By Sharza Shakeel
April 20, 2019
On April 11, 2019, Sudan’s President Omar Hassan al- Bashir was deposed by the military after approximately four months of demonstrations. While some are applauding it as the extension of the Arab Spring, others are calling it a long-awaited Democratization of Africa. It would be unfair to admire Sudanese triumph without mentioning the sublime role of Sudanese women. Although the origins of protests were the crippling economy, corruption and inflation, the obnoxious mindset aimed at a specific gender added fuel to the fire.
Sudanese women took off the roads, tolerated tear gas, police violence, and prison for months only to get themselves off the hook, they have been on for a past couple of decades. They exhibited the traditional courage and valour of Sudanese Women who were known as warriors and forerunner against the colonialism. This boldness is not new to Sudanese women as they have toppled a military tyrant before in what is known as the October Revolution of 1964.
After examining the history and politics of Sudan from a wider perspective, one comes to the conclusion that Pakistan and Sudan have many similarities. Both countries gained independence from Britain, their governments were frequently toppled by the military junta. Both, unfortunately, witnessed their parts becoming an independent state and met with the sluggish economic afterwards. Moreover, both Sudan and Pakistan have endless unrest and insurgency in one of their provinces, Darfur and Balochistan respectively. Probably the most important resemblance of all is the Sudanese and Pakistani women’s struggle for Freedom and Rights.
Due to the Hadood Ordinance of General Zia ul Haq, Pakistani women faced a great ordeal. Likewise, the Sudanese women have also been flogged for improper dressing such as wearing trousers and not covering their head in public under the Public Order Law passed 1992. At the end of 2016, 15000 women were sentenced to flogging. The International Women’s Day boasted the revolt in women. Nuha Bakheet leader of Sudanese Professional Association is among the headstrong leaders of the movement who brought the downfall of Omar al-Bashir. The photo of student Alaa Salah became the symbol of resistance, wearing traditional Sudanese dress, leading chants from the roof of a car against the autocratic ruler. Seemingly, the Pakistani version contains heroic tales of Asma Jahangir, Fahmida Riaz and Kishwar Naheed.
Some sources claim that women constitute more than 70% of the protestors. Sudanese women wore a white dress as a symbol of resistance. Among many viral pictures on social media, some compelling pictures of Sudanese women facing security forces’ ferocity, reminded us of Pakistani women protesting against Zia’s Islamisation.
If there’s any difference in Sudan’s protests, it’s in the security forces’ brutality. Women were arrested, beaten, and had their hairs cut off in detention camps. They have bravely borne the scars of torture, harassment, abused physically and verbally, and the threat of rape. According to official sources, in 2012, 70% of 43,000 cases referred to the civil courts included women. Eight of every ten women charged were from troubled sections of society i.e. internally displaced by civil war.
It seems that Sudanese women were terribly discriminated. There were constraints for women to perform their social and political roles. Government forced families to prevent their women to participate. Sudanese women took control of the streets due to the years of suppression of civil rights and coercion. Those living abroad also came back to participate in protests. The impression that women are better leaders has been painted firmly after Sudan’s Revolution. Therefore, Pakistani society immensely needs a top brass of women leadership in the country who will politically pursue women’s interests as their fundamental principle and will unite women from various fractions. Political Parties must realize the fact that the future belongs to the other-half now. So they must do something better than giving women a seat at the table in terms of favour.
Sharza Shakeel is a researcher