January 18, 2019

Help Save the Life of Noura Hussein

Sudan is a very dangerous place to be a woman.

Just a few years ago, a Khartoum-educated medical doctor, Meriam Ibrahim, was sentenced to 100 lashes for her adultery conviction and to death by hanging for her apostasy conviction. She had committed neither.

The Sudanese government contended that Ibrahim was a Sudanese Muslim who converted to Christianity (the crime of apostasy) when she was married to an American Sudanese Christian man. Since such marriages are forbidden, Ibrahim was charged with adultery. However, she never converted. Ibrahim was born to a Muslim man and a Christian woman, and after her father abandoned the family when she was a young child, she was raised as a Christian by her mother.

Ibrahim was pregnant at the time of her convictions, and under Sharia law the death penalty could not be carried out until after she gave birth. While this meant that Ibrahim was forced to deliver her baby with her legs shackled while in prison, it also provided time for Ibrahim’s story to reach advocates outside of Sudan who protested the injustice.  Ultimately, after an international outcry, the Khartoum government released Ibrahim. She now lives with her husband and two children in the United States.

Today, the life of another Sudanese woman is in danger.

An array of reputable news organizations have reported that 19-year-old Noura Hussein was sentenced to death by the Sudanese courts for fatally stabbing a man whom she was forced to marry.  Hussein admitted stabbing the man, but said she did so after he raped her while his relatives held her down — an account the man’s family has not contested.

Americans may find it unfathomable that in Sudan the legal age of marriage is 10 and that girls have no choice but to succumb to marriages arranged by their fathers. Also, the country has no such crime as marital rape.

At Hussein’s trial, her “husband’s” family had the option of pardoning her, but instead they recommended a death sentence, which the judge imposed on May 10. Hussein was given 15 days to appeal the court’s decision but we hope the authorities will give her more time.  If the sentence is not overturned, Hussein could be executed before the end of the month.

If the world can wake up and take decisive action, perhaps Hussein’s story will not end tragically.

A number of us representing Jewish World Watch have traveled to the Darfuri refugee camps in Chad, where we met hundreds of women who have been raped — most by multiple men. None of the perpetrators of the brutal assaults was brought to justice.

We have a chance to save the life of a 19-year-old girl who stabbed the man who was raping her as members of his family held her down.

We have a chance to save the life of a 19-year-old girl who stabbed the man who was raping her as members of his family held her down. We cannot ignore or stand idly by while young girls are forced to marry and are violently raped by their husbands.

We call on President Donald Trump, our United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, and the Sudanese government to work to have this unjust death sentence commuted so that Noura Hussein can be  freed.

You can help, too, by contacting your representative in Congress. A page on the Jewish World Watch website — jww.org/savenoura — will help you do this immediately. Several Southern California representatives are in a position to be highly influential in this matter: Rep. Ed Royce is chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Reps. Karen Bass, Ted Lieu, Brad Sherman, Dana Rohrabacher, Darrell Issa and Paul Cook also serve on the committee.

Please act now, for Noura.

Howard Berman is a former congressman from the San Fernando Valley and former chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Janice Kamenir-Reznik is the co-founder of L.A.-based Jewish World Watch, an organization focused on ending genocide and mass atrocities.