Ibrahim flees to US embassy in Khartoum

The saga of Meriam Yahia Ibrahim took a welcome turn overnight. With death threats coming from her brother and others, the young Christian mother whom Sudan released this week from a death sentence fled to the US embassy in Khartoum, which has provided her refuge until Sudan allows her to leave the country:

A Christian mother formerly on death row in Sudan has taken refuge at the U.S. Embassy after being released from police custody for a second time. …

video report by the BBC’s Arabic service showed the Ibrahim released for a second time late Thursday. But Ibrahim’s passage to the U.S. may still be blocked as she now faces forgery charges relating to the emergency travel documents she attempted to use to get out of the country. According to Reuters, Ibrahim was released on the condition that she not attempt to leave the country.

Well, keeping that pledge might be a little … complicated, under the circumstances. After all, when the government and your own family have explicitly threatened to kill you for your religion, it’s a little difficult to think of reasons to trust them, no? The forgery charges are trumped up, too; South Sudan certified them as accurate, but Sudan clearly wants to make an example of her. Now that she’s being sheltered at the US embassy, that’s going to be more difficult for them to accomplish.

Meriam Ibrahim spoke to the BBC from outside the embassy:


According to Reuters news agency, quoting her lawyer, Mrs Ibrahim was released on the condition that she remains in Sudan.

“Mariam was released after a guarantor was found, but, of course, she would not be able to leave the country,” Mr Mustafa said.

“I would like to thank the Sudanese people and the Sudanese police,” she told the BBC in an exclusive interview as she left custody. “I would like to thank those who stood beside me.”

Asked about her plans following her release, she said: “I will leave it to God. I didn’t even have a chance to see my family after I got out of prison.”

The issue of the guarantor came up yesterday as well. Someone — it’s not clear yet who — vouched for Ibrahim and her agreement to stay in Sudan in order to win her release. If she flees, the guarantor will be liable for her refusal to obey.

According to Modern Ghana (which refers to her as Meriam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag), the entire family is being sheltered at the US embassy while the situation gets sorted out:

One of Ishag’s lawyers, Mohanad Mustafa, told AFP late Thursday that the family had gone to the US mission after her release from a police station where she had been held since security agents stopped them from travelling to the United States on Tuesday.

The family think the embassy “is a safe place for them,” Musfafa said.

Ishag is charged with forgery and providing false information in relation to a South Sudanese travel document she used to try to leave the country, a day after an appeal court overturned her apostasy conviction and released her from prison. …

Her father abandoned the family when Ishag was five, leaving her to be raised by her mother, according to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Khartoum, which said she joined the Catholic church shortly before she married.

On May 15 a court convicted Ishag under Islamic sharia law that has been in force in Sudan since 1983 and outlaws conversions on pain of death.

Kudos to the State Department for making sure that Meriam and her family have refuge in the United States, which includes the embassy grounds under diplomatic law. That creates a stalemate, of course, as it still would be tricky to get Ibrahim and her family out of the embassy and onto a plane, short of a helicopter — which would still have to transit Sudanese airspace. The best outcome would be for Sudan to give up on its weird and inexplicable persecution of Ibrahim and allow her to leave the country with her husband and children, but thus far the Sudanese government remains obstinate in the matter.

Keep praying, and hopefully the State Department will remain even more obstinate in protecting Meriam and her family.