A Sudanese case of Tag, you’re it
The name Meriam Yehya Ibrahim Ishag is now firmly entrenched in the headlines as with the hastag #SaveMeriam and other derivatives.
Meriam made headline news at the beginning of the year after she was suspiciously arrested and charged on allegations stemming from her marriage to a Christian man two years prior.
Meriam continued to languish in the womens prison chained at the feet
Pregnant at the time and already a mother, Meriam was imprisoned along with her toddler son Martin.
Early March Sudan’s Islamic Sharia Law El Haj Yousif Public Order Court in Khartoum charged Meriam with adultery, revoking and refusing to recognise her 2011 marriage to South Sudanese born US citizen, Daniel Wani.
She was additionally charged with apostasy, citing her abandonment of the Islamic faith, and sentenced to receive 100 lashes and to be hung to death.
Meriam was born to an errant Muslim father and an Ethiopian Orthodox Christian Mother.
The charges and respective punishments given to the pregnant woman and the conditions of her imprisonment with her then 20-month-year-old son were met with some local and largely international protest.
Her incarceration ignited a global campaign, fronted by international bodies such as Amnesty International, Change.org and Christian Solidarity Worldwide, among others.
Foreign embassies and over a million signatories condemned the pregnant Meriam’s imprisonment with her toddler son and called for her immediate release.
She remained in Omdurman Women’s Prison, on death row, for almost 3-months before giving birth to her second child – a baby girl named Maya – on 27 May.
Meriem received a reprieve from the court reneging the immediate punishment, sparing the mother 100 lashes, and issuing her liberty to give birth and wean her expected child for a period of 2-years.
The death sentence, according to the court, was to be reinstated later.
Recounting Meriem’s story is as astonishing as it is abhorrent, even more so, as this African cat and mouse game ensued.
A glimmer of hope was entertained on 31 May after a senior official, Abdullah Alazreg, from the government of President Omar al-Bashirs Sudanese Foreign Ministry told the media of Meriam’s imminent release.
But the ministry swiftly retracted Alazreg’s statement claiming it had been taken out of context.
Meanwhile, Meriam continued to languish in the womens prison chained at the feet as reported by her lawyer Elshareef Ali Mohammed and husband Daniel Wani.
On the 24 June, 2014 the appeal court in Sudan overturned all charges against Meriam, and the now mother of two was released and re-united with her husband,.
However in less than 24-hours, in an attempt to leave Sudan from Khartoum Airport, over forty officers from the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) apprehended the Wani family.
The Wani family was not only prevented from traveling to the US, but was also accused of obtaining false documents from the embassy of South Sudan.
The family was detained for 48 hours in a Khartoum Police Station and freed once more on 26 June.
They opted then to take refuge at the US embassy, where the Wani family have been receiving support and assistance.
Six months into the year and we have already witnessed the continent ignited by religious Tensions.
From the kidnappings and mass killings of Nigeria’s’ Boko Haram, the Egyptian Islamic upheavals and attacks on Coptic Churches to the appalling Central African Republic’s ‘Christian Militia’ oxymoron, religion continues to shake the continent.
Whilst free, at the time of writing, Meriam is caught in the middle of a religious tug of war, a consequential debate of the Sudanese Sharia Law.
In 2009, Sudan attracted a similar international backlash when Lubna al-Hussein, a female Sudanese journalist, was sentenced to receive 40 lashes in public for wearing a pair of trousers. The case attracted international attention leading the court to change its sentence to a month’s prison term after Lubna refused to pay a fine.
Though Meriem’s story is still unfolding and thus incomplete, there is no denying that Khartoum has become the playground to that childish game: “Tag… you’re it”.