Since December 2018, protests in Sudan that sparked over the tripled price of bread have turned into nationwide protests against the nearly three-decade rule regime of Omar Al Bashir.
Finally, on Thursday, April 11, 2019, Bashir was forced to step down.
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 (#مارس_الابيض)
Women who protest regularly face police brutality. Authorities have fired tear gas and live ammunition and have even 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.”
From the streets to the screen
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.