Exclusive: Mariam Ibraheem opens up about harrowing ordeal

Sudanese Christian shares her story


This is a rush transcript from "The Kelly File," September 15, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

MEGYN KELLY, HOST: Sentenced to die for her Christian faith, Mariam Ibraheem spent six months in a Sudanese prison shackled to the floor. Accused of converting from Islam to Christianity, she was willing to die rather than embrace Islam.

After a global outcry her sentence was overturned, and last week she walked into the Fox News studios and sat down for her very first interview.


KELLY (voiceover): It was a case that highlighted the brutal dictates of hardcore Sharia law, a Christian woman in Sudan sentenced to hang to death for allegedly abandoning Islam.

TONY PERKINS, PRESIDENT, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: Because of her Christian faith -- she's been charged with Apostasy and with adultery, because she married a non-Muslim, the marriage is not recognized.

KELLY: But Mariam Ibraheem says she was always a Christian, the same as her mother. A claim a Sudanese court rejected as it threw her in jail with her toddler son. She had married a Catholic, with American citizenship, and as she and her American son sat in prison, Mariam gave birth to another child, knowing she'd been sentenced to hang.

KELLY (on camera), MAY 30: She is chained or told, in this hospital bed, she gave birth in a filthy jail -- not hospital, filthy jail cell to an infant girl.

KELLY (voiceover): A visitor was able to sneak out this picture and the pressure grew on the White House and others to help this mother and her American children.

SEN. TED CRUZ, R-TEXAS, JUNE 12: This woman is sentenced to death for being a Christian. The president of the United States should be outraged, and no one can speak to this with the force and power of the president. We need to see presidential leadership here.

KELLY: Mariam's family says the U.S. Embassy flat out refused to assist her. The State Department under pressure to intervene reportedly did some work behind the scenes, although it's not clear how much or when. Others like the family research council's, Tony Perkins worked nonstop to rally politicians and the people to gain Mariam's freedom. And then one day an appeals court intervened.

PERKINS, JUNE 23: A lot of prayers were answered today when Mariam and her two children were released from this prison, all charges dropped. And because of the outcry of the American public, in particular they mentioned Fox News and Megyn Kelly for speaking out on this issue, it gave those reasoned voices the leverage they needed to get this decision out of the court.

KELLY: Mariam and her husband agreed to head to America, but Sudan tried to stop them from leaving the country.

In June, she and her family got out. Today, they live in New Hampshire, a state whose motto is "Live Free or Die." And now in her very first interview, Mariam Ibraheem.



KELLY: Mariam, it is wonderful to see you here.


KELLY: You were three weeks pregnant with a little girl, you had a baby boy who was just over a year old when you were first jailed in January of 2014. What went through your mind in that prison cell?

IBRAHEEM: The situation was difficult, but I was sure that God would stand by my side. I relied only on my faith and I knew that God would stand by me at any time in any situation.

KELLY: Within six weeks you were found guilty of these charges. Did they give you the chance to renounce your Christian faith?

IBRAHEEM: I was given three days. In addition to that while I was in prison, some people came to visit me from the Muslim Scholars Association. These were Imams that created an intervention by citing parts of the Quran for me. I faced a tremendous amount of pressure.

KELLY: And yet you refused. You were pregnant, you had a little baby boy in that prison cell with you. How difficult was it to stand by your faith under those circumstances?

IBRAHEEM: I had my trust in God. My faith was the only weapon that I had in these confrontations with Imams and Muslim scholars, because that's what I believed.

KELLY: But why not just say what they wanted to hear to save your life?

IBRAHEEM: If I did that that would mean that I gave up. It's not possible because it's not true. It's my right to follow the religion of my choice. I'm not the only one suffering from this problem.

There are many Mariams' in Sudan and throughout the world. It's not just me, I'm not the only one.

KELLY: Did you believe they would kill you?

IBRAHEEM: Faith means life. If you don't have faith, you're not alive.

KELLY: Wow. Twelve days after the death sentence was handed down you gave birth to Maya in prison. Describe the conditions there.

IBRAHEEM: Maya was born under difficult circumstances. I was supposed to give birth at a hospital, but they denied that request. When it was time to give birth, they refused to remove the chains from my ankles, so I had to give birth in chains. It was difficult.

KELLY: What a dark moment that must have been. You're in this Sudanese prison, you're holding your newborn baby, your young toddler son is in there with you. Your knowing that you have been sentenced to die. How did you deal with that?

IBRAHEEM: This was a very difficult situation, but I had my faith in God. I knew that God would help me, that God knew that I was a victim of injustice. It is my right to be able to practice the religion I choose.

KELLY: What is your understanding of what the U.S. government did for you?

IBRAHEEM: In the beginning before I went to prison Daniel and I first went to the U.S. Embassy. The console refused to speak to us and hear the details of the problem, she refused to deal with us and told us to go to the U.N.

However, Ambassador Jerry Lanier stood by me, and his support made a big difference in my life.

KELLY: Finally, under international pressure, an appeals court set you free. What was it like to get that news?

IBRAHEEM: I laughed. I cried. I was very happy.

KELLY: At the airport they tried to stop you from leaving Sudan. But ultimately you got out. You flew to Rome first, with their deputy foreign minister who right before you landed sent out a message saying, "A couple of minutes away from Rome, mission accomplished." Then you met with the Pope. That must have been surreal.

IBRAHEEM: I was very happy. I have no problem with anyone. I have not committed any crime. The only thing I'm guilty of is wanting to live my life the way I choose.

KELLY: Was it sad for you to leave Sudan despite everything?

IBRAHEEM: Sad, yes, because this is my country where I was born. My people, my friends, my neighbors are all there. And my life is deeply rooted in Sudan. Despite all of the suffering and difficult circumstances, one gets used to it.

KELLY: Let's talk about Islam. Because Sudan sees the regular persecution of Christians, it's not unusual. Eighty eight percent of the girls undergo genital mutilation. How danger is do you perceive radical Islam?

IBRAHEEM: As I said, I put my life at risk for the women of Sudan. I was close to them. And I felt their suffering. I share with them the difficult circumstances in prison and in life in general.

With regard to the situation of Christians, this is a well-known fact that they live under difficult circumstances. And they are persecuted and treated harshly. They are afraid to say that they are Christians out of fear of persecution. Sometimes imprisoned Christians with financial difficulties are told that the government will pay off their debts if they convert to Islam.

I was never a Muslim. I have always been a Christian. So, if you are a Christian and you convert to Islam, it becomes hard to leave Islam because if you do so, you'll be subjected to the death penalty.

KELLY: Now that you're here in the United States, first of all, you're living in New Hampshire.


KELLY: How's that?

IBRAHEEM: Right now, I still don't have a stable life.

KELLY: Big change.

IBRAHEEM: But it's better than prison.

KELLY: Yes, well, thank you for that.


Let me ask you, do you feel at all in danger still?


KELLY: How so?

IBRAHEEM: Because I have in my mind a vivid picture of the situation in Sudan.

KELLY: How are your children doing here?

IBRAHEEM: My children are very happy to be with their father, together, as a family.

KELLY: What does the future hold for Mariam Ibrahim?

IBRAHEEM: I'd like to help the people in Sudan and Africa, especially women and children, and to promote freedom of religion.

KELLY: And to those who view you as a heroine for Christians, what do you say?

IBRAHEEM: I say to them, thank you very much for your support and your prayers. But I still need support.

KELLY: How so?

IBRAHEEM: I need prayers. I need people's support.

KELLY: And you will get them. All the best to you and your family.

IBRAHEEM: Thank you. Thank you very much.


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