The young Sudanese activist Alaa Salah has become an icon of protest in her country with her revolutionary songs. Today she tells about her experience during the uprising in a book written by Martin Roux entitled Le chant de la revolte, published by Favre. In 2019, Alaa Salah, then a 23-year-old architecture student, participated in the demonstrations in her own way. Lying on the roof of a car, all draped in white, she sings majestically engaged poems that the audience picks up behind her. Today, she continues her fight for the defense of rights in her country. Interview.
RFI: Alaa Salah What values are conveyed by this poetry that you proclaimed during the revolution?
Alaa Salah: These are the values and slogans of our revolution: Freedom, peace, justice. I sing: “the bullet does not kill, what kills is the silence of man”. In fact, you should never be silent about your rights, if you keep quiet you can die, while if you condemn and try to get justice in your mind, your death can serve the country and be an honor for you.
With your poetic songs you became the icon of the Sudanese revolution, you were always dressed as a white thief, was it a symbol?
In March 2018, Sudanese women at the university began the operation “white march”. This meant our support, as a woman for the Sudanese revolution, the rejection of abuses against peaceful protesters, the rejection of human rights violations, the rejection of all injustices committed against women by the previous government. I wore the white dress again while sitting in General Command Square in Khartoum, to remember our message for the month of March.
You became a symbol and you got the nickname, like some other women: “Kandaka”. Where does this word come from and what does it mean?
Kandaka, is the name of the brave and fighting Nubian queens 7000 years ago. They symbolize courage, struggle and activism. During the 2018 revolution, 60% of the protesters were women, we played a big role. The revolution has shown that we are strong and that we take the same path as our grandmothers. It is for its similarities we have been called “Kandaka”.
The revolution made it possible for Sudanese women to free themselves from the restrictions of the old regimes. Are you a free woman today?
Sudan is a country of great diversity. For us, it is a source of pride. But the old regime tried to put everyone, all this beauty in one form. The first thing we did was break the mold where we had been locked. The previous regime ensured that laws were passed that restricted the voice and freedom of women as much as possible. They knew very well that the voice of women is a revolution in itself. We rebelled. We have broken the chains and regained much of our rights. We’re still getting the rest. The old regime really feared Sudanese women because they are really brave, strong and fighting.
Before the revolution you helped blind people to study, today you fight to keep young girls in school?
Education is a criterion for measuring the degree of development in a country. In Sudan, the old regime left us with a crumbling education system. I am absolutely convinced that in order to achieve real change in the country, we must first change the education system. When it comes to education, we have a large number of girls under the age of 15 who drop out of school because they marry very young. This is very shocking to us. We fight for their right to education. A good educational environment would provide educated children and mothers and thus a developed society.
Politically, as a revolutionary, how did you experience Sudan’s decision to normalize relations with Israel?
It is a government decision and not the decision of the Sudanese people. We, as Sudanese, reject this normalization. Our support for the Palestinian people has been very clear with the organization of the protest demonstrations. There is a huge refusal. Standardization does not represent us.
On June 3, 2019, the Military Council’s armed forces led by Rapid Support Forces violently dispersed protesters in Khartoum. More than 100 people have been killed. Still, those responsible have still not been appointed?
For us, the people, we know very well what happened during the massacre instead of the general command. For us, the question is already over. In view of the facts observed by all, the Committee of Inquiry’s decision should be equal to ours. Otherwise we are not affected by their decision. The delay in announcing the result has created dissatisfaction among the revolutionaries. We feel somewhat betrayed. For us, the result is known, but there are attempts to hide the truth or buy time. The protesters will be the result of the announced result. We all know that the perpetrator of the massacre is the one who dissolved the session by force. I think all this delay is intentional to avoid his reaction in case of accusation.
►The song of the uprising – The Sudanese uprising told by its icon by Alaa Salah, Martin Roux and Rokhaya Diallo (foreword), published by Favre, 2021.