Alaa Salah, otherwise dubbed ‘the woman in white’ has become the icon of the Sudanese revolution after a photo of her atop a car roof addressing thousands of protesters in a mass sit-in went viral this week. The 22-year-old engineering and architecture student was captured in a traditional white thobe wearing gold moon earrings, with her finger raised to the sky – an image which has inspired the Sudanese nation and many around the world.
Salah has chanted ‘Thawra,’ meaning ‘revolution,’ and sang revolutionary songs this week outside the feared Sudanese military and intelligence headquarters, and even outside the Presidential compound.“Women have a voice…it is our revolution,” Salah told them.
The numerous female protesters who have dominated the rolling protests over the past 16 weeks have been called Kandaka – a reference to the Nubian Queens of ancient Sudan who fought with great courage for their rights and their country.
The Sudanese security forces have targeted and dealt harshly with female protesters, many being detained, tortured, even flogged and stoned for ‘morality crimes.’ The participation of women in the protests calling on al-Bashir to resign has been so overwhelming that men have been in the minority.
The repression of women under al-Bashir’s regime has been systematic. Considering that 15 000 women were sentenced to flogging in 2016, the show of force by Sudanese women since December was a remarkable show of bravery.
The public order police flexed their muscles during the draconian crackdown, arresting women for wearing trousers, exposing their hair, or driving in cars with a male companion.
Today Sudan’s women are celebrating.
* Shannon Ebrahim is the Group Foreign Editor.