A Sudanese woman is prepared to face being flogged in order to defend her right to leave her hair uncovered.
Amira Osman Hamed, 35, is facing trial September 19 for breaking a Sudanese law requiring all women to wear a “hijab” over their hair.
Hamed refuses to follow the “Taliban”-like law and says she has “never, ever” worn a hijab. She is charged under Article 152, which prohibits “indecent” clothing.
This and other morality laws took effect in Sudan after the 1989 Islamist-backed coup by President Omar al-Bashir, AFP reported.
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“They want us to be like Taliban women,” Hamed told the AFP in an interview.
Hamed has gained support from civil rights activists who believe the law is vaguely worded, leaving woman subject to police harassment. They also posit that the law unfairly targets the poor as a way to maintain “public order.”
"This public order law changed Sudanese women from victims to criminals," said Hamed. "This law is targeting the dignity of Sudanese people."
Hamed, a divorced computer engineer who owns her own company, says she was confronted by a police officers on Aug. 27 while she was visiting a government office in Jebel Aulia. She said the officer aggressively told her to cover her head.
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“He said, ‘You are not Sudanese. What is your religion?'”
“I’m Sudanese,” she told the officer. “I’m Muslim, and I’m not going to cover my head.”
She was then detained for several hours before she was charged.
During her first court appearance on Sept. 1, about 100 men and women gathered to support Hamed. Many of the women did not cover their hair.
"There are many (who) wear it because they are afraid, not because they want to wear it," she told AFP.
She was also charged in 2002 for wearing trousers, but an attorney got her off with only a fine. Now, if she is found guilty, she could be flogged.
"Daily, Sudanese women are flogged in the court under this law,” she said.
She claims many women are afraid to tell their families if they are arrested under the morality law. They do not have legal assistance, she said. Rather they are left to the mercy of the courts and open to sexual harassment from police.
She said in certain high-end restaurants there is no risk of being arrested for exposed hair or slacks. The law is applied unevenly.
"I take a risk to tell what is happening in our country and I hope that will be the last time a Sudanese woman is arrested by this law,” she said.