Human Rights Advocate: Int’l Community Should Call for Release of Jailed Christian Mother

By Penny Starr | May 21, 2014 | 3:11 PM EDT

Omer Ismail, Sudanese human rights advocate and senior advisor for the Enough Project to end genocide, spoke during a panel discussion on Sudan on May 20, 2014 in Washington, D.C. ( Starr)

( – A Sudanese human rights advocate called on the international community to demand the release of a pregnant woman jailed with her 20-month-old son and sentenced to death for not renouncing her Christian faith.

When asked Tuesday about the fate of Meriam Yahya Ibrahim, Omer Ismail, senior advisor to the Enough Project to end genocide, said the international community should speak out for this woman and all of the Sudanese people.

“I think the international community should call for the immediate release of this woman,” he said. “And, actually, the immediate release of the entire country – the Sudanese people.”

Ismail was part of a panel discussion at the Capitol on the growing violence in Sudan that has resulted in thousands of deaths and the displacement of more than a million people. asked about Meriam, a 27-year-old who was born to a Muslim father and Ethiopian Orthodox mother. She married Daniel Wani, a Christian and U.S. citizen in 2012. The couple has one son, Martin Wani, and another child due to be born in a matter of weeks.

Meriam and her toddler son were jailed in February, and in March, a judge charged her with apostasy for professing Christianity after being born to a Muslim father and “adultery” for sleeping with her own husband, because Sudan refuses to recognize the marriage of a Muslim woman to a Christian man, according to Morning Star News.

Last week, the court sentenced her to be flogged for adultery and executed for apostasy.

“I think it is important to note that this is part of the intolerance of this government of any dissent whatsoever, and also it’s a way of curbing freedoms,” Ismail said.

Ismail said this includes freedom of religion. He called on the international community to seek Meriam’s release.

“I think the international community should call for the immediate release of this woman, and actually, the immediate release of the entire country – the Sudanese people,” Ismail said.

Ismail said the Sudanese government is trying to reinstall Sharia law.

“I believe it’s an attempt to show the Sudanese that we can go back to our early days of imposing sharia and cutting off hands, and lashing women and hanging people,” Ismail said. “And it’s a method of scaring, basically, the public that is demanding more freedom and demanding that the government change.

“So I think the support for this case is not necessarily support for Meriam Yahya alone, but it is support for the whole Sudanese people who are very hungry for freedom,” Ismail said.

On May 15, Marie Harf, deputy department spokesperson for the Embassy of the United States Khartoum-Sudan, issued astatement about the case.

“We are deeply disturbed over the sentencing today of Meriam Yahya Ibrahim Ishag to death by hanging for apostasy,” the statement said. “We are also deeply concerned by the flogging sentence for adultery.

“We understand that the court sentence can be appealed,” the statement said. “We continue to call upon the Government of Sudan to respect the right to freedom of religion, a right which is enshrined in Sudan’s own 2005 Interim Constitution as well as international human rights law.

“We call on the Sudanese legal authorities to approach this case with the compassion that is in keeping with the values of the Sudanese people,” the statement said.