Woman as Reason: Sudanese women deepen fight

March 15, 2022

From the March-April 2022 issue of News & Letters

by Terry Moon

Women have remained a vital part of the revolution in Sudan that began three years ago when mostly youth, women and men, took to the streets and forced Omar al-Bashir from power. Women have the most to gain because their conditions are so dire. Half of Sudanese women are illiterate, most are victims of female genital mutilation, and domestic violence is rife. The many woman jailed by the regime had their heads shaved.

Amira Osman Hamed, who refuses to wear a headscarf

Amira Osman, a long-time women’s rights activist, was first imprisoned by the old Sudanese regime for refusing to wear a veil. When taken recently in the middle of the night, she was not even allowed to take her medications with her

Upon release they returned to the struggle, inspiring the men. Women documented police brutality and used social media to show the world what is happening.


Like all women in revolutionary situations, they have a double struggle. Rahma Yosif, speaking in the fraught region of Darfur, gives voice to why women are leaders in the struggle for a new Sudan and are far from giving up, despite the murderous reaction:

“Certainly, the politics of Sudan are depressing and certainly here,” she says, “but we in the resistance committees are fighting for much more. There must also be a cultural revolution….In daily life we women have nothing to say and when we do speak out, the elders call us ‘sluts’.”

Hala al-Karib, the regional director of the Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa, put it this way in Foreign Policy: “Though Sudanese women have long been leaders both behind the scenes and on the front lines of peaceful protest, we’ve often been reduced to symbolic roles within political organizations, including the civilian-led groups. As a woman, my words and views are often not valued within the sphere of Sudan’s male political elites.”

The revolution’s power-sharing agreement with the government was destroyed by a military coup on Oct. 25, 2021, weeks before they were to give over power to a civilian government. (See “Ongoing resistance to Sudan coup,” p. 12.) Since then the attack on peaceful protesters intensified.


Sudanese Women’s Rights Action (SUWRA) reports that “since July 2020 at least 30 women were injured or killed during protests and other incidents of violence around Sudan.” Many have been arrested. A new law makes criticizing the army a crime and threats on social media against women documenting regime crimes are rampant.

Foreign Policy reports: “Women activists have been targeted in particular—profiled and charged on morality grounds, detained and kept out of contact despite their young age, disabilities, or poor health conditions.”

The extremely disproportionate response to women’s so-called crimes reveals the fear and hatred the regime carries for women activists and thinkers:
♦  An army officer shot and killed a tea seller because she “refused to serve him before others.”
♦  A woman artist/activist was jailed for two months for chanting revolutionary slogans and then slapped by a police officer when she refused to allow him to take her picture.
♦  Women protesters are killed in the streets, including nine killed and 18 injured at a sit-in when they were attacked by a Janjaweed militia.
♦  A young woman received “threats of lawsuits by army officers for reciting a poem…during the protests criticizing the army,” and the list goes on.

While the murderous National Intelligence and Security Service has been given a different name, General Intelligence Service, its tactics remain the same (just like the Janjaweed was renamed the Rapid Support Forces).

This was demonstrated when 30 men armed with Kalashnikov rifles and clubs snatched women’s rights activist Amira Osman in the middle of the night and threw her into an unmarked van. She was held incommunicado for two weeks before being released. She is not the only women’s liberationist who has been kidnapped. Eman Mirghani had also been snatched and as we go to press still remains in jail.

Despite such draconian measures, the resistance committees have made remarkable progress. Not only have three different press organizations taken steps toward reestablishing a professional union for journalists, but Khartoum State Resistance Committees on Feb. 27 unveiled their newly drafted “Charter for the establishment of the peoples authority.”

Muzna Alhaj, a member of a committee in Khartoum, explained to Al-Monitor how it was drafted. She said: “We are talking about thousands of members of the different resistance committees in Khartoum, which were all engaged in a process with a very representative, grassroots and bottom-up approach.” Among a slew of other progressive, democratic principles, it asserts that Sudan is committed to “strengthening and empowering women’s rights and participation in all public activities, and enhance the participation of young people in political, social and economic sectors.”

It is clear that the people’s revolutionary movement towards freedom is unstoppable, and it is way past time that the U.S., United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Israel, and Saudi Arabia stop supporting the forces of reaction and get out of the way.

A gift for a friend for Women’s History Month:
Rosa Luxemburg, Women’s Liberation,
and Marx’s Philosophy of Revolution

by Raya Dunayevskaya

To order click on the image

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