Written by Anika Asuncion, The Vitruvian’s Associate Editor (SY 2019–2020)
In the midst of political unrest that started in December 2018, Sudan paused to hear an angel sing of promise. Alaa Salah, a 22-year-old architecture student, orchestrated a show of power through song and poetry on a car roof while hundreds of protesters chanted with her. While clad in white, a symbol of peace, Salah’s message had transcended barriers of discord. Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir was eventually forced to step down after numerous rallies and accusations were filed against him, a monumental milestone after 30 years of monotonous control. Women have birthed this moment, and they should be applauded for it especially after all those years of mistreatment of them from the patriarchy.
For three decades, Omar al-Bashir implemented lashings of policies aimed at degrading women, apparently with the motive of fulfilling the Sudan’s incredibly conservative Islamic forces, which strengthened his regime. This meant that child marriage was allowed, marital rape was permitted, and women were not allowed to wear trousers in public. Misogyny never stopped Alaa Salah to speak against the injustices brought about by Al-Bashir, and she never limited herself from what she can do for Sudan. She was raised to love it, after all.
“Two-third of the protesters in Sudan are women. Women are half the society. You cannot have a revolution without women,” remarked Salah. “You cannot have democracy without women. We believed we could, so we did.”
Salah’s work had paid off, because in the minutes where her voice became the sound of revolution, all victims of al-Bashir were unified and determined to get him ousted. For days, Sudanese protesters would rage on the streets to defy his oppressive regime. Economic turmoil was the catalyst of the coup d’état executed against him on April 11, 2019. Famine was prominent in the region, and poverty was the face of the nation. The totalitarianism and injustice exhibited by the former president are testaments to the kind of greedy and corrupted politician he really was. People may have glorified him for being a revolutionary hero in the past for overthrowing a previous dictator, but now that he’s been charged with war crimes and genocide by the international court, majority have ultimately lost faith in him.
The unfortunate thing is, Sudan still hasn’t been wholly freed. Tyranny was a rampant theme in al-Bashir’s decades of ruling, even after he was taken away. The Transitional Military Council (TMC) displayed aggressiveness against the protesters after the coup, insisting that the army needed to rule. They vowed that order would be restored in a short while, but the rest of the people called for a civilian-led government instead. Violence broke out after that, and Sudan was then cut off from the rest of the world due to a media blackout. Until now, the internet is barely accessible to Sudanese citizens and a proper government has yet to be established. A devastating fact is that women who stood in the front lines of revolution were sexually harassed, raped, and killed. Sudan remains shrouded, but activists refuse for it to be a coffin being lowered further into the ground. On the bright side, the TMC and the representative group of civilian protesters, Forces of Freedom and Change (FCC), have recently reached a consensus. The agreement was made in July, and both groups are willing to share power until the elections in 2022. They even spurred the United Nations Security Council lift its suspension of troop withdrawals and make sure all peacekeepers leave Darfur by June 2020, but the African Union says overall security in the vast western region “remains volatile.”
Although there isn’t a stable government in Sudan yet, the world is listening closely. Salah’s voice is still being heard, and her image is a vivid painting in the minds of those who care enough to see it. Multiple countries have pledged financial aid to help Sudan, such as Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates. Both countries pledged $3B, but the amount of money needed to rebuild Sudan’s economy is around $10B. Celebrities and the like have spread awareness about the dire situation in the African country, but not everyone knows the extent of it.
A line from a poem that Alaa Salah recited spoke volumes about Sudan’s revolution: “The bullet doesn’t kill. What kills is the silence of people.”