Meriam’s Courage: Facing Death by Hanging

Meriam’s courage’ is the title of a story that was told in Sudan primary school reading books during the 1970s. It’s about the little girl Meriam who saw the floods coming from a distance towards her village, she ran fast and alerted her people and eventually saved them. I remember that Meriam’s story of courage was an inspiration for girls at a time in Sudan when heroic acts were not boys-branded, and girls could also be heroines and rescuers.

Fast forward to May 15th, 2014 when Meriam Ibrahim Yahya, a 27 year old Sudanese woman from Gadarif in Eastern Sudan, stood in front of Haj Yousif court in Northern Khartoum and rejected, with great bravery, the miserable attempts by the court judge to force her to repent (ÇÓÊÊÇÈÉ – calling the apostate to repent before he is executed).  With audacity Meriam told the court “I am a Christian, I did not convert from Islam”.

Meriam’s solid stance brought back the memory of the execution of the Sudanese Islamic thinker and reformer, Mahmud Taha, who was executed in 1985 in Sudan under the same apostasy charges.

The story began back in 1983 when the miserable dictator of Sudan at the time, Gaafar al-Nimeiry, in his desperate attempt to save his failing regime created an alliance between his regime and the Muslim Brotherhood political organization. Both were engaged in designing what was called at the time, ‘The September Laws or/ Islamic Sharia Laws’ – a combination of the most militant interpretations of religion jurisprudence (Figah), and the accumulative heritage of Dark Ages political repression. The whole purpose was to hunt political opponents and terrorize communities through a blind theological regime with absolute power, assumed to be delegated from above. The core base of the political Islamic state; the criminalization of personal behaviour, control of human interaction, and most importantly, the persecution of women as a source of sin and evil. The punishments in September Laws were mostly corporal penalties – ranging from flogging to death by stoning, amputation, imprisonment, and execution. For a short period following the collapse of Nimeiry’s regime, the September Criminal Laws were suspended, only to be revived again in the same exact format following the 1989 military coup by the Sudanese Muslim Brotherhood, and were reproduced again under the Sudan 1991 Criminal Act.

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