Meriam Ibrahim, a young mother married to an American man, had been sentenced to death in Sudan for allegedly converting to the Christian faith but got a reprieve yesterday thanks to international outcry. However, authorities picked her and her family up again at the airport as she attempted to leave the country. Both Christian Post and the BBC report tonight that she has been released again:
The joy of her release was short-lived, however, as she and her Christian husband were detained at an airport in Sudan less than 24 hours following her release. But another update on Tuesday has confirmed that Ibrahim has once again been released by Sudanese authorities.
“They were temporarily detained for several hours over questions related to their documents,” Marie Harf, a spokeswoman for the U.S. state department told journalists, adding that Sudan had guaranteed to the U.S. that the family was now safe.
A Sudanese official earlier told the BBC that Ibrahim had been using South Sudanese papers to leave the country and needed to obtain a passport and exit visa prior to her release.
The report speculated that the National Intelligence and Security Service — a key stakeholder in Sudanese politics — was unhappy with the recent decision to release Ibrahim and that “re-arresting her and her family was a way of making this point to the rest of the Sudanese government.”
“It is also conceivable that one part of NISS accepted Mrs Ibrahim’s release, while another section was not happy with it. Mrs Ibrahim’s release and re-arrest simply underline the fact that there are many decision-makers in Sudanese politics, and they do not always agree with each other,” it added.
This seems like a situation where we’d want some consular representatives, maybe even embassy Marines, accompanying her as she leaves the country to prevent exactly what happened today. Did we? The State Department doesn’t know. From State’s press briefing today, of course:
HARF: The State Department has been informed by the Sudanese government that the family was temporarily detained at the airport for several hours by the government for questioning over issues related to their travel and I think travel documents. They have not been arrested. The government has assured us of their safety. The embassy has been and will remain highly involved in working with the family and the government. We are engaging directly with Sudanese officials to secure their safe and swift departure from Sudan and of course we’ll provide more information as we get it.
. . .
Q: You don’t know at the moment if someone from the embassy had eyes on them..?
HARF: I’m sorry I just don’t I’m happy to check with our folks.
Let’s hope she stays free this time. Perhaps Marie Harf and Jen Psaki could tweet the embassy instructions to #BringBackOurGirl by showing up at the airport with some security for this woman. It seems like very little to expect for someone who’s married to an American citizen and whom international outcry has extricated from a very dangerous situation.