The parents of a Sudanese teenager who was sentenced to death after killing her husband – whom she accuses of raping her – have denied reports that they’ve disowned her. In an exclusive interview with the BBC, her father also says he never imagined that making her marry her cousin would have such terrible consequences.
Noura Hussein sobbed uncontrollably when she saw her mother earlier this month. It was the first time she had been visited by her family, since she was jailed one year ago.
Through the tears, the 19-year-old told her mother that she had originally planned to kill herself, after being raped by her husband.
“She hated herself after he raped her,” says Noura’s mother, Zainab Ahmed.
“She had got a knife ready to take her own life if he touched her again.”
But in the heat of the moment – when he did touch her again – she stabbed her husband instead. It was self-defence, her mother insists.
When Noura was sentenced last month an online campaign, #JusticeforNoura, spread across the world.
Supermodel Naomi Campbell and actress Emma Watson were among celebrities who joined activists in condemning the death sentence and demanding that the conviction be overturned.
And when Amnesty International urged supporters to email Sudan’s Justice Minister asking him to intervene, the volume of messages forced him to get a new email address.
It was only when her mother visited her in the harsh conditions of the Omdurman Women’s Prison that Noura discovered about this tide of support in the outside world.
For now, her own world is defined by the walls of the prison, where all inmates live in one large yard.
“There are no roofs so most of the women have to use sheets to keep the sun off them,” Justice Africa’s Sudan co-ordinator, Hafiz Mohammed, has said.
Noura remains in the shackles that she has been wearing since her arrest.
While she looked healthy, her mother says, her spirit appeared broken.
The second of eight children, Noura Hussein, grew up in the village of al-Bager, 40km (25 miles) south of Khartoum. It’s a dusty place, surrounded by sandy, rocky hillocks, not far from the River Nile.
The bright colours of the fruit and vegetables laid out on patterned cloths on the floor of the local market provide rare bursts of colour piercing the mostly brown and barren landscape.
Zainab Ahmed says her daughter was always a quiet girl, and an intelligent one.
“She had ambitions,” Zainab says. “Noura dreamed of studying law at university and eventually becoming a lecturer.”
Their extended family had left the conflict-ridden region of Darfur to move to al-Bager when Noura was a child. They didn’t have much money, but Noura’s father’s business – a small hardware shop which sold tools and oil – meant that Noura could enjoy an education. This was what made her happiest.