How #JusticeForNoura Became a Global Rallying Cry

Last week, 19 year-old Noura Hussein was sentenced to death for fatally stabbing the man who raped her in Sudan.

Hussein was married to her cousin three years ago at the age of 16 but fled her parents’ home to live with relatives before the marriage could be completed. Hussein was returned home where she was raped by her husband.

“She would not have sex with the man,” Sarah ElHasan, a rights activist, told Al Jazeera. “He recruited some of his cousins and brought them [to his] home where they held her down while her husband raped her.”

When Hussein’s husband attempted to rape her again, she ran to the kitchen and grabbed a knife. In the struggle that ensued, the husband received fatal wounds and died while Hussein escaped her attacker.

After her sentencing, #JusticeForNoura has been trending on global social media streams in an attempt to raise awareness for the inhumane and unjust sentence of Noura, a child bride who was physically and psychologically abused by her family and raped by her husband. 

Hussein’s lawyers have until May 25th the appeal the decision but the likelihood that the sentence will be overturned is slim.

In a country like Sudan where gender-based violence is all too common, Hussein’s case is not unique.

Hussein lives in a country that has been plagued by conflict for decades. The violence that war and conflict bring has permeated homes and communities. In countries that are currently experiencing conflict like Sudan, 78% of women have experience intimate partner violence compared to 34% in not affected by conflict. Conflict also increases the likelihood of child marriage. In Sudan, 34% of girls are married before the age of 18. Hussein was a victim of both child marriage and intimate partner violence and though she survived the violence and abuse, she defended herself and her husband lost his life.

A life was lost, but considering Hussein’s history with conflict and violence, many human rights activists feel this punishment is unjust. “The death penalty is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment and to apply it to a rape victim only highlights the failure of the Sudanese authorities to acknowledge the violence she endured,” said Seif Magango, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director, East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.

Sudanese authorities won’t acknowledge the violence Hussein survived because Hussein lives in a country in which the government values the life that she took, her husband’s, more than the life she saved.

When Hussein’s sentence was announced, relatives of her former husband cheered and clapped with joy upon hearing the decision. Relatives cheered at the sentence because Hussein took the life of a man, a man who holds more value in society than she does. Many would see the death sentence for Hussein as justifiable, as atonement for the more important life she took.

Hussein is a survivor of rape and violence, but she has now become a victim