Late last week, Sudanese beauty influencer Shahd Khidir (@hadyouatsalaam) took to her Instagram feed to talk about the massacre currently plaguing her home country. Shahd, who moved from Omdurman, Sudan, to the United States with her family when she was younger to flee civil political unrest and create a better life, wrote in her Instagram post: “It’s really hard being an influencer and sharing information that is ‘off brand’ and not worthy of the ‘feed’ but I cannot hold this in anymore. I am at my office crying because I have so many emotions in me and I feel horrible. There’s a massacre happening in my country Sudan’s and a media blackout and internet censorship for four consecutive days.”

Now based in New York, the 26-year-old, who still has family in Sudan, also pointed out the lack of media coverage the conflict has received saying, “There is no objective media sharing what’s going on except for @aljazeeraenglish which had their offices shot down.” According to The New York Times, in April the country’s former president Omar al-Bashir, known for being a dictator during his nearly 30 years in office, was “toppled by his [military] generals” following months of peaceful protests that called for a democratic nation. Since then, the African country (the continent’s third largest) has experienced at least 100 killings, with bodies ending up in Nile River (as of June 4), over 70 reported rape case, robberies, and more, all at the hands of the military forces, with Internet and cellular networks being shut down, as well.

After sharing about the massacre, Shahd got personal in her post, explaining, “My friend @mattar77 was MURDERED by the Rapid Support Forces. My best friend was in hiding on June 2 and that’s the last time I spoke to him. He was missing for 4 days and when I got in touch with him he said: ‘I was caught, beaten and abused and humiliated and arrested and had my phone confiscated from me. I am injured currently.’ And all I could do this post this.”

In an interview with Teen Vogue, Shahd says she felt an “impulse” to speak up about the massacre, expressing,

“I couldn’t handle not being in touch with my friends and family members especially those who are out protesting. After I lost contact with my friend it drove me insane and then when I did hear back it was bad news.” Shahd was devastated at work and didn’t have any friends or family around to support her. “I couldn’t keep it all in my head or wait until the end of the day to share.”

In the original Instagram post, Shahd included a note to the brands she is working with, saying, “I am sorry to all companies I am running campaigns with but my editorial calendar is currently on pause. I am willing to refund all and everything right away. Please, just send me an email.”

Shahd tells Teen Vogue that many of the companies have not responded to her, while others have been “so understanding and cooperative,” and she appreciates their support immensely.

Beyond this, Shahd also made a point to share a message with her Instagram community, offering, “To my followers/supporters who this is too much for I am also sorry but my regularly scheduled content/reviews is also on pause. If this offends you, I am sorry. But I need to speak out and share this in a time like this.”

Shahd later explained that it was hard and “scary” for her to share the post because it made her feel “vulnerable and weak”. “As a micro-influencer in the beauty community this photo of me without makeup and with blemishes and zits and tears down my face, it was really crazy,” she revealed. “I felt like being political, which is ironic because I am a political scientist by degree, would be the death of my career.” Her hesitation to be honest online shows just how much pressure there is for influencers to keep up appearances so their followers and brand partners are happy.

Ultimately, Shahd did not expect her post to go viral (it currently has more than 400,000 likes). In fact ,she says, “I expected people to unfollow me and for my influencing career to end right there.” The influencer thought that opening up about the situation would risk her career but that she felt she needed to say something. “It’s important for anyone that has a voice to speak up…If we don’t speak up about terrible injustices, who will?”

At the end of the original posting, Shahd went one step further to tell her followers, “If you want to support me please share this information as widely as possible and don’t be silent. Be an ally because we need your help. And tune into my stories for more information. THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY HAS BEEN SILENT.”

So far, her 62,000 followers have responded positively. “They have stood by me and really touched my heart. I made an active effort to respond back to every single comment, and direct message but I got blocked from responding,” she shares over email. Accordingly, Shahd wishes she could hug every single person who has shared words of support.

When asked what more people can do to support those impacted by the massacre, Shahd says, “I encourage people to keep sharing information about the Sudan Revolution until there’s a civilian led democratic government. It’s important to spread awareness. It’s important to tell everyone what’s going on. Considering the fact that the Internet is completely blacked out, the Sudanese people have no connection with the outside world. So we have to connect them and spread information about their struggles. Also, please donate to funeral funds, and to medical supplies.” Shahd has continued to share about the conflict on her Instagram stories.

Shahd is not the only one speaking up about the massacre on social media. Yesterday, Rihanna also posted about the conflict on her Instagram stories.

Rihanna reposting a tweet by a non-Sudanese, about the current conditions in Sudan, shows the power social media has in raising awareness3065:20 PM – Jun 11, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacy185 people are talking about this

Credit: Teen Vogue

“I will continue to protest, even if it takes years to bring down this regime,” said the 26-year-old, who has marched along with hundreds of people in the anti-government demonstrations in Khartoum.

