Sudan’s protests against the reign of president Omar al-Bashir came to an end on 11 April, when the military placed him under house arrest. The women of Sudan were at the forefront of the revolution, protesting against the rise in inflation, unemployment and oppression. Alaa Salah, a 22-year-old student of engineering and architecture at the Sudan International University, was one of them.
The symbol of protest
Salah’s picture, dressed in the white robes and moon earrings, standing on top of a car amid a sea of protesters, went viral when photographer, Lana H Haroun, shared it on Twitter.
She was dubbed as ‘Kandaka’, a term used for the ancient Nubian queens from the Kingdom of Kush.
A Twitter user explains that Salah’s outfit is reminiscent of the women in the 1960s, 70s and 80s who protested against military coups.
Weaving together gender and culture, Salah’s robe, representing a working woman and the traditional earrings have become the symbol of Sudan’s female protesters.
Why was she protesting?
Sudan’s struggle has been termed the ‘bread protest’, as it was prompted by the rise in the price of a loaf of bread.
“There is no cash at the ATM machines most of the time. Banks keep sending people away with only 500 SDG in their pockets, which is barely enough for a day.”
Yusuf Elhag, a protester at Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, to Al Jazeera
With the economy failing, the people of Sudan are fed up with the corruption in the government and the high rates of unemployment. The women took charge of the protest, also voicing out against the years of oppression under Bashir’s public morality laws and corporal punishments.
Why it Matters…
“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,” Salah told The Guardian.
The photographer, Haroun, also shared a video on her Twitter account stating that she’s proud that she has contributed to the history of Sudan by sharing the image, but will only be happy when the goal of the protest is achieved.
“Tell our story for everyone in the world and pray for us to be in a better Sudan,” she said.
Salah tweeted, “You cannot have a revolution without women. You cannot have democracy without women.”
“In such movements, women are widely participating not only for their rights, but for the rights of the entire community… there’s no difference between women’s rights and community rights,” she further told AFP.
There have been several women like Salah, who became symbols of resistance in the past.
Tess Asplund’s lone protest against the 300 uniformed neo-Nazis became an iconic image of struggle against the rise of the far-right in Sweden in 2016.
Tess Apslund raises her fist against the Nordic Resistance Movement(Photo: @davidlagerlof/Twitter)
Ieshia Evans, a nurse and activist from New York City, became a symbol of the Black Lives Matter protest against police brutality and the killing of Alton Sterling, who was shot to death by Baton Rouge police.
Ieshia Evans standing up against police in the Black Lives Matter protest.(Photo: Reuters)
In 2015, in another protest against the far-right in Birmingham, England, Saffiyah Khan’s smiling face inches away from an English Defence League activist, went viral.
Saffiyah Khan stares down an EDL activist.(Photo: @piersmorgan/MoTwitter)