‘Zaghrouda’ in the Midst of the Sudan War

The Second in a Series ‘Visualizing an Era of Genocide’

Since April 15, 2023 war has been raging across Sudan — a war waged by two generals who formerly collaborated to crush the December Revolution, which started in late 2018. Abdel-Fattah Al-Burhan, Head of the Sudanese Army (SAF), has fought a brutal campaign against the Janjaweed, also known as the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), headed by the belligerent Mohammad Hamdan Dagalo, more commonly known as Hemedti.

The war has killed thousands of civilians, destroyed much of the country’s infrastructure, and displaced millions, creating one of the world’s most acute humanitarian crises. In some parts of the country, particularly in Darfur, the situation is reaching the scale of genocide, with the RSF conducting campaigns of mass atrocities and expulsions against local communities, particularly people belonging to non-Arab ethnicities such as the Masalit, reminiscent of the 2004 Darfur Genocide. The SAF have also prevented aid deliveries to these areas, exacerbating an already dire humanitarian situation.

An illustration of a Sudanese woman, in a Abaya (traditional dress), with one hand over her mouth as she performs a Zalghouta (an Ululation). Behind her are illustrations of warfare. On the left is the silhouette of Hemedti, head of the RSF, and his armed militiamen on horseback chasing people away. Next to him is a car with a UAE license plate. On the right is the silhouette of Burhan, the head of the Sudanese Army, and his war planes overhead dropping bombs on civilians. A few Mufrakas are also depicted, a kitchen utensil used as a symbol of womens’ struggle within the December revolution.

On March 12, 2024 large parts of the city of Omdurman were recaptured by the SAF. Notably the buildings that hosted the national TV and radio headquarters were recaptured, which then made its first broadcast since the building’s takeover by the RSF in April of last year.

In the first broadcast since its recapture, Nisrine Al-Imam, a Sudanese broadcaster, performs a Zaghrouda (Ululation), a gesture of celebration and resilience. The Zaghrouda, widely performed by women across the SWANA region during festivities, was often used by Sudanese women during protests throughout Sudan’s long history of revolts and uprisings. Pictured next to Al-Imam are Mufrakas, a kitchen utensil used as a symbol of womens’ struggle within the December revolution.

During the almost year-long war, both the RSF and SAF have committed war crimes and gross abuses, including mass looting, sexual assault, and extortion. Many Sudanese wait for the war to end so they can salvage what is left of the country and continue to push for their demands for a democratic Sudan modeled after the revolutionary charters of 2022.

This is the second in a series visualizing genocides across the globe created by Hisham Rifai and Ayman Makarem. See the first special, Resisting Starvation in Gaza below.

The artistic duo has also created the Revolution in Every Country comic series on revolutionary movement events and ideas in the SWANA (South West Asia and North Africa) region.

Artist Bios

Ayman Makarem is a Lebanese writer primarily interested in the intersection of the personal and the political. 

Hisham Rifai is a Lebanese artist and illustrator. He is currently based in Antwerp, Belgium completing an advanced master’s in research in arts and design. His work aims to combine political urgency with artistic practices.

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