Sara Elhassan: In Sudan, the #JusticeForNoura campaign gave a voice to the voiceless
Updated 1224 GMT (2024 HKT) June 21, 2018
CNN is committed to covering gender inequality wherever it occurs in the world. This story is part of As Equals, a year-long series.
Sara Elhassan is a 33-year-old Sudanese-American freelance writer and editor based between Phoenix, Arizona and Khartoum, Sudan. Her Instagram story on Noura Hussein helped spark the #JusticeForNoura campaign. The views expressed in this commentary her own.
On May 1, I turned on my phone, opened my Instagram account and shared Noura Hussein's story.
While her case was just starting to spread on WhatsApp groups among the Sudanese diaspora, it was the first time that many of my friends, family and followers had ever heard about Noura, the Sudanese teenager on death row for killing her husband, who she says raped her after their forced marriage.
But in the weeks since, her case has sparked international outrage, human rights campaigns and several hashtags, including #JusticeforNoura.
When I found out about Noura's case through WhatsApp, it had been almost a year since her arrest, and a day since she was convicted of premeditated murder.
Sharing Noura's story on Instagram was a reflex, a coping mechanism to deal with the intense frustration I felt -- not only at the great injustice that this young woman had faced at the hands of her family and the Sudanese justice system, but also that such a major case had flown under our collective radar
What made Noura's story so unusual was that she had killed her attacker.
But the circumstances that led to this chain of events -- child marriage, forced marriage, marital rape -- are neither new nor uncommon in Sudan, where more than a third of girls are married before their 18th birthday, according to UNICEF.
Discussing Noura's case with people thousands of miles away was a way for me to engage with an issue I felt was in need of immediate attention. It was also a way to acknowledge the countless number of women across Sudan and the diaspora, those I knew personally and those I didn't, who had suffered similar fates and to whom society had turned a blind eye.
As with most of the Instagram stories I create, I had hoped that this would prompt people to engage with their friends and families on this issue. But the reach it garnered, the outpouring of support and the flood of messages I received defied my expectations.
What began as just an Instagram story grew into a veritable movement that has captured worldwide attention.