Sudanese Journalist who Invited Press to Attend Her Court Hearing and Flogging: I Am Fighting for All Women
*The issue of abuse of women by Sudan's public order police(1) recently gained prominence in the Sudanese and other media, after Sudanese journalist Lubna Ahmad Hussein and 12 other women were arrested in Khartoum on July 3, 2009, for wearing trousers. Two days later, 10 of the women were summoned to the police station and received punishments of 10 lashes each. Charges were brought against three others, including Hussein, for inappropriate dress and conduct.
Clause 152 of Sudanese criminal law mandates up to 40 lashes and/or a fine for inappropriate dress as well as for conduct that contravenes accepted norms.
Incidents of this kind are widespread in Sudan, and are usually disregarded by the local and global media. Hussein, however, decided to bring the issue to the attention of the public, and printed 500 invitations to her court proceedings and to the flogging to which she would likely be sentenced, distributing them to journalists and friends. Her move was intended as a protest against the aforementioned criminal law clause, as well as against the actions of the public order police, which, she believes, systematically violate the human rights of Sudanese women.
In an interview with Al-Arabiyya TV, Hussein explained that she had given out the invitations because otherwise no one would believe that she was to be flogged for wearing ordinary clothes: "I wanted the punishment to be executed in the presence of observers, so that they see for themselves why I was being flogged."(2)*
*Arab Human Rights Organization: The Sudanese Government is Taking Revenge on an Opposition Journalist*
The Arab Network for Human Rights Information issued an announcement condemning Hussein's arrest and her expected punishment, calling it an act of revenge against her for publishing articles critical of the Sudanese government: "These are cheap accusations, used only by tyrannical governments. The Sudanese government must show courage and say out loud that this brave journalist's writings have caused it embarrassment, instead of resorting to allegations and indiscriminate revenge, aimed basically at [silencing] her. Sudan's public order laws are among the most discriminatory against Sudanese women. They violate several basic freedoms that should be the right of every citizen. These laws, directed against working women and female students, were enacted expressly to persecute them, humiliate them, and deprive them of freedom, and to distance them from public life. And now, the police have devised a way to use these laws against anoppositionist journalist."(3)
*Lubna Ahmad Hussein: The Law is Society's Death Sentence Against the Girls' Families*
On Facebook, Hussein posted a letter to her supporters in which she clarified that her aim was to stir up a scandal around her case, in order to expose the insufferable reality faced by Sudanese women due to the country's criminal law. She wrote:(4) "I am very grateful to you all, and want to let you know how happy I am to have your solidarity. I hope that [this case] will shed light on Clause 152 of Sudan's 1991 criminal law.
"This is not a matter of a personal attack against me as a journalist, nor of preserving my personal dignity. Far from it. The issue has taken on a different character, [and I call] on the public to be [my] witness and [to judge for themselves whether this incident] is a disgrace for me or for the public order police. You will decide after hearing the charges and the prosecution witnesses, rather than [only] my side of the story.
"My case is the same as that of 10 young women flogged that day, as well as of dozens, hundreds, and maybe thousands others flogged in the public order courts because of their dress, day after day, month after month, and year after year. They emerge from there dejected, because society does not believe them - indeed, it will never believe that a girl can be flogged only because of the way she dresses.
"The result [of this punishment] is [society's] death sentence against the girl's family; for her parents it means an attack of diabetes, hypertension, or heart failure. [Just think of] the girl's emotional state, and the disgrace that will follow her for the rest of her life - and all because [she wore] trousers. The number [of victims] will keep growing, because society refuses to believe that a girl or woman can be flogged because of what she wears."
*"I Have Printed 500 Invitations - I Want Everyone to Be Present"*
"This is why I have printed 500 invitations [to the court hearing of my case]. I want everyone to be present - my sympathizers, friends, and family, as well as those who exult in my misfortune. It is an open invitation to the public. I haven't described the incident [that led to my arrest] in detail, since [I want] people to hear with their own ears and see with their own eyes the charges as well as the prosecution witnesses, rather than only my side of the story."
*"Let Us See What is [Really] Improper: The Clothes Worn By Me and By the Girls Who Were Flogged - Or The Farce"*
"[This incident] raises several questions, such as: Why are some people arrested, but others not? This loaded question should be put to the police or the prosecution. Let us see what the public will decide. Let us see what is [really] improper: the clothes worn by me and by the girls who were flogged, or the farce played out over and over again by the [public order police] - while not a single woman dares to protest, since they are all afraid of the scandal and of the shock this might cause their parents.
"The problem lies in Clause 152 of the criminal law, which sentences [women] to 40 lashes or a fine, or both, for improper dress, without stipulating what exactly that is.
"Moreover, the title of this clause, "Disgraceful Behavior," [deserves special mention]. Try to imagine what comes to mind when you hear that a woman has been flogged for disgraceful behavior at the facilities of the public order apparatuses. It is to this that I wanted the public to be a witness.
"Let them hear the charges and the prosecution witnesses. As for me, I will say nothing to the court except 'Yes, this is true.' Let it be known what crime I have committed."
Lubna Ahmad Hussein
July 11, 2009."(5)
(1) A police force responsible for the implementation of *shari'a* in Sudan, similar to the religious police in Saudi Arabia. *Shari'a* constitutes the basis of the Sudanese constitution, except in the south of the country.
(2) , July 13, 2009.
(3) , July 11, 2009.
(4) . For a page created to support her cause: (Arabic); for an English-language page created to support her: .
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