A Sudanese business owner and women’s rights activist defied a police demand this fall that she cover her hair to satisfy their application of Sudan’s laws on personal dress. Amira Osman Hamed now faces the prospect of corporal punishment in the form of 40 lashes if convicted of the charges brought against her. Her hearing was postponed earlier this month while the government prepared a response to her challenge to relevant portions of its criminal code.
Hamed’s case highlights how Sudan’s women bear the brunt of a brutal legal system rooted in a draconian interpretation of Islamic (Sharia) law and corresponding hudood (classes of crimes with set punishments). The same regime which openly harbored Osama bin Laden and other international terrorists nearly a generation ago continues to trample on the fundamental rights of its own people, including the right to freedom of religion or belief.
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Khartoum laid the foundation for its freedom-abusing system 30 years ago in September 1983 when it imposed Sharia on its people, including non-Muslims in the predominantly Christian and animist south. Imposing Sharia helped ignite Sudan’s 20-year north-south civil war, leading to the deaths of more than 2 million Sudanese and to South Sudan’s secession in 2011. Khartoum’s action continues to fuel support for anti-government rebels in the country’s Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states.
Under the Sudanese regime’s interpretation of Sharia, floggings and amputations have been instituted for criminal offenses and broadcast on television.
In 1991, two years after seizing power in a bloodless coup, Sudan’s current president, Omar al-Bashir, made a bad situation worse, implementing the current criminal code which applied punishments not only to criminal conduct but to harmless personal behavior, irrespective of faith or belief.
Read the rest: Sudanese women face abuse under Sharia law.