Jemima Elliott discusses the case of Noura Hussein.
Trigger Warning: this article contains discussion on rape and sexual assault.
Noura Hussein is a name you may well have heard in the past few months, although admittedly not as much as I would like. Noura is a nineteen-year-old girl from Sudan.
I would like to say that Noura is carefree and having fun, looking forward to all of life’s exciting opportunities like many other teenagers. However, that is not the case. In early May of this year, Noura was sentenced to death for killing her husband. When put like that it seems bad, but not necessarily the worst case scenario. The death penalty is horrendous in itself, and even more so when an innocent person is killed because of it. It is catastrophic when a rape victim is punished for self-defence. That is exactly what has happened to Noura.
At just sixteen, she was pressured into a marriage she didn’t not want, so she ran away. She settled with a female relative. A few years later, a letter was sent under false pretences to Noura from her family, assuring her the attempted marriage wouldn’t be continued. However, on her return, she was forced to marry. After several nights of being attacked and raped by her new husband (including being held down by male relatives to enable this), Noura managed to stab her husband to prevent another attack.
As a consequence, Noura was arrested, put on trial and then sentenced to death on 10 May 2018.
Having first heard about Noura’s case on my favourite podcast, The Guilty Feminist, I have since seen feminists from all over, from all different backgrounds stand up in solidarity with Noura and all that her plight represents. Over 1 million people signed a petition to help Noura’s appeal, her case has been highlighted by Amnesty International and captured the attention of Twitter.
This case highlights the core issues of feminism which have still not been resolved in many places around the globe: a woman’s personal autonomy, forced marriage and child brides, marital rape and the vulnerability of young women and girls to strong patriarchal familial structures. This is why we need to speak up. This is not the case of a cold-blooded killer out on a rampage. This is the story of an innocent young woman who was made desperate by unfair circumstances and societal attitudes towards women. We need to readdress the advances we think we have made for the feminist cause – go back to the drawing board if you will. These are issues which cannot be overlooked.
Since receiving her death sentence in May, Noura has won her appeal. She has to pay a hefty fine, but she is no longer destined to be executed. Still incarcerated, she faces a counter-appeal to put her back in the hands of the hangman. Her life still hangs in the balance.
Say her name. Please her name. Say it to your friends, your family, your co-workers and your representatives in Parliament or any other democratic organization. Say her name.
A template letter to your MP is available here.