KHARTOUM (Sudanow) - “Hay Bashir, stay away; to stop our revolt you never may!” sang a demonstration leader at the private Alahfad Women University, with hundreds of her fellow students chorusing her.
And: “This is a girls revolt, all we need is to stand fast.”
Compared to what happened in Sudan’s previous political upheavals, the voice of Sudanese women was higher and their presence was more visible this time. Women have suffered, under the defunct regime, more than men in many cases.
In some estimates over 30 percent of the demonstrators were women, young and old.
TV footages from the Northern City of Atbara, where the upheaval first started, showed multitudinous crowds of women out in the open to, solemnly and reservedly, take their share in the protests in the usually conservative semi-rural railway terminal city.
“Most of the women of Atbara were out. All female members of my family were out also,” Alsir, an elderly railway pensioner, told this writer.
The Magic Photo
A photo of a school boy bending his tiny body for a school girl to climb on it, and then onto a nearby wall, to escape from riot police in Khartoum, went viral on the social media and gave the demonstrations, then in their infancy, an impetus unexpected and encouraged tens of thousands to go out in the streets.
House wives kept water buckets ready at their doorsteps for the demonstrators to wash their faces from the effects of tear gas. Cold water containers were at the disposal of the demonstrators wherever the security was to chase them.
Girls would leave their homes with heavy suitcases laden with sandwiches and water bottles to where the demonstrators are scheduled by the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), a grouping of medical doctors, engineers, lawyers and journalists and other professionals that led the movement.
“We are going to the demonstrations in Omdurman,” said a young girl, her slim body barely able to carry a big suitcase stuffed with sandwiches and cold water bottles.
“There we give food for those who are hungry and water for those who are thirsty,” she said in reply to an elderly man commuting with her on the same bus to Omdurman. She pointed to two other girls her age in the bus who were carrying similar heavy suitcases.
Everybody seems to have gone out against Bashir and his confederates in the so-called Islamic movement.
Middle age women in the Khartoum suburbs of Shambat, Burri, Wad Nubawe, Abbasiyya, Sha’abiyya and all the other flashpoints were seen carrying rocks and building barriers to hinder the movement of the powerful security vehicles inside the lanes and roadways, in the hunt for the demonstrators.
Women would also open their home doors for the demonstrators to hide from the security, often facing harsh security treatment for this.
Even old women over seventy years were seen battling with heavy rocks with which to help demonstrators build roadblocks to prevent security vehicles from chasing demonstrators and also old tyres to be burnt as smoke screens through which the youths can escape from police eyesight.
“Yes, I have ordered my three daughters to go out for the demonstrations, like all the girls their age,” a well-to-do mother told the BBC Arabic Service Khartoum Correspondent Mohammad Osman.
“It is true we are rich, but we are not better than the other people and my daughters are not better than the other girls who are out to face the tear gas and the whips and batons of the regime’s security,” she said.
Hoards of girls and women from Omdurman once gathered around the Omdurman women prison to protest and press for the release of hundreds of well-known women activists and girls detained inside. Scores of young men waited on the sidelines for help when necessary. Giving it a thought, the prison and police authorities had no way but to gradually release the detained women including Amal Jabrallah of the Communist Party and president of 'No for Women Oppression' initiative Ihsan Fagairi.
Come April 6
When the Sudanese Professionals Association announced that it was staging a popular march to the Army General Command on April 6 to celebrate the anniversary of the 6 April 1985 army-assisted uprising against former dictator Ga’afar Nimeiry and to remind the Army of its duty towards the country, nobody thought the march would succeed. Nobody had thought men would come out for this venturesome move, let alone women. But men and women came out in tens of thousands to the Army H.Q to make their word heard.
On April 7 and after housewives from around the city started to cook food and prepare cold water and juices and take them to the Army H.Q sit-in zone. Then scores of female cooks started to prepare meals and soft drinks for the protesters at the sit-in zone. Businesses and food factories rushed with loads of food, drinks, tents, mats and even air coolers to help make the sit-in comfortable for the protesters.
All through this movement, demonstrators had chosen to call their fellow female demonstrators by the name ‘Kandakat’ (singular Kandaka).
The Kandaka (or kendake) literally means queen in Sudan’s ancient Nubian language of the Kushite dynasties dating back over a thousand years before Jesus Christ.
The Sudanese are proud about the courage of those Kandakes, some of whom had managed to defeat the armies of the Egyptian Pharaohs who used to attack Sudanese territories from time to time.
The term Kandaka had become a buzz word during the uprising. Young men would shout out for the girls in the protests by the name “Kandakat” when the need arises: “This way Kendakat! Take shelter here Kandakat! and Go to the rear Kandakat.”
That is Ms. Aala’ Salah (22), an engineering student at the private Sudan International University. Images of her reciting revolutionary verse with thousands of demonstrators chorusing her went viral around the Globe. Clad in the traditional Sudanese white Toab (sari) and broad circular metallic earrings (similar to those worn by Sudanese women in the past), Aala’ Salah stirred the international, regional and local media for some time. Over 60 media outlets had interviewed her and played her touching images.
“My grandma is a Kandaka and my grandpa is Teharqa,” she would chant, the vast crowds (men and women) repeating after her.
Teharqa was a Nubian Sudanese monarch history books say had fought back Egyptian Pharaoh monarchs and also the Middle Eastern warlike tribes ‘the Hyksos”, chasing the latter up to today’s Palestine when they threatened his kingdom.
Many had chosen to call Aala’ Salah the icon of the Sudanese revolution. “I am not the icon of this revolution. All these young men and women are the icons of this revolution,” she humbly commented during a TV interview at the massive sit in zone.
The Tear Gas Canisters’ Hunter
Videos widely circulated on the social media showed a brave girl who would hurriedly rush to a tear gas canister hurled by the security towards the demonstrators, pick it and throw it back at the security.
Now called the tear gas canisters’ hunter, Ms. Rifga Abdelrahman, an electric engineering student at the University of Khartoum, said she never missed but a single demonstration in her Shambat neighborhood or elsewhere in the city. The only day in which she missed a march was when she was under security detention. She was arrested and released five times.
“I never feared the tear gas, because whenever I saw a tear gas canister shot towards the demonstrators, I remembered the fallen protesters and told myself to defend and protect my fellow living protesters. She said she refused to appear on the media “because we went out in the protests for a purpose. That is freedom for our people. It was our duty to do so.”
The Baladiyya Avenue Demonstrator
A small national flag in hand, she had made it her daily duty to move to Albaladiyya Avenue in central Khartoum and start a demo, all by herself. And the moment young men and women around would see her, they would rush to join in.
“The Baladiyya Avenue demonstrator.” That was what people called her. Nobody ever could tell her real name so far.
She Lost Her Eye in the Demos
Name and photo reserved. A news piece circulated on the social media talked about a girl who was hit by a tear gas canister in the face. Her eye was destroyed on the spot.
Women Doctors and Nurses
Scores of women doctors and nurses were on the alert to help the wounded and the sick throughout the marches. Emergency helpers knew their locations and rushed those in need to them for treatment. And since the sit in started at the Army General Command on April 6, they are stationed there in the field clinics and the nearby hospitals, tending to the wounded and the sick.