Woman highlight the alleged cost of being part of Sudan's uprising

Woman highlight the alleged cost of being part of Sudan's uprising
Copyright Reuters
Copyright Reuters
By Sinead Barry with Reuters
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"The regime always uses women as a tool to take revenge and to force its enemies to surrender."


The role that women are playing in the Sudanese uprising is gaining worldwide recognition, but it has not come without a cost, they claim.

Sudan's political situation

Since authoritarian leader President Omar al-Bashir was ousted from power in April, protesters in Sudan have been calling for a democratic transition of power. 

After Bashir's fall, a military council took charge of Sudan, leaving some civilians angry that they still had no say in who would lead the country.

Protests against the new power continued, leading to bloody military crackdowns against pro-democracy groups in the following months.

Last week, the ruling military council and a coalition of opposition and protest groups reached an agreement to share power for a transition period until elections can be held. Following the agreement, the streets of Sudan erupted in celebrations.

Women claim they were targeted during the protests

Women who have been involved in Sudan's campaign for democracy allege widespread attacks, beatings and sexual assaults at the hands of authorities. Local activists claim soldiers have even displayed women's underwear on poles to humiliate the women they sexually assaulted.

"None of the Sudanese women will officially say that they were raped because of the stigma," claims activist and psychologist Hadya Hasaballah.

"The regime always uses women as a tool to take revenge and to force its enemies to surrender. That's why the issue of women is directly linked to the dignity of society. In many instances, the regime tries to force society into surrender by humiliating women. The regime knows that when women are humiliated, society is humiliated," she explains.

Under the morality laws that pervaded Bashir's rule, women could be arrested or flogged for wearing trousers or having their hair uncovered said Sudanese journalist Wini Omer earlier this year.

Campaigner Mahi Aba-Yazid made the decision to wear trousers at a sit-in and believes she was targeted for it.

"We were a group of girls, we were beaten. I was the one beaten the most because I was wearing trousers. I was shot here at first (pointing to arm injury) and they still continued beating me. They were swearing with the worst words in the world, I can't mention any of those. Four of them gathered around me and continued beating me and insisted that I run."

Despite the risks to their safety, women continue to campaign for both democracy and representation.

"We as a women's movement, demand that we have 50% (government) participation at all levels," says human rights activist Nahid Gabrallah.

In Sudan, 87% of girls and women have undergone Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and one in three are married before their 18th birthday. The pivotal position that women have taken on in the protests could be said to have become a symbol of the driving force for change in Sudan.

Video editor • Ivan Sougy

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