Young Woman Becomes National Symbol of Protests in Sudan

In the past few months, Sudan has had numerous protests against its authoritarian president and government. The Sudanese people have not been deterred after months of no change, but finally, their efforts are starting to come to fruition with President Omar al-Bashir being forced out with a coup. While a coup was what put him in power in the first place, Omar al-Bashir has been in office for 30 years. Al-Bashir was in power during Sudan’s time of civil war that ended with the independence of South Sudan from Sudan. Sudan’s defense coordinator declared that the military will be taking over for a two-year transitional period and their current constitution will be suspended. Despite al-Bashir’s removal from power, the protests will continue until civilian leadership takes over according to The Sudanese Professionals Association.

Courtesy: The National

Amidst the protests, one figure has been gaining widespread popularity due to her inspirational leadership and love for her home during this time of turmoil. Her name is Alaa Salah and she is a 22-year-old architecture student. She travels around to different protests and gatherings to sing songs about revolution, read poetry, and chant in front of her fellow Sudanese people who also wish to see a change in their government. Twitter user Lana Haroun posted a picture of Salah on April 8 that went viral and earned attention not only for the protests in Sudan, but also for women’s rights. In the photo, Salah is standing on top of a car dressed in a traditional white toub and pointing towards the sky outside the presidential compound and army headquarters in Khartoum. The toub is worn by her and other women protestors and has become a symbol of freedom, strength and solidarity. Salah has said that “The toub has a kind of power and it reminds us of the Kandakas.” The Kandakas were queens who ruled 3,000 years ago in what is now Sudan.

Courtesy: The Express Tribune

According to BBC News, 70 percent of protestors who worked to bring down the al-Bashir’s reign of power were women. Around 150 women were detained following the first wave of protests. Women are often targeted by the public order police in Sudan for “morality crimes,” how they wear their clothes and if their hair is exposed, usually resulting in stoning or flogging. There are currently many issues still regarding women’s rights, ranging from high child marriage rates to domestic violence to sexual harassment. Women in Sudan has been repressed for decades due to these public order laws dictating their education, dress, behavior and association. Salah has received numerous threats due to her willingness to lead at the front but she will not be deterred stating on Twitter, “I will not bow down. My voice can not be suppressed. Will hold Al-Bashir responsible if anything happens to me. #JusticeWillPrevail.” A line from her poetry that has stuck with many people summarizes what the protests are all about: “The bullet doesn’t kill. What kills is the silence of people.”