Would any rational person be surprised at the international media’s fixation with the case of Sudanese journalist Lubna Hussein who stood trial in Sudan for wearing trousers? Why wouldn’t it be considering all the circumstances of the case, which attracted and deserved the attention that Arab and international press have shown?
Why would anyone be surprised as this case is going on in a country where the president is wanted for war crimes, and in a country that has witnessed wars and crises that have claimed the lives of nearly one and a half million of its people and yet the judicial authority exerted much effort to try a woman for wearing trousers?
Perhaps the Sudanese court should have attempted to save face for its judges by dropping the case instead of remaining in a state of confusion and attempting to hide behind the offer that it presented to Lubna Hussein. It gave her the option of paying US $200 or facing a one-month prison term instead of punishing her with lashes. She chose imprisonment and appeal, and refused to pay any amount whatsoever for her freedom. Lubna seemed completely convinced with what she was defending, and this alone deserves some deliberation.
The attention given to the trial of Lubna Hussein is not exaggerated nor has it been prioritised at the expense of other important causes and the fates of our troubled [Arab] nations, as claimed by some angry people who considered her trial a farce and undeserving of all the noise and attention it received.
Loubna’s case is the core of our crisis, as the authorities that issue odd sentences – that underestimate people’s intelligence and dignity – cannot be trusted with people’s fates.
The authority that tried Lubna and thousands of Sudanese women (48 thousand women were detained in Khartoum in 2008 because of the way they were dressed) is unable to protect its people against violations, oppression and killings.
The obsession with women and women’s issues, and how women dress, act or talk, makes many authorities too incompetent to issue rulings and pass laws in order to control what they consider evil.
We must express our admiration for Lubna and the 48 others who demonstrated in court during the trial. Lubna’s decision to continue with the case that could have been ended by paying US $200 suggests that there is some hope amid such a pessimistic and absurd atmosphere whether in Sudan or the region as a whole. Lubna’s decision to continue fighting was exercised by one woman alone in a society that shows no tolerance towards similar cases. How can we turn a blind eye to the scores of women who are being arrested in the space of one year in Khartoum because of the way they are dressed?
The significance of the decisions taken by Lubna to continue with the fight against laws that are unfair to Sudanese women is immense and almost as immense as our pessimism. This significance can defeat our continuous pessimism regarding the possibility of developing our region and putting an end to its crises.
The decision of the Sudanese journalist Lubna Hussein to appeal and proceed with the legal case, even though it was an individual act, should be supported by women’s rights organizations in the region, and especially by media representatives, but words and sympathy alone will not be enough.