Meriam Ibrahim, the Sudanese Christian woman who was recently released from prison after facing the death penalty, now says that her newborn daughter is physically disabled after she was forced to give birth in jail while in shackles.
Ibrahim, who is currently trying to leave Sudan after being freed from prison, spoke for the first time about the May 27 birth in a recent interview with The Guardian. At eight months pregnant, Ibrahim had been sentenced to death for apostasy and adultery due to her Christian faith. She was then forced to give birth while shackled in the Omdurman Federal Women’s Prison in North Khartoum, Sudan.
Ibrahim, who also has a 21-month-old son, now says that because she was forced to give birth while her legs were shackled, her daughter, Maya, was born in an unconventional position and is now physically disabled. Ibrahim added that it is unclear at Maya’s young age if she will need assistance for walking when she grows older.
“I gave birth chained,” Ibrahim recalled of the traumatizing birth, adding “Not cuffs – but chains on my legs. I couldn’t open my legs so the women had to lift me off the table. I wasn’t lying on the table.”
When The Guardian asked Ibrahim if she was concerned such conditions would affect the health of her baby, she replied, “Something has happened to the baby,” explaining that her daughter had been physically disabled by the birth. “I don’t know in the future whether she’ll need support to walk or not.”
Ibrahim was freed from prison last week after an appeals court found the lower court’s death penalty sentence to be unfounded. Ibrahim and her husband, who has dual Sudanese and U.S. citizenship, then traveled to the airport in Khartoum to leave the country and head for the U.S. They were arrested at the airport and accused of using forged travel documents to leave the country, a claim denied by Ibrahim.
Ibrahim and her husband were released from the police station after being questioned, and they have now been forced to stay in Sudan until they get their travel documents in order. Ibrahim was reportedly traveling with South Sudanese travel documents, and the Sudan government claims she needs a Sudan-issued passport to leave the country.
“It’s my right to use the papers and have a South Sudanese passport because my husband is a South Sudanese citizen. He has an American passport and South Sudanese passport,” Ibrahim told The Guardian, adding “I never forged any papers.”
The Christian mother and her family have now reportedly sought refuge somewhere in Khartoum until they can decide on their next move. Ibrahim told CNN that she’s “currently in a safe place. It’s definitely safe but not comfortable.”
Ibrahim was honest in saying that the experiences of the past month have left her unsure of the best decision that will include the least amount of risk for her family. “I can’t even decide what I should do right now. I want to travel but at the same time I don’t want to travel. But the state I’m in right now means that I’m forced to. There’s a new problem every day about me leaving.”
Although Sudan claims that Ibrahim cannot leave the country using South Sudan travel documents, the U.S. State Department has said that the Christian woman has all the necessary travel documents to leave the country. “It’s up to the government of Sudan to allow her to exit the country,” Marie Harf, a spokeswoman for the U.S. State Department, said last week.