Will this Architect student be the Architect of Sudan?

          Alaa Salah, a 22-year-old Sudanese woman, has become an icon of the country’s uprising.  An iconic photo of the engineering and architecture student, addressing protesters from atop a car went viral. “I’m very glad that my photo let people around the world know about the revolution in Sudan … Since the beginning of the uprising I have been going out every day and participating in the demonstrations because my parents raised me to love our home country,” Salah said.

The day they took the photo, I went to 10 different gatherings and read a revolutionary poem. It makes people very enthusiastic. In the beginning I found a group of about six women and I started singing, and they started singing with me, then the gathering became really big. A line in the poem she read - “The bullet doesn’t kill. What kills is the silence of people” –  is popular with protesters.

The photographer Lana Haroun, shows Salah standing on a car surrounded by a sea of people outside the presidential compound and army headquarters in Khartoum, Sudan’s capital. Wrapped in layers of shimmery white fabric styled as a “toub” — a traditional Sudanese style of dress for women — and gold moon earrings, Salah towers over the crowd of protesters, her finger raised defiantly in the air. Salah said she does not 

come from a political background, and took to the streets to fight for a better Sudan. “Our country is  above any political parties and any sectarian divisions,” she said.

Her toub, and those worn by other women protesters, has become a symbol of freedom, strength, and solidarity in a country that has been suffering from a state of turmoil, oppression, and instability for decades under al-Bashir’s rule. Sudanese women were continually facing  threats, ranging from child marriage to domestic violence, sexual harassment, rape etc.

Sudan’s military has overthrown the country’s longtime president, Omar al-Bashir. It’s a huge win for the hundreds and thousands of Sudanese protesters who have taken to the streets for months calling for his ouster — and for the brave women who have been a driving force in the protest movement.

Salah and the thousands of other women who have been leading and participating in the protests are being referred to as “Kandaka”  the Nubian title for “queen.” They’ve become both the face of the movement to oust al-Bashir and a symbol of the struggle for women’s rights in Sudan.

One  twitter comment- “think any Sudanese person would see this photograph and immediately remember their mother or their aunt or their grandmother. So there’s a 

nostalgic element to the photo and I think it represents a certain kind of Sudanese empowered femininity,”

Samira Sawlani in twitter said – “Women are at the forefront of the uprising in Sudan. Just look at her. Absolute queen. Crowd are chanting ‘revolution’” Salah’s mother is a fashion designer working with the traditional Sudanese toub – the dress Salah was wearing in the photographs – and her father owns a construction company.

Sudan’s public order laws, which control women’s freedom of dress, behavior, association, and education, have led to the oppression and punishment of Sudanese women for years and enabled a patriarchal system to thrive. Girls as young as 10 years old are legally allowed to marry, and girls are frequently forced into marriages with much older men without their consent. Marital rape is also legal in the country.

Women’s rights in Sudan faced international condemnation last May when a child bride, Noura Hussein, was sentenced to death for killing her husband as he tried to rape her. However, after an online petition appealing for clemency garnered more than 1.5 million signatures, her sentence was reduced to a five-year jail sentence.

Yet despite having faced this kind of repression and exploitation for decades — or, perhaps, because of that fact — women have been at the forefront of the nationwide protests since they began in December. Reports estimate that more than 70 percent of the protesters who have gone out into 

the streets are women.  Sudan’s Defense Minister Awad Mohamed Ahmed Ibn Auf announced  that al-Bashir, who has been indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on charges of committing genocide and crimes against humanity,  it’s clear that his brutal 30-year reign has come to a definitive end.

Many protesters reacted with anger after Sudanese Defense Minister Ibn Auf announced in a speech that a two-year transitional government administered by the military would take over following al-Bashir’s arrest.

On Twitter, Salah accused the al-Bashir regime of “hoodwinking Sudanese civilians through a military coup” and demanded that a civilian council be put in charge of the transitional government.

The people do not want a transitional military council. Change will not happen with Bashir’s entire regime hoodwinking Sudanese civilians through a military coup. We want a civilian council to head the transition.

Protesters also said that after Ibn Auf, a key military leader during al-Bashir’s suppression of rebels in Darfur in the early 2000s, delivered his speech, their hope had been turned to anger and disappointment as they realized he was unlikely to give al-Bashir up for prosecution by the ICC.

“They just replaced one thief with another,” Ahmad Ibrahim, a young protester told the Washington Post. “We are going to keep pushing until all of our demands are met."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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