Deadly protests have rocked Sudan since December 19 when angry crowds first took to the streets after the government tripled the price of bread.

Women have joined in even as the protests turned against the government and escalated into bloody confrontations in which officials said at least 24 people have been killed.

Dressed in headscarves, they can be seen in nearly all of the footage of the protests shared on social media, which in turn has helped to convince even more women to take to the streets.

Clapping, ululating and whistling, women have been seen encouraging fellow demonstrators to press on with the rallies even when clashes have erupted between police and protesters.

Many who live in areas where the demonstrations are staged have been seen offering tea and juice to protesters as they pass by, witnesses said.

For Abdo, it was a strong desire to fight for women’s rights that made her want to take part in the demonstrations.

“This regime has some of the worst laws against women,” Abdo told AFP, speaking over WhatsApp for safety reasons.

“You could be arrested for wearing trousers or if your scarf is not covering your hair properly.”

Abdo, who carries a first aid box to protests to help those who are injured, said she has been changing her residence every few days to avoid arrest.

‘End to discrimination’

Hundreds of women have been sentenced to flogging under a controversial public order law in Sudan, activists said.

The decades-old law, they add, also imposes punishments including hefty fines and jail terms, and targets mainly women, including those selling tea on the streets of Khartoum.

A Sudanese court sparked outrage last year when it sentenced teenager Noura Hussein to death for the “murder” of her husband, who she accused of raping her after a forced marriage.

An appeals court later commuted the death sentence to a five-year jail term, after the case drew international condemnation.

Hussein’s plight put the spotlight on issues facing women in Sudan such as marital rape, child marriage, forced marriage and the arbitrary application of Islamic law, along with tribal traditions that often target them.

The protests have given a new voice in the fight for women’s rights, said Emad Badwai, a mother of two and a regular at the anti-government rallies.

“When I chant ‘Freedom, peace and justice,’ I’m hoping to see an end to discrimination against women,” she said.

Hope for change

For Abdo there is also a deep-rooted grievance that motivates her to protest.

“Bashir’s regime has committed the worst crimes against the people of Darfur,” said Abdo, who hails from the western region torn by a devastating conflict.

The war in Darfur erupted in 2003 when ethnic minority rebels took up arms against Khartoum’s Arab-dominated government, accusing it of economic and political marginalisation.

The United Nations said about 300,000 people were killed and another 2.5 million displaced, most of them still living in sprawling camps.

Bashir has been charged by The Hague-based International Criminal Court with genocide and war crimes allegedly committed in Darfur.

Abdo said she had started a non-governmental organisation to oppose child marriage in Darfur, but authorities immediately shut it down.

“They told me that my place was in the kitchen and I should wash dishes,” said Abdo.

Observers said the protests have managed to unite people from different tribes and ethnicities.

“In these protests, I have seen my fellow Sudanese transcend above the embedded racism in our society,” said Babiker Mohamed, a Washington-based humanitarian aid official.

“Protesters chanting ‘We are all Darfur’ while marching in the streets gives us all hope that change is inevitable.”

For Badawi it was indeed time for a change in Sudan.

“Even my 11-year-old son is surprised to know that President Bashir has been ruling for 30 years,” she said.


Credit: AFP,  Pulse News

People are calling for 19-year-old Noura Hussein to be pardoned after a Sudanese court sentenced her to death.

She had stabbed her husband, who she said raped her, to death.
The relative of the man she was forced to marry had held her down, she said, while he raped her.
Her husband’s relatives refused the option to pardon her, and rejected compensation. They requested that she be executed.

According to CNN, Noura had been forced to marry at the early age of 15, and ran away from home.
She was tricked into returning by her dad three years later, who promptly handed her over to her husband’s family.
One of her lawyers, Adil Mohamed Al-Imam, told CNN that she was raped after she refused to consummate the marriage. He said:

His brother and two cousins tried to reason with her, when she refused she was slapped and ordered into the room. One held her chest and head, the others held her legs.
When her husband attempted raping her again the next day, she stabbed him to death.

Noura’s lawyers had 15 days to appeal after the ruling. 7 days are left now.
People have been calling for her to be pardoned, trending the hashtag #JusticeforNoura.
The hashtag has been trending on social media, and even supermodel Naomi Campbell has tweeted her support, sharing a photo of herself holding a piece of paper with the hashtag written

She says:

“I, Naomi Campbell, urge the Sudanese government to pardon rape victim Noura Hussein and show the world that women who are brutally raped are the real victims. #JusticeForNoura,’’ she said in the tweet.