By Anthony Mba.
You may not be familiar with the name Noura Hussein but it is more likely that you have come across the #JusticeforNoura hashtag. Noura was sentenced to death on May 10, 2018 by a court in Omdurman, Sudan after being found guilty of murder for killing the man who raped her.
Barbaric is an understatement when describing Noura’s treatment. Noura, a Sudanese teenager had previously been married away by her family at the age of 16. A decision that violated her own agency as a individual; she sought refuge away from the forced marriage and fled to her aunt’s home. Three years passed and eventually she was tricked by her own family who convinced her to return under the false pretence that the wedding had been cancelled.
It was after this fact that her husband was able to isolate Noura, and with the help of his cousins to hold her down; raped her, scarring Noura and altering the course of her life form therein. After proving himself an enormous danger to her Noura responded by now carrying a knife, so she would be ready to defend herself on the next occasion that her husband made sexual advances. And when that day came it was that day that she fatally stabbed him.
Noura’s story serves as a sobering reminder that the freedoms we enjoy simply have no clemency in other parts of the world where the worldview is often archaic and on occasion, barbaric.
As if the indignity of sexual assault wasn’t enough, Noura has had to contend with a drawn out trial, with little visible support from her family. The news of her being sentenced to death caused an international outcry.
Noura herself has said: “It was a shocking moment when the judge convicted me with murder. I knew then that I [would] be executed, leaving my dreams unfulfilled.”
The impromptu awareness campaign kicked off on social media; hallmarked by the #JusticeforNoura hashtag that has inspired contributions from individuals, groups and famed supermodel Naomi Campbell who posted a picture of herself on twitter holding a placard bearing the now very recognisable hashtag.
If the response serves to prove anything, it is that what is happening to Noura is an affront to everything just and decent.
The story on the ground doesn’t seem to reflect that outrage, however. At the time of sentencing her ex-husband’s family were said to be “clapping with joy” at the sentence, whilst Noura’s own family was absent from the proceedings, according to a trial witness. Of course Noura has her supporters but chillingly, the lawyer responsible for her defence and current ongoing appeal has been subjected to a campaign of intimidation by The National Intelligence Security Services (NISS) and even barred from holding a press conference regarding the case. At this stage a deliberate attempt by the state to suppress Noura’s voice smacks of an indirect admission of being in the wrong.
Arguably, the ensuing outrage is indicative of two things. The first is virtue signalling; where is the outrage regarding all other cases of miscarriages of justice, not just abroad but also in wherever your home country is? Secondly, this may also be viewed as a case of Westerners who feel morally superior to those in the global south talking down on their justice systems and cultural beliefs.
Such arguments take away from the real matter at hand. Firstly some stories just capture the hearts and minds more than others, it may seem discriminatory but this is the nature of man and isn’t necessarily a bad thing if one case can be used to set a precedent. Secondly, and more importantly, regardless of cultural differences, there should simply be human rights that we hold as sacred. Regardless of your cultural background the judgment against Noura cannot be regarded as a just ruling and people across the world are right to fight it.
One can only hope that the fight amounts to something. This is a battle primarily for Noura and her legal team, they are on the frontline. The world’s support may amount to nothing in the end. Whatever does happen, let this case serve as an example for how we shouldn’t treat our fellow people, let the outrage produce change. It’s taken an extraordinary story to muster the reaction that it has but the tragic truth is that the events that led up to Noura’s predicament are all too common.
Anthony is a Contributor for TCS Scribe who specialises in African politics. He has a bachelor’s degree in politics and is an avid debater and weight lifter.