When Will Meriam and Her Family Come to the United States?


by Sharon Rondeau

(Jul. 20, 2014) — A Christian Sudanese mother of two and wife of an American citizen is still awaiting clearance from Sudanese authorities to leave the country which sentenced her to death for her faith.

On May 15, Meriam Ibrahim Wani was sentenced to 100 lashes for “adultery” and death by hanging for refusing to renounce Christianity.  Her brother had accused her of adultery last fall after reportedly stating to authorities that she was “missing” following her marriage in December 2011 to Daniel Wani, a naturalized American citizen.

Sudanese courts follow Sharia law, which condemns anyone for following a different faith from that of his or her father.  Meriam’s father was reportedly a Muslim but left the family when she was six years old, leaving her Christian mother to raise her as a Christian.

Jailed since January with her then-20-month-old son Martin, Meriam awaited the birth of her second child, Maya, who was born within the prison confines on May 27 while Meriam was chained to the floor.

After international outcry about Meriam’s sentence, including from heads of state in Great Britain and other countries, a Sudanese appeals court overturned the verdicts and she was released on June 23.  However, when the family tried to board a plane for the U.S. at the international airport in Khartoum the following day, a 40-member security force accused Meriam of traveling with “forged” documentation.  The family was detained for two days in an airport security area, and authorities from both the South Sudanese and U.S. embassies were summoned to explain their possible roles in preparing Meriam’s exit paperwork.

Obama has said nothing about the Wanis’ plight, although putative Secretary of State John Kerry prodded Sudan to release Meriam and the children from prison.

Both embassies stated that Meriam’s documents are authentic, but Sudanese authorities say that Meriam’s original Muslim name should have been used on them.

The Wani family has been staying at the U.S. embassy in Khartoum since June 26.  NBC News reported that they were released by airport security only on bond and with the condition that they remain in the country.

On July 9, The Christian Post reported that Meriam’s fears that her daughter’s mobility was damaged because of the circumstances of her birth have resulted in the scheduling of an ultrasound to be done in the near future.  A physician who examined Maya at the embassy was of the opinion that she did not suffer physical injury.

It is unknown if a lawsuit filed against her by Meriam’s brother will delay the family’s departure for the U.S. further.  The brother, who believes Meriam should have died for her leaving Islam, is reportedly also responsible for her detention by security forces at the airport.

The Italian government is reportedly involved in seeking the family’s safe passage out of Sudan.

Meriam is reportedly an entrepreneur as well as a trained physician.  Meriam and Daniel suspect that her brother wants to be able to wrest her business holdings in Sudan from her.

Daniel’s home is in Manchester, NH, where the couple hopes to go to raise their children.

After the verdicts were overturned but the family detained at the airport, the Sudanese embassy in Washington, DC had said that Meriam was “free to leave” Sudan as long as she “did it legally.”

On July 9, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to reauthorize the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) , with at least one congressman citing Meriam’s case as justification.  The Senate must also approve the renewal of the commission.

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