Women at the frontline of the Sudan Revolution - It is about Freedom by Hala al-Karib

Volume 16, Issue 2  | 
Published 30/10/2019
Hala al-Karib

An activist for women’s rights from Sudan who works across the Horn of Africa and the Sudans region. She is the regional director of the Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa –SIHA

Website: https://sihanet.org

The women of Sudan are risking their lives every day on the frontlines of the Sudan Revolution - the most sustained challenge yet to Sudan’s political and militant Islamist regime, a regime that continues trying to rebrand itself in desperate attempts for local and international approval.

It has been almost 30 years since the current Sudanese government took over the country through a military coup in June 1989. A combination of political Islamic elites and ideologized military officers overthrew a struggling multiparty government under the banner of national salvation. Since then the future of the country has changed drastically, and taken a sharp turn backwards.

From that moment it became very obvious that we were entering into a new era of politics. The military coup was masterminded by the National Islamic Front (NIF), a Sudanese extension of the Muslim Brotherhood organization.

Islam has always been the symbolic focal point among the Sudanese people, the vast majority of whom are Muslim. Their faith largely represents who they are, and it is what brought them together as a hybrid nation. However, most Sudanese Muslims followed the North and Western African Sufi traditions, which were deeply ingrained in Sudanese identity and their approach to life. Endurance, tolerance, spirituality and diversity are central values in the majority of the Sufi orders’ guidance. To impose an alien violent and repressive ideology such as their version of militant Islam on Sudan was not easy. The NIF did what fascist regimes do everywhere: they resorted to violence. And mostly violence against women. But the women of Sudan are not buying the miserable rhetoric of militant Islamists. They are choosing how to engage with their faith, and strongly believe that their pursuit of freedom in no way contradicts their religious or cultural identity.

Women’s unstoppable engagement in the Sudan revolution is not random; it is a defiant act that is  motivated by a strong need for change, and for justice and freedom.

Following the June 3rd 2019 Khartoum massacre, women in Sudan are enduring rape, sexual harassment, and intimidation by the Sudan Military Council without receiving any support. The hatred and misogyny of militant Islamists is surfacing once more. Soldiers of the Sudan Transitional Military Council are roaming the streets of urban and rural centres, terrorizing and harassing women and girls. It is our belief that this is an attempt to send women back home, away from the public sphere, and to limit their political participation.

Sudan now is standing at a  crossroad between  a  decaying past that  is still grabbing onto to the country  and attempting to block its future and  an undefined future  that  could  lead the country into democracy and  peace. Overall Sudan is still challenged by layers of obstacles and an unfavourable regional and international environment.  And while formal celebrations are taking place today on August 17 to launch a contracted government combined  of the old and the new, the fragility remains to be the dominant factor.

However, in my view, I think that the political will of the Sudanese people is  a critical factor that largely has been so far influencing the equation  of change in Sudan  since the beginning  of the revolution.  The commitment of youth, men and women and of Sudanese women especially has contributed in a big way  to the  disintegration of   the old regime so far. If these groups that came together during the revolutionary times succeed in sustaining their influence and organization post the revolution, Sudan could very much cross into  democracy and peace.

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