Who is the iconic Sudanese woman who became a symbol of revolution overnight?

Who is the iconic Sudanese woman who became a symbol of revolution overnight?
A Sudanese woman draped in a traditional white thobe, singing for revolution and surrounded by protesters became a symbol of Sudan's protest movement overnight.
3 min read
09 Apr, 2019
She has been called a 'kandaka' - a term used for ancient Nubian queens [AFP]

One woman has taken a days-long sit-in in Sudan - and the internet - by storm.

In photos and videos that quickly went viral on Twitter, a Sudanese woman stands on the roof of the white car.

She is leading a chorus among a sea of thousands of protesters - a revolutionary ode popularised by demonstrators in Sudan in late December.

In between lines of the poem, she and the audience shout: "thowra!"

Thousands of Sudanese have already taken to calling the movement in their country a "thowra" - a revolution - but in the past few days, people from elsewhere in the world have too.

Draped in a traditional white thobe and an unfaltering smile, a symbol of working women in Sudan, she gestures to the crowd along with the beat.

The white thobe has also been worn by female protesters. Last month was dubbed "White March" after students at the all-female Ahfad University began attending protests in the traditional garment.

"The white thobe was originally worn by women before Bashir's rule. It symbolised simplicity, peace and beauty," an Ahfad student told The New Arab in March.

"I believe us wearing it now connects us with the past that everyone is fighting for."

She also has golden, moon-shaped earrings, a traditional feature of bridal outfits in Sudan.

"Her entire outfit is also a callback to the clothing worn by our mothers & grandmothers in the 60s, 70s, & 80s who dressed like this during while they marched the streets demonstrating against previous military dictatorships," explained Hindi Makki in a tweet.

Twitter user Mohammed Ghilan chimed in: "The way she looks took me back in time. She looks like my aunt when I saw her going to work."

Who is the woman who has commanded a crowd of thousands and become a potent symbol of defiance and revolutionary fervour overnight?

Her name is Alaa Salah, Sudanese Twitter user Alaa Fathi says.

While details about Salah still remain unknown, what is clear is that she has captured the spirit of a thousands-strong sit-in which has been ongoing for four days, and the embodiment of the "kandaka".

Sudanese have taken to calling female protesters "kandaka" over the past few months - the title given to Nubian queens in ancient Sudan.

Salah has also been taken up as a symbol of Sudanese women's involvement in and leadership of the protest movement.

"The revolution in Sudan is indeed female," tweeted Syrian-American analyst Jomana Qaddour.

Sudanese cartoonist Khalid Albaih reacted: "Our queens, always on the frontlines, always powerful."

When photographer Lana H. Haroun came forward to say she had taken an image of Salah which had spread like wildfire over social media, Emirati vlogger Maha Jaafar replied: "You and that young beautiful lady broke the internet."

Illustrations shared on social networks transformed Salah into the "Sudanese statue of liberty".

"A statue just like this should be erected for the commemoration of this revolution," tweeted Nasir Abdullahi.
Salah has even captured the heart of famed Lebanese oud player Marcel Khalife, who penned an ode for her published on Facebook:

"To Alaa Salah…

Oh, our people in the far reaches of beloved Sudan,

Take us with you to freedom,

Your sun has devoured all the stars."