Activists in last-ditch effort to save 19-year-old condemned to death for stabbing the man she was forced to marry as he assaulted her
A 19-year-old Sudanese woman has been condemned to death by a court in Omdurman for stabbing to death the husband to whom she was forcibly married, who she says raped her with assistance of his family.
The death penalty for Noura Hussein was confirmed by a judge on Thursday after her husband’s family rejected the possibility of financial compensation and instead asked for her to be executed.
The case has attracted widespread attention on social media, where a campaign Justice for Noura has been trending on Twitter.
Her legal team now has 15 days to appeal the sentence.
After her initial sentence, Hussein told supporters: “It was a shocking moment when the judge convicted me with murder. I knew then that I [would] be executed, leaving my dreams unfulfilled.”
The case, which once again highlights the issue of forced marriage and marital rape in a number of countries, is striking for its shocking details.
Married by her family at 16, Noura fled to take refuge at an aunt’s house for three years before she was tricked into returning home by her own family, who then handed her over to her husband’s family.
According to her supporters – including the activist group Equality Now, which is backing a petition organised on her behalf – Hussein had been with her husband for six days when he raped her with the assistance of his brother, a relative, and a witness, who held her down.
“She would not have sex with the man,” Sarah ElHasan, an activist supporting Hussein’s case, told al-Jazeera. “He recruited some of his cousins and brought them [to his] home where they held her down while her husband raped her.”
When he attempted to rape her again the following day, she stabbed her husband to death before going to her own parents, who handed her over to police.
Muawya Khidir, a member of Hussein’s defence team, told local media that the death penalty was not appropriate since Hussein was defending herself at the time of the killing and was mentally and psychologically disturbed as a result of rape.
One supporter, who attended the hearing, posted details on Twitter: “They allowed us to enter the courtroom and I got to sit in the front with a colleague of mine. We waited at least 20 minutes until the judge came and [asked] Noura to enter. Noura was alone [and] no one from her family came with her.
“There was a good amount of supporters that were on her side. They reintroduced the case and so the judge eventually asked the rapist’s family what they want to happen. The judge also did mention that they should forgive her. But the family chose execution.
“When I left the court house the rapist’s family were clapping with joy and had smug looks on their faces – I was disgusted.”
Following confirmation of the sentence on Thursday, Equality Now, which has taken up Noura’s case, said it would be writing to the Sudanese president, Omar al-Bashir, to ask for clemency.
“We are also calling on people around the world to sign the change.org petition in support of Noura,” said Tara Carey of Equality Now.
“Noura is not a criminal, she is a victim – and should be treated as such. In other countries, victims of rape and domestic violence like Noura would be provided services to ensure that they overcome the trauma of their experiences.
“Criminalisation of Noura for defending herself from assault and, in particular, a death sentence, would violate her rights under the Sudanese constitution and international law.
“Noura has been subjected to both physical and mental abuse by her family and husband, and this is a violation of Articles 14 (protection of children) and 15 (no marriage without free and full consent) of the constitution.
“The constitution further provides that the ‘state shall protect women from injustice and promote gender equality’, and that ‘all persons are equal before the law and are entitled, without discrimination, to the equal protection of the law.’”