Tlaib Praises Iconic Female Sudanese Protest Leader: Brings Me to Tears

Egypt says it is backing the removal of longtime autocratic ruler Omar al-Bashir in neighboring Sudan

Alaa Salah, a Sudanese woman propelled to internet fame earlier this week after clips went viral of her leading powerful protest chants against President Omar al-Bashir, addresses protesters during a demonstration in front of the military headquarters in the capital Khartoum on April 10, 2019
Photo by - / AFP

Omar Hassan Bashir survived multiple armed rebellions, economic crises and attempts by the West to make him a pariah before he was finally ousted as Sudan's president by the military on Thursday following protests against his 30-year rule.

Palestinian-American Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib celebrated Bashir's ouster on Twitter. Tlaib wrote, "Across this nation, and around the world, a new era of a justice & freedom movement is born. And yes it is led by women. Alaa Salah (22 years old) is light, and listening to Sudanese people sing for freedom brings me to tears."

Alaa Salah became a symbol of the protests against Bashir after she chanted and sang to a crown of demonstrators. 

Egypt says it is backing the removal of longtime autocratic ruler Omar al-Bashir in neighboring Sudan.

In a statement, Egypt’s Foreign Ministry expressed support to the “Sudanese people’s choice and will.”

Under al-Bashir, Sudan and Egypt had tense relations after Sudan supported Ethiopia’s construction of a massive dam on the river Nile putting at risk Egypt’s water supply.

The statement called on the international community to help Sudan to have a peaceful transition.

In an address on state television, Defence Minister Awad Mohamed Ahmed Ibn Auf said Bashir, who seized power in a bloodless coup in 1989, was under arrest in a "safe place" and a military council was now running the country. Sudanese sources said Bashir was at the presidential residence under heavy guard.

Tens of thousands of people danced and chanted anti-Bashir slogans in the streets of Khartoum, a sharp contrast to the past, when he fired up crowds with anti-Western rhetoric, sometimes breaking into impromptu dances.

Bashir, 75, was a master at playing rival factions among security services, the military, Islamists and armed tribes off against each other. But he underestimated the anger of young Sudanese men and women demanding an end to economic hardships.

He ultimately faced almost daily defiance in towns and cities across Sudan despite a crackdown by security forces using teargas and sometimes live ammunition, in which dozens of people have been killed.

Addressing soldiers in January, Bashir warned the "rats to go back to their holes" and said he would move aside only for another army officer or at the ballot box.

"They said they want the army to take power. That's no problem. If someone comes in wearing khaki, we have no objection," Bashir, wearing his military uniform, told soldiers at a base in Atbara, the northern city where protests erupted.

Later in January, Bashir declared a national state of emergency that expanded police powers and banned unlicensed public gatherings. He told parliament to postpone, not cancel, constitutional amendments that would allow him to seek another term.

Bashir, who came to power as an obscure army brigadier, has long been both a divisive and pragmatic figure.

Sudan drew heavy criticism for providing refuge to Osama bin Laden. Bashir later tried to improve the country's image by striking a 2005 peace deal that ended more than two decades of north-south civil war.

Since taking office in what was then Africa's largest country, he fought a protracted civil war with southern rebels which ended with the secession of South Sudan in 2011, and the loss of more than 70 percent of Sudan's oil.

Sudan has suffered prolonged periods of isolation since 1993, when the United States added Bashir's government to its list of terrorism sponsors for harbouring Islamist militants. Washington followed up with sanctions four years later. The protests in Sudan followed the success of similar but much bigger demonstrations in Algeria in forcing long-ruling President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to exit.

In the months before protests began in Sudan, people had already been struggling to makes ends meet.

The government had hoped for quick financial support from wealthy Gulf Arab allies after Bashir sent troops to Yemen as part of a Saudi-led alliance fighting an Iran-aligned movement, but help was slow to arrive.

The trigger for the wave of protests was a government attempt to introduce unsubsidised bread. The demonstrations quickly turned political, demanding Bashir step down.