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Sudan protests: Why a photo of a woman chanting went viral



It's a stunning image

A crowd of Sudanese protestors – mostly women – necks craned, phones held up to capture the moment, looking towards a young woman standing on top of a car. Her white thobe and sharp contrast against the Khartoum's evening sky, she raises her right arm as she leads the crowd in a chant, all of them echoing her words back to her

"Thowra!" The crowd shouts – Arabic for "revolution . "

For Hala Al-Karib, and Sudanese women's rights activist with the Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa, the photo taken by Lana Haroun, sums up" this moment we have been waiting for the past 30 years. "

The Washington Post could not confirm the woman's identity. but Al-Karib said her outfit could tell us a lot about the message she was trying to convey. ( BuzzFeed and some Arabic language news outlets have identified her as Alaa Salah, a 22-year-old engineering and architecture student.)

Her thobe, and cotton robe, is traditionally worn by professional Sudanese women in the workforce . Al-Karib said, "It's a symbol of the identity of a working woman – a Sudanese woman who is capable of doing anything but still appreciates her culture."

Her large, circular gold earring is called a fedaya, Al-Karib said . "These are the traditional earrings that my grandmother has, that all Sudanese women have," she said. "And they pass them to their daughters."

Video footage published on social media gives us a clearer vision of the young woman's face, with black lines painted on her right cheek. Al-Karib said she is probably emulating the facial scars of celebrated heroines from Sudan's past. One of her inspirations might be Mihera Bint Abboud, a poet and warrior who led men in a fight against the Turkish-Egyptian invasion in the early 19th century, she said.

On Twitter, a similar explanation of the significance of the protester's outfit garnered attention

Protests have swept through the capital of Sudan in recent months – Bashir has held power since 1989, and for years, the International Criminal Court has had a warrant for his arrest. Charges against him include crimes against humanity and genocide. Protesters are asking the military to stop protecting Bashir, with much of their chanting directed toward soldiers. "The latest round of protests started on a significant date in Sudanese history: April 6, the day's former president Jaafar Nimeiri was overthrown in 1985. Bashir later

Protesters gathered this week outside the presidential palace and the military headquarters, braving tear gas and some clashes with security forces, calling on the president to step down.

Women have been at the forefront of the protests in Sudan, where women's "lives have changed fundamentally" in recent decades as they have faced restrictive laws that dictate what

"They were criminalized for just being themselves, they were criticized for wearing pants, their lives have been threatened," Al-Karib said of Sudanese women

Haroun, who took the photo, told CNN that the woman on the top of the car was representing all Sudanese women and girls, and she inspired every woman and girl at sit-in. "

" She was telling the story of the Sudanese women " she said. "She was perfect."

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