A 19-year-old woman in Sudan has been sentenced to death for killing the man she was forced to marry, after she says he raped her while his relatives held her down.
Noura Hussein was sentenced by a judge Thursday. Her case has provoked outrage online, and people have been using the #JusticeForNoura hashtag to raise awareness, while petitions have also been created calling on the Sudanese government to intervene.
Hussein was forced to marry Abdulrahman Mohamed Hammad by her father when she was 16, but she did not move into Hammad’s house until April last year. When she refused to have sex with Hammad, three of his relatives helped him to rape her on May 2.
“She would not have sex with the man,” Sudanese rights activist Sarah ElHasan 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.”
The next day, Hammad tried to rape Hussein again, but she escaped to the kitchen where she grabbed a knife, and in the ensuing struggle, Hammad sustained fatal knife wounds. Hussein fled to her family home, but was handed over to police by her own father.
She was subsequently charged under a law that does not recognise marital rape, found guilty of intentional murder, and has spent the last year in a women’s prison.
Yesterday, in a packed courtroom in Sudan’s second-largest city of Omdurman, Hussein received the death sentence after the family of her dead husband rejected the option of financial compensation and insisted on retribution.
According to Hussein’s supporters, Hammad’s family cheered and applauded when the verdict was confirmed.
Sudan’s Radio Dabanga said Muawya Khidir, a member of Hussein’s defense team, does not believe Hussein deserves any sentence, as she was merely defending herself after becoming a victim of rape. Her legal team have 15 days to appeal the sentence.
Amnesty International called Hussein’s sentence an “intolerable act of cruelty.”
“Noura Hussein’s lifelong wish was to become a teacher, but she ended up being forced to marry an abusive man who raped and brutalized her,” said Amnesty’s deputy regional director for East Africa, Seif Magango.
“The death penalty is the ultimate cruel, inhuman, and degrading punishment, and to apply it to a rape victim only highlights the failure of the Sudanese authorities to acknowledge the violence she endured.
“The Sudanese authorities must quash this grossly unfair sentence and ensure that Noura Hussein gets a fair retrial that takes into account her mitigating circumstances.”