Fatima Ahmed Ibrahim

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16-08-2017, 05:30 PM

Hassan Farah
<aHassan Farah
تاريخ التسجيل: 29-08-2016
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Fatima Ahmed Ibrahim

    05:30 PM August, 16 2017

    سودانيز اون لاين
    Hassan Farah-جمهورية استونيا
    رابط مختصر

    Fiery activist who became the first female MP in Sudan and campaigned tirelessly for women’s rights
    When Fatima Ahmed Ibrahim heard a white Englishman make a pejorative remark about black passengers on a London bus she rose to her feet, clapped her hands and instantly delivered a sharp rebuke, focusing on the evils of the British Empire.

    That story rarely surprised anyone who had met the outspoken Ibrahim, a woman never shy about speaking her mind. Slim and courageous, she had a captivating smile and was famous for being elected in 1965 as the first female MP in Sudan and one of the first women politicians in Africa.

    Her fiery nature first emerged as a teenager. Using a code-name she wrote newspaper articles decrying colonial rule and expressed her views on sheets plastered to the walls of public buildings. When her school cancelled science classes as inappropriate for girls, Ibrahim promptly organised the strike that led to them being reinstated.

    She edited a pioneering magazine for women and co-founded the Sudanese Women’s Union. As an MP she campaigned for women’s rights to consent to marriage, vote, work and enjoy equal pay, plus the abolition of laws obliging abused wives to return to their violent husbands.

    Her own husband, the trade union leader Al-Shafi Ahmed al-Sheikh, was tortured and executed in 1971. Afterwards Ibrahim was placed under house arrest and spent four months in prison. She was later persecuted for political lobbying. Fleeing to Britain as a refugee in 1990, she threw her energy into founding the London branch of the Sudanese Women’s Union.

    Always at the centre of any gathering, Ibrahim was never less than determined. On one occasion she wore a wig to enter an international women’s conference from which she had been banned by the Sudanese government.

    Within her family the tale of how as a teenager Ibrahim had refused to help the women of the house cook was legendary. She had merely pointed at her brother, who was two years her senior, and asked why he was excluded from requests for help with the housekeeping.

    Fatima Ahmed Ibrahim was born in 1934 according to her passport, or in 1929 according to members of her family, in Omdurman, Sudan, the fourth of eight children. Her mother, unusually for the time, was literate. Fatima’s brother Salah was an acclaimed poet, who dedicated verses to his mother.

    At 14 Ibrahim, who grew into a beauty with smooth black plaits and a graceful figure, founded the Intellectual Women’s Association in protest at British attempts to curb the role of women in colonial Sudan. She was refused permission to attend university by her father, who thought it improper for her to mingle with men.

    As a teenager she wrote critical articles using a codename
    Undeterred, she read all the communist tracts passed to her by an older brother. At 19 she joined the Sudanese Communist Party, which, alone among Sudan’s political groupings at the time, allowed women members.

    She became editor in chief of the magazine Sawt al-Mara (Women’s Voice), a daring role given that women were banned from working as journalists. She was then elected president of the Sudanese Women’s Union in 1956.

    Within three years of her entering parliament in 1965 women had secured the right to equal pay, higher education and paid maternity leave. As the daughter of an imam, Ibrahim was especially thrilled when a new law made Sudan the only Islamic nation to allow female judges for Muslim law.

    Merely by joining a queue for petrol Ibrahim could spark a lively discussion on the government that morphed into a protest. When arrested over an unpaid telephone bill she brought a large throng of friends and relations to the courtroom, where they joined her impassioned complaints about the government. All were charged with contempt of court.

    Through the Communist Party she met her husband. They were married in 1969 and became a golden couple for progressive politics. President Nasser of Egypt, who decorated them, asked them to share their ideas on women’s movements and trade unionism.

    In 1969 Jaafar Nimeiri seized power in Sudan in a coup, dissolving all political parties in favour of a revolutionary council. When her husband refused a position in Nimeiri’s government his reward was execution. Ibrahim, who ran a small bookshop, was kept under house arrest for two and a half years. Her only child, Mohammed Ahmed, came to England and became a doctor.

    She joined him in 1990 after a second coup by Omar al-Bashir. She was arrested en route, but pressure from Amnesty International secured her release. Moving in with an aunt in Redhill, Surrey, she threw herself into campaigning for the rights of Sudanese women, publicising the flogging of female students at Ahfad University in her home town for being unveiled.

    A devout Muslim who never missed her daily prayers, Ibrahim had little time for fundamentalists. In a voice shaking with anger she declared: “These Islamic extremists are nothing but parasites. They claim to govern on behalf of God and yet they do nothing but enrich themselves.”

    The author of several books, she served as president of the Women’s International Democratic Federation and won a UN award for outstanding achievements in the field of human rights. In 2005 she returned to Sudan after a reconciliation between President Bashir’s government and the opposition. The year after she won the Ibn Rushd Prize for Freedom of Thought.

    Returning to the political fray as a representative of the Sudanese Communist Party, her memory proved somewhat cloudy. However, her stirring eloquence in parliament was still capable of startling her political opponents. She retired from politics in 2007, saying, “Now is the time to hand over the banner to the youth.”

    Many wanted her to remain in Sudan. A sensitive woman, who wept copiously when loved ones died, she insisted on returning to England to be close to her son and his family. She moved into a one-bedroom flat in southwest London. There, surrounded by Sudanese ornaments and photographs of her husband, she was cared for by a host of relations until the severity of her diabetes, coupled with dementia, led to her moving to a home in Cricklewood two years ago.

    A byword for strong character, Ibrahim refused — for her whole life — to do any cooking.

    Fatima Ahmed Ibrahim, politician, was born on December 20, 1934. She died on August 12, 2017, after an operation, aged 82

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