More on Sudan
Dispatches from the front lines of the women’s movement in Sudan:
• Dive deeper into this story by reading an early account of this protest on PulseWire
• Refer back to the case of Sudanese journalist Lubna Hussein who was sentenced to flogging in 2009 for wearing pants
• Read female genital mutilation survivor Halima Mohamed Abdel Rahman’s plea to abolish this harmful practice
As voting on South Sudan's independence wraps up, look out for World Pulse coverage on women's emerging leadership in what is likely to become the world's newest nation.
My Camera and Me Against a Regime
Flogging hurts victims physically and psychologically. In Sudan it is difficult for a victim to talk about her experiences because she is often shunned by her community and labeled indecent. She and her family may bear the stigma for the rest of their lives. Even though I have a supportive family, and a husband who paid my fine so that I would not have to serve time in jail, it is still difficult for me to talk about my experience. This is why most victims tend to keep silent.
Early on, I made the choice that I would not stay silent. As a citizen journalist I have taken over 2,000 videos to expose injustices in my society—especially brutality against women. Although this makes me a target, I never leave the house without my cameras.
In 2009, I joined the Women’s Initiative Against Violence (WIAV), which was formed by a group of activists advocating for Lubna Hussein. I helped expose stories like Lubna Hussein's and that of Silva Kashif, a minor from South Sudan who received 50 lashes for wearing a skirt deemed provocative by authorities.
As a result of international pressure, Lubna’s flogging sentence was reduced to a fine. When she refused to pay, the Sudanese Journalists Union paid her fine and secured her release. Lubna Hussein’s story has tossed a stone into a still pond. Her courage in the face of injustice continues to make waves. She has turned the table on the authorities and brought international focus on the situation of women in Sudan.
As I approached the designated meeting place for the protest, I sensed the significance of this historic moment for Sudanese women. I felt adrenaline run through my veins. I resolved to hold my ground and document this moment through any means necessary. Nervous and charged with anger, I firmly clutched the bag where my two cameras were buried. I knew what we were up against.
Immediately after the flogging video was released, WIAV called on political parties, political representatives, civil societies, and women groups for a meeting to plan this action. Ajras al-Hurriya, a daily Arabic newspaper had agreed to host the meeting, but canceled under pressure from the authorities.
Mr. Abdel-Basit Merghani, Director of Al-Fanar Center, a Khartoum-based human rights advocacy group, volunteered to host several meetings. But after two days of interrogation, the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) arrested him and barred his family from visiting him. At the time of this writing he remains in custody.
We still managed, through secure telephone calls and word of mouth, to fix the date, hour, and place to assemble.
There was already a heavy presence of security police and forces when we arrived. There were agents in blue uniform and in plain clothes, prepared to strike with batons, hoes, and branches in their hands.
When they ordered us to leave, we explained that we were a peaceful gathering and we were here to deliver a memorandum to the minister of justice. The NISS agents would only permit two women inside to deliver the memo, so the rest of us held our ground in peaceful protest. “Get down women,” we shouted as agents attempted to break up our protest. We all sat down and refused to leave.
I watched a security guard approach an elderly woman and order her to leave. When she refused, he violently took possession of her hands, dragged her to an open vehicle, and threw her into the van, ignoring her screams.
Then the security personnel and the police turned on us, violently attacking us. They first took hold of Ustaza Aziza al- Zaibaq, the head of The Sudanese Women's Union. As if to revenge the pioneering role this organization has played in emancipating the women of Sudan, Aziza was thrown into the open van like a slaughtered goat. Every woman who resisted was beaten and insulted. . . .