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April 23, 2019

Women in the front


April 23, 2019

Bashir’s government has used repressive tactics and measures to quell the protests. More than 40 protesters have been killed, hundreds detained and tortured. The brutal response did not stop women from placing themselves firmly at the heart of the protests.

They lead the march chanting a Zagrouda, an ululation commonly used by women in the Arab world to express celebration.

During the month of March, women wore the traditional white thobe in support of the protests and women’s rights. Social media platforms filled with pictures of female protesters wearing the white robe, using the hashtag #whitemarch.

Women who protest regularly face police brutality. Authorities have fired tear gas and live ammunition and have even [been] threatened with rape. Women have also reportedly been beaten, their faces have been branded and their hair cut off inside detention centers. Every day new footage of Sudanese women getting beaten and humiliated circulates on social media:

But the same hashtags are also used to show the bravery of women in Sudan.

This week, a photo and a video from the protests have gone viral. A 22-year-old engineering and architecture student named Alaa Salah raised her right arm as she led the crowd in a chant called “Thawra” (Arabic for ‘revolution’). The video and photo would end up going viral and Sudanese activists are now referring to her as “Kandaka,” the title given to Nubian queens of ancient Sudan.

Illustrations shared on social networks transformed Salah into the “Sudanese Statue of Liberty.”

Behind the screen, Facebook groups once dominated by conversations about marriage and crushes are now used to expose police brutality. The women in these groups disclose videos and pictures of abusive security forces. When the identity is revealed, the agent concerned is often beaten up and chased out of town. The impact of these groups is remarkable – many security agents are now hiding their faces.

The Sudanese authorities have tried to block social media in the country, but the women bypass the blockade by using Virtual Private Networks (VPN), which can hide a user’s location.

Female painters, digital artists, and musicians have produced works of art to complement street protests. They use art to honor the endurance of the people, especially women.

On March 12, the emergency court of appeals in Sudan, amid pressure from families of the women who rallied outside the courthouse, scrapped the flogging punishment of nine female Sudanese protesters that were sentenced to 20 lashes and one month in prison for rioting.

Flogging is a common form of punishment particularly for women in Sudan – they risk flogging for crimes like indecent clothing or adultery.

In 2014, a woman was sentenced to death for marrying a non-Muslim, which is considered adultery. In 2015, a woman was lashed 75 times for marrying a man without her father’s consent. In 2017, 24 women were arrested for wearing trousers.

Sometimes the brutality goes beyond flogging: Many Sudanese women have been sentenced to death by stoning. According to Reuters, Bashir defended his position on strict adherence to Sharia law in Sudan in 2011:

‘We want to present a constitution that serves as a template to those around us. And our template is clear, a 100 percent Islamic constitution, without communism or secularism or Western (influences).’

The Sudanese Penal code allows girls as young as 10 to get married, and states that a woman’s rape by her husband cannot be qualified as such. On top of that, women have to face “morality laws” that chain them and oppress them on a daily basis.

Excerpted from: ‘How Women Are Leading the Sudanese Revolution’.