Sudanese teen Noura Hussein continues her fight for freedom

The legal team representing Sudanese teenager Noura Hussein, who killed her 35-year-old husband in what she says was self-defense as he tried to rape her, filed an appeal to Sudan’s Supreme Court on Thursday to have her sentence overturned.

Hussein was on death row for fatally stabbing Abdulrahman Mohamed Hammad until two weeks ago, when an appeals court in Sudan reduced her sentence to five years in jail following an international outcry over her case. The court ordered her family to pay 337,000 Sudanese pounds (about $18,600) in “blood money” to the man’s family.

Her lawyers have also appealed the payment, and asked for $8,000 in compensation.

Hussein’s story has put a spotlight on forced marriage and marital rape in Sudan, where the legal age to enter into marriage is 10 and marital rape is not a crime. And her initial conviction and sentence — death by hanging — triggered global outrage, capturing the attention of human-rights groups and celebrities like model Naomi Campbell, actress Emma Watson and singer Jidenna.

“We are looking for justice,” Nahid Jabralla, director of Khartoum-based human rights group SEEMA, which is supporting Hussein, told CNN. “The appeal will look for her to be cleared totally of the charges.”

But she cautioned that it won’t be without a fight. Hammad’s family denies Hussein’s allegations and continues to contest her case. The family is expected to file its own appeal calling to reinstate the death penalty.

Hussein’s parents forced her to marry Hammad when she was just 15, but allowed her to finish school. Three years later, after a formal public wedding, Hussein alleges that Hammad raped her as his family held her down. One day later, Hussein said, he tried to rape her again, and she stabbed him to death. When she went to her parents for support, they turned her over to the police.

The court’s decision to commute Hussein’s sentence on June 26 was based on her version of events. Key to their decision was accepting that she had found a knife under her pillow before stabbing her husband, and did not take it from the kitchen, as prosecutors originally alleged.

As Hussein fights this reduced sentence, advocacy groups supporting her say they’re fearful for her safety. Prison authorities are only allowing visits from her legal team because of concerns over reprisals.

Hussein’s family has been repeatedly threatened and intimidated since she killed her husband in 2017. Shortly after the incident, her parents’ home was burned down. And recently, in an interview with a Sudanese newspaper, Hammad’s father threatened further revenge if Hussein was pardoned, saying he would seek the life of one of her male relatives.

“If this international push for so-called forgiveness for Noura is successful then we will seek our vengeance from within Noura’s family, and we will take in the place of her life the life of a man, because that was taken from us,” he told Sudanese newspaper al-Tayar.

SEEMA, and other supporting groups, are looking into options for Hussein’s protection after her possible release.

And they’re continuing to campaign for other “Nouras.”

SEEMA plans to launch a hashtag alongside Hussein’s appeal: #wearemany. According to SEEMA program manager Afaf Doleeb, their hope is to use the hashtag to highlight the stories of other girls fighting against child marriage in Sudan, where more than one in three girls get married before they reach 18.