A photo and a video of a young woman protester in a traditional white Sudanese dress and golden, moon-shaped earrings have gone viral on social media, instantly becoming a symbol for the role of women in the uprising in Sudan.
The image drew a comparison to America’s Statue of Liberty and the ancient Nubian Sudanese queens known as Kandaka who live on in Sudanese folklore as women who accomplished and sacrificed for their country.
Her white dress is traditionally worn by professional Sudanese women in the workforce.
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The image, 22-year-old Alaa Salah standing on top of a car above a sea of people with her arm raised in the air and finger pointing toward the sky, was taken by activist Lana Haroun on Monday during the third day of the sit-in outside the military’s headquarters. It has since received 55,000 likes and was picked up by Twitter Moments.
Salah, in her first statement to the media since her photo went viral, told BuzzFeed News in a WhatsApp message that she is currently studying engineering and architecture at Sudan International University in Khartoum.
Hind Makki, an interfaith educator and blogger, pointed out on Twitter that the details in Salah’s clothing make the photograph even more powerful. She said that the white garment and gold moon-shaped earrings Salah wore pay homage to working women; her dress is a “callback” to the clothing worn by Sudanese women from earlier generations who also fought for the end of dictatorial rule.
And the video circulating online showed Salah, singing traditional songs to protesters in the sit-in outside the military’s headquarters.
She chanted: “They burned us in the name of religion, killed us in the name of religion, jailed us in the name of religion,” while a crowd around her shouted “revolution.”
Meanwhile, Reuters quoting sources reported that Bashir, 75, was deposed by the army and was at the presidential residence under “heavy guard”.
The protests against Al Bashir gained momentum last week after Algeria’s President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, in power for 20 years, resigned in response to weeks of similar protests.
Clashes between Sudanese security forces and protesters holding a large anti-government sit-in outside the military’s headquarters in the capital Khartoum killed at least 11 people including six security forces.
The demonstration is the latest in nearly four months of anti-government protests that have plunged Sudan into its worst crisis in years.
The protests initially erupted last December with demonstrations against a spiralling economy, but quickly escalated into calls for an end to embattled President Omar Al Bashir’s 30-year rule.
Saturday’s marches marked the 34th anniversary of the overthrow of former President al-Nimeiri in a bloodless coup. It was one of the largest turnouts in the current wave of unrest.
The military removed Nimeiri after a popular uprising in 1985. It quickly handed over power to an elected government. The dysfunctional administration lasted only a few years until al-Bashir – a career army officer – allied with Islamist hard-liners and toppled it in a coup in 1989.
Al-Bashir had banned unauthorised public gatherings and granted sweeping powers to the police since imposing a state of emergency last month, and security forces have used tear gas, rubber bullets, live ammunition and batons against demonstrators.
Security forces have responded to the protest movement with a fierce crackdown, killing dozens of people.