islam,” she said. “And so these warnings made me anticipate I would be sentenced to death.”
“It wasn’t easy, I can’t describe it,” she said, of her time in prison. “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.”
On Saturday night, Ibrahim received an award from a gathering of evangelical Christian conservatives in Washington, who see her treatment in Sudan as an assault on their values.