Meet Alaa Salah, Sudan's singing protester

22-year-old's image symbolised the protest movement against Omar Bashir

News Desk April 11, 2019

The young woman in a photo who has come to symbolise Sudan's protest movement, Alaa Salah, is a 22-year-old architecture student  from Khartoum.

Salah said she was happy that the image, taken on April 8 at a demonstration in the Sudanese capital, had been viewed so widely.

“I’m very glad that my photo let people around the world know about the revolution in Sudan … Since the beginning of the uprising I have been going out every day and participating in the demonstrations because my parents raised me to love our home,” she told The Guardian on Wednesday, a day before Sudan's military ousted and arrested President Omar Bashir.

In an address on state television, Defence Minister Awad Mohamed Ahmed Ibn Auf said Bashir, 75, was under arrest in a “safe place” and a military council was now running the country.

Sudan's Omar al-Bashir in key dates

The protests against the 30-year rule of Bashir began in December last year, but had intensified at the weekend when huge crowds gathered at a crossroads in front of a heavily guarded military complex in the Sudan capital.

Salah said she does not come from a political background, and took to the streets to fight for a better Sudan. “Our country is above any political parties and any sectarian divisions,” she said.

“The day they took the photo, I went to 10 different gatherings and read a revolutionary poem. It makes people very enthusiastic. In the beginning I found a group of about six women and I started singing, and they started singing with me, then the gathering became really big.

“I have practiced presenting at the university; I don’t have an issue with speaking in front of people and at big gatherings.”

A line in the poem she read - “The bullet doesn’t kill. What kills is the silence of people” – is popular with protesters, and was chanted by demonstrators in January 2018 and during unrest in September 2013.

Salah’s mother is a fashion designer working with the traditional Sudanese toub – the dress she was wearing in the photographs – and her father owns a construction company.

The garment has become a symbol of the female protesters, and Salah said she had narrowly escaped arrest when she wore the toub at an earlier demonstration.

“The toub has a kind of power and it reminds us of the Kandakas,” Salah said.

Kandakas were queens of the Nubian kingdom of Kush, which ruled much of what is now modern-day Sudan more than 3,000 years ago.

Social media reacts

Twitterati hailed Salah as a symbol of the protest, with many dubbing her as a "Kendaka," a strong and revolutionary woman in Nubian culture.


Bunny Rabbit | 5 years ago | Reply wow nice to hear such things . Sudan is a very old ancient country with a rich civilisation. It will be sad if it goes like Iraq or Afghanistan in the name of peace keeping . Hope she makes it .
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