Sudan’s activists lead resistance after military coup


Alaa Salah became a symbol of resistance in 2019 when the young Sudanese student climbed a car in front of the Khartoum military garrison to gather the crowd demanding the removal of dictator Omar al-Bashir.

She wore a flashy white tobot and was reciting a revolutionary poem, and some called her Kandaka, an allusion to the ancient Nubian queens of present-day Sudan who would lead warriors into battle.

Her actions two years ago – and those of other women whose voices suddenly seeped into Sudan’s political discourse – helped convince the country’s armed forces to end Bashir’s three-decade Islamist regime and usher in a fragile democracy.

But this week, when the interim government was dissolved by a military coup, troops and demonstrators were back on the streets of Khartoum and the “woman in white” had to go into hiding.

“It is very dangerous. My life is not safe and my home is constantly being watched by militiamen,” Salah told the Financial Times from her hiding place in the Sudanese capital. “I am very sad, not only for myself but for everyone. “

On the betrayal of the ideals of the 2019 revolution that many Sudanese feel, she added, “I am very angry.”

The Sudanese army tried to tighten its control this week, despite international pressure, the suspension of the African Union and the freeze on World Bank aid, as security forces arrested government ministers and activists in the face of mass demonstrations, strikes and a campaign of civil disobedience.

As in 2019, activists played an important role in the protests this week. “This is a full-fledged military coup and we will fight back to the end,” said Mariam al-Mahdi, foreign minister of the dissolved government. “Nothing will deter the women of Sudan who are fighting for a democratic transformation.”

For Muzan Alneel, an engineer in her thirties who took part in the 2019 protests, the battle was never really won. What followed Bashir was far from their goals of ending repression, corruption and oppression of women or ending the endless conflicts and reversing decades of international isolation.

2019 massacre

She, like others, rejected the presence of uniformed men in the transitional government from the start after her alleged role in the massacre of around 120 protesters in June 2019, which took place after the overthrow of Bashir.

“Women like me have felt betrayed from the day they signed the military contract,” Alneel said. “We had no hope that the military could work in a civil state. We knew this was coming and we were just waiting for it. “

Even after the formation of a civil-military transitional government under Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, tensions exacerbated by the precarious economic situation were not far from the surface.

This laid the foundation for the events that occurred in the early hours of Monday when Hamdok and other civilian leaders were arrested and the state broadcaster was confiscated.

According to analysts, one reason for the coup was that Sudan’s military leaders feared not only the loss of economic and political power, but also the possibility of prosecution. However, Mahdi said it was also “a serious coup against the presence of women in Sudanese society”.

Protest in Khartoum: Although many aspects of <a class=Islamic law were overturned after the ousting of Bashir, activists said they were excluded from negotiations and poorly represented in political decision-making.” height=”348″ src=”!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_620/image.jpg” width=”620″/>

Protest in Khartoum: Although many aspects of Islamic law were overturned after the ousting of Bashir, activists said they were excluded from negotiations and poorly represented in political decision-making.

Although many aspects of Islamic law were overturned after Bashir was ousted, activists said they were excluded from the negotiations and poorly represented in political decision-making. Mahdi was one of only four women in the 25-member Sudanese cabinet, which she attributed partly to the military and partly to a historically male-dominated political culture.

“The women definitely felt betrayed after the revolution. We felt completely excluded from the various levels of decision-making, ”said another activist, who asked for anonymity instead of fear for her safety. “Even if women are included, they are discriminated against in the facilities, making their work very difficult.”

Restrictive Islamic rules

Nadia Nur, a former advisor to Sudan’s finance minister in the transitional government, said: “I don’t think women had a fair share of opportunities compared to men after the revolution.”

She now fears a “huge retreat” of some restrictive Islamic rules for women – which have been relaxed since the fall of Bashir – if the military retains the power not to wear pants or bare hair.

“They will oppress women and give them fewer opportunities and rights to participate in the development of Sudan,” said Nur. “It’s not looking good for the whole population, but I think women will suffer the most.”

Abdel Fattah Burhan, the general who faced the coup, has said he will stick to the transition to democracy and promised to work with a civilian technocratic government and hold elections in two years.

But many Sudanese do not believe such promises, including tens of thousands who protested in cities across the country this week. A large demonstration is to take place in Khartoum on Saturday.

“That tells us one thing: that there are still civilians, women still there, the commitment is still there and the people are not deterred by the violence. I definitely feel like the spirit of the 2019 revolution is back, ”said Asmaa Ismail, a 35-year-old activist who was on the streets this week.

Salah, who wants to rejoin the protest movement that inspired her, holds on to the hope that popular resistance can put pressure on the army leadership to reverse the coup and restore the young democracy in Sudan.

“We don’t want another military government – never, never, never,” she said. “We want a civilian government, not a military one. Enough, enough, enough. ”- Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2021


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