Newsletter: July 2019
Women of Sudan and the Revolution: It’s about Freedom
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.
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.
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 have long taken a leading role in political change in Sudan. For an overview of feminism and politics in the country since the 1940s, have a look at this article from Issue 3 of the journal.
A profile of three Sudanese women - a poet, an artist, and a journalist - and their role in the Uprising.
Women have also played a central part in the struggle for democracy in Libya. This article from the Guardian examines the parallels between the two, and asks why women are so easily erased from the narrative of revolution.
SIHA’s statement on women and political change in Sudan: “Women’s participation in decision-making is not pending anyone’s permission. It is de facto.”