Alaa Salah in the image that went viral as a symbol of the 2018–19 Sudanese protests
Alaa Salah (Arabic: آلاء صلاح, Sudanese: [ʔaːˈlaːʔ sˤɑˈlaːħ]; born 1996/1997) is a Sudanese student and anti-government protester. She gained world-wide media attention from a picture of her taken by Lana Haroun that went viral in April 2019. The image of Salah has been dubbed as "Woman in White" or "Lady Liberty" of Sudan. As a member of MANSAM, one of the main Sudanese women's networks who signed the 1 January 2019 Forces of Freedom and Change declaration, Salah gave a speech at the 29 October 2019 meeting of the United Nations Security Council, insisting that in the Sudanese transitionary institutions women have equal representation to men.
Early life and education
Alaa Salah was born in either 1996 or 1997. Her mother is a fashion designer and her father works in the construction industry. She studies engineering and architecture at Sudan International University in Khartoum.
2018–19 Sudan protests/Revolution
Since December 2018, a series of protests against President Omar al-Bashir took place, demanding economic reforms and the resignation of the president. A state of emergency was declared in February 2019 as a result of the protests. April 6 and 7 saw the largest protests since the declaration of the state of emergency. In continuing protests, the army was seen protecting protesters from the security forces on April 10. Eventually the protests led to the military removing al-Bashir from power, installing a transitional council in his place led by Ahmed Awad Ibn Auf, but the demonstrators, including Salah, claimed it was just a change of leadership of the same regime and demanded a civilian transitional council.
As protests continued, on April 8 Lana Haroun took an image of an initially unnamed woman dressed in a white thoub standing on a car, who spoke to and sang with other women around her during a sit-in near the army headquarters and the presidential palace. The image was widely shared on social media and caught international media attention. The image has been described as symbolic of the crucial role of women in the success of the demonstrations, since the vast majority of protesters, almost 70 per cent, have been women. Sudanese women played major political roles in Sudanese and Africa-wide human rights struggles since the 1950s via the Sudanese Women's Union, continued creating organisations such as the No to Oppression against Women Initiative in 2009, and remained politically active during the 2018–2019 Sudanese Revolution.
Salah's white robe, a traditional Sudanese thoub, recalled the dress of female Sudanese protesters against previous dictatorships, as well as that of student protesters who were referred to as "Kandakas" after ancient Nubian queens. Her golden earrings are traditional feminine wedding attire. Commentators called the pose "the image of the revolution". Hala Al-Karib, a Sudanese women's rights activist said: "It is a symbol of an identity of a working woman — a Sudanese woman that's capable of doing anything, but still appreciates her culture."
MANSAM and UNSC speech
As a member of MANSAM, one of the major Sudanese women's networks who signed the 1 January 2019 Forces of Freedom and Change declaration, Salah gave a speech at the 29 October 2019 meeting of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).
Salah stated that despite women often having constituted 70% of protestors, they were "side-lined in the formal political process" of creating transitional institutions. She stated that women's representation in the new governance structure "[fell] far below [their] demand of 50% parity". She argued that "there is no excuse for [women] not to have an equal seat at every single table". She summarised her argument for women's representation stating,
|“||After decades of struggle and all that we risked to peacefully end Bashir's dictatorship—gender inequality is not and will never be acceptable to the women and girls of Sudan. I hope it is equally unacceptable to the members of this Chamber.||”|
|— Alaa Salah, Statement to UNSC, 29 October 2019|
Salah also called for judicial accountability and disarmament; and for the political process to be inclusive of women, "civil society, resistance groups, ethnic and religious minorities, those who have been displaced, and people with disabilities in order to lead to sustainable peace".
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