September 16, 2013 (KHARTOUM) – A new video was posted on YouTube showing a Sudanese police officer flogging an unidentified woman in public, marking the second recording of its kind the last two years.
- Still photo taken from the YouTube video showing a women being flogged.
In 2011, a similar YouTube video was published on the video sharing website drawing widespread condemnation as the woman was seen screaming and begging for mercy while police officers laughed as they carried out her sentence.
But the Sudanese president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir at the time dismissed the criticism saying that the “woman’s punishment was legal under [Islamic] Shar’ia law and she deserves it”.
The new video, which runs for a little under a minute, shows a woman groaning in pain as police officers whipped her while they made sarcastic remarks.
It is not clear what crime she was sentenced for.
The governor of Khartoum Abdul Rahman Al Khidir, told the independent Blue Nile TV channel that the woman was "rightfully punished according to the Shar’ia law, but the violation was in the manner her punishment was carried out”.
The Sudanese people are trying to break the wall of isolation imposed upon them by the government through the Public Order Law (POL) which prohibits women from wearing tight trousers, or sometimes any trousers, and bans public and private parties after midnight amid calls by liberals to repeal it.
Many Sudanese, who are suffering from a deep and far reaching economic crisis, fear that the POL could turn into a tool for harassing girls and college students who wear new fashions designed specifically to fit the hot weather in Africa and the Middle East.
But authorities claim that the POL will prevent negative behaviour even though the law was denounced by politicians and activists who say that it violates citizen’s fundamental rights.
“We have become accustomed to rush to our homes early in the evening because Khartoum yawns early due to the government decision to stop private parties at 11:00 pm, an hour before midnight”, says Rasha Abdeen.
Abdeen, who lives in the prestigious Al-Riyadh neighborhood, added that she joined a private dancing club in order to work around "boredom" in the evening, but says that most of those clubs also close before midnight to avoid police harassment.
Last month, police in Khartoum’s southern suburb of Jabal Al-Awliaa reportedly forced a girl named Suhair Ali to write a pledge not to appear in public places without wearing a headdress.
She posted a picture on her Facebook page of herself without a headscarf to protest the measure and wrote “I was abused by a policeman who dragged me to the police station to write a pledge not to uncover my head”.
In spite of the government’s ban on wearing tight pants, clothing market is full of ready-made garments including expensive women trousers which attract large numbers buyers.
Liberal activists say that the Islamic government in Sudan is deliberately harassing and abusing girls who hold opposing political views.
A liberal activist named Abd-Alqayoum said that women are facing daily harassment and insults beginning with the fee collector in the public transportation and ending with the college gatekeepers who rebuke her for wearing a transparent headscarf and may send her back home thus missing a full school day.
In 2009, the Sudanese government suffered a major PR blow after the case of a female journalist by the name of Lubna Hussein swept the world media when she was arrested by Public Order Police (POP) along with a dozen other girls and charged with dressing inappropriately.
Hussein resigned from her post at the then United Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) to waive her immunity bestowed upon employees of the world body and face trial to use her case to draw attention to the POL which allows flogging as a punishment for any acts or wearing clothing that are viewed as offending morals.
Following international pressure, the Sudanese judge did not impose a flogging sentence and instead ordered Hussein to pay a fine of 500 Sudanese pounds ($200) or else be jailed for 30 days after being convicted of indecent dressing.
She refused to pay the fine but was released well before her one month jail sentence expired after the head of the pro-government Journalist Syndicate went ahead and paid it.
These government measures enjoy the support of the Islamists particularly the Salafi groups who often hold religious lectures in the public squares which were frequented by youths and college students.
The controversial MP, Dafa-alla Hassab Al-Rasool, has continued to issue statements mocking working women and criticising groups which call for combating female circumcision.
Last June, he made a controversial statement demanding that Sudanese men practice polygamy in order to produce more children to join the army in the future and criticised the pro-government Islamic cleric, Abde-Galeel Al-Karuri, for joining an anti-female circumcision campaign, saying that he was being deceived by the secular groups.
Journalist and columnist, Faisal Mohamed Saleh, who is a recent winner of the Peter Mackler award for courageous and ethical Journalism has described the POL as “the worst law on earth”.
“The regime is insisting on enforcing the POL in order to harass ordinary people unduly”, said Salih.
In recent years, several Sudanese and foreign investors opened massage and slimming centers in prestigious neighbourhoods in downtown Khartoum. However, the police continued to raid those centers claiming that they are used for lewd practices.
Aliaa, who is a client of one of those centers, said that the center was shut down by the police who claimed that it is being used for lewd acts, denying that such practices were taking place in the center.
An activist in cultural centers in downtown Khartoum said that the city was full of bars and beverage shops but they were shutdown after the former president Ja’afar Nimeiri declared Shar’ia laws in the early 80’s.
A Sudanese citizen, who preferred to stay anonymous in order to avoid social stigma, said that they used to drink alcohol in the bars and return to their homes in the early hours of the morning but nowadays they have to go back before 10:00pm.
He added that Khartoum has become a "big primitive village", saying that private parties and weddings stop before midnight.
Sudan is currently working on a new constitution following the secession of the mostly Christian and animist south in July 2011.
President Omer Hassan al-Bashir said that since Sudan is overwhelmingly Muslim, the new constitution will be 100% Islamic.
Opposition parties claim that the constitution will be used to crush social and political dissidence.