Skip to main content

Toy row teacher speaks of ordeal

  • Story Highlights
  • Teacher Gillian Gibbons returns to UK after receiving pardon from Sudan's president
  • "I am just an ordinary, middle-aged, primary school teacher," she says
  • She apologizes for any distress her actions may have caused
  • She was jailed for letting students name teddy bear Mohammed
  • Next Article in World »
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font

LONDON, England (CNN) -- A British teacher who was jailed over the naming of a teddy bear said Tuesday that she "got a bit more than I bargained for" during her stint in Sudan.

"I am just an ordinary middle-aged primary school teacher," Gillian Gibbons said after arriving in London. "I went there to have a bit of adventure and got a bit more than I bargained for."

Gibbons was arrested on November 25 on a charge of blasphemy for allowing a class teddy bear at the school where she was teaching to be named "Mohammed."

Her case set off a flurry of international diplomacy, ending with her pardon Monday by Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.

Gibbons, smiling and gripping the hand of her son John in the arrival lounge at the airport, said she was overwhelmed by the support she had received from British officials, friends and well-wishers. Video Watch Gillian Gibbons at a news conference on arrival in London »

She also stressed that she had never intended to insult anyone.

"I was very upset to think that I might have caused offense to people," she added.

The teacher said she did not want her experience to put people off visiting Sudan where she said she had a "fabulous time" and which she described as an "extremely beautiful place."

"In fact I know of a lovely school that needs a new Year Two teacher," she said. Asked what she thought about her sentencing she said it was "a very delicate area."

An Emirates airlines plane carrying the 54-year-old touched down in the pre-dawn darkness Tuesday at London's Heathrow airport.

Her release came after two British Muslim lawmakers, Sayeeda Warsi and Nazir Ahmed -- both members of the House of Lords -- persuaded Sudanese officials that letting Gibbons go free would create international goodwill toward their country.

Gibbons thanked Warsi and Ahmed and also paid tribute to former colleagues at the Unity High School in Khartoum whose support, she said, had been "legendary." Video Watch Nazir Ahmed talking to CNN about Gibbons' release »

Gibbons arrived back in England after she was granted a presidential pardon Monday. She was arrested after a former secretary at her school complained to the authorities, apparently in retaliation for being dismissed from her job, Sudanese officials told CNN.

Gibbons' conviction for blasphemy could have seen her sentenced to 40 lashes. Without a pardon, she would have remained in jail another six days.

"Common sense has prevailed," British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said after her release was announced. Gibbons said Tuesday that her immediate plans were to spend Christmas with her family and then to look for a teaching job in the New Year.

She was expected to travel home to the northern English city of Liverpool accompanied by her family.

CNN reporter Wilf Dinnick, who accompanied Gibbons on the second leg of her flight from Dubai to London, said the atmosphere among Gibbons' delegation was somber. British officials traveling with Gibbons told CNN she was exhausted and that she was moved up to first class to allow her to get some sleep.

She was accompanied by a security guard for the duration of the flight and did not speak to reporters during the journey.

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir granted her a presidential pardon earlier Monday, and she left the country hours later under court order.


Sudanese courts ruled she should be deported after completing her sentence.

The efforts to secure her release were complicated by pressure from Sudanese hard-liners for her to complete her 15-day sentence. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

All About SudanGillian Gibbons

  • E-mail
  • Save
  • Print