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Forbidden Love Drives South Sudanese Couple to Elope

Nineteen-year-old Ishan Ahmed Abdallah, a Sudanese national, married a man from South Sudan last year.  She acted without her mother’s and father’s permission and knew the marriage likely would upset her tradition-minded parents, but she hoped they would come around and accept it. More than a month later, Ishan and her husband, Deng Anei Awen, fear for their lives after getting public death threats from her father. The couple say Abdallah’s parents oppose their marriage because of tribal racism toward Awen. The dispute has garnered a lot of attention on Sudanese and South Sudanese social media, largely because of the death threats the father posted on Facebook last month. Awen said he and Ishan tried to follow the correct Islamic marriage procedures in Sudan but were unable to satisfy his wife’s parents. He said he and Ishan decided to leave Khartoum and elope to avoid forced separation. The dispute over the marriage has stirred a lot of conversation in Sudan about the Sharia requirement that a male guardian must preside over a woman’s marriage for it to be valid. Both Sudan and South Sudan are conservative patriarchal societies where marriage decisions are taken mostly by men on behalf of their daughters.