There’s more to Sudan than Darfur

January 31, 2008 § Leave a comment

The al-Jazeera program al-Rai’dat profiles prominent females in the Middle East — the program is a good thing because much of the Arabic-language media (and pretty much all-language media) is very male-focused. Al-Jazeera is apparently aware of this weakness and has decided to take action. This week, the Sudanese activist and first female member of the Sudanese Parliament Fatima Ahmad Ibrahim got some attention.

Her story is pretty amazing and it’s sad that the Western media has engaged in such one-sided coverage of Sudan. I am not saying that the Darfur issue is not important, but when one issue comes to represent a country — and an issue as serious as genocide — then we end up with skewed negative perceptions of a country. We forget that Sudan lived under British occupation for years and has witnessed two civil wars. We also forget that the population of Sudan is so diverse that the issues of “Darfur” or the “English teacher sentenced to death because of a teddy bear named Mohammed” should not cloud the deep history of the country.

Ahmad was born in 1933 in Sudan and lived under the British occupation. Her father taught in an English school and got in trouble with the Brits for refusing to teach in English. Ahmad herself would later be arrested several times and put under house arrest for her activist activities. In 1949, she helped organize the first female student strike in Sudan. In 1952, she helped for the Sudanese Women’s Union to demand more equal rights, after this, she became editor of the journal Sawt al-Mara (Woman’s Voice). Almost ten years after the Sudanese liberation from British rule, Ahmad was elected the first female member of the Sudanese Parliament in 1965. A year later, she would marry.

When Jaafar al-Nimari came into power in the 60s, the situation of women in Sudan did not improve. After a failed Communist coup in 1971, Ahmad’s husband was executed and she was put under house arrest. Ahmad is very critical of the West’s history in Sudan. She said that the Sudanese must realize that they colonized our lands and have attempted to co-opt our revolutionary movements.

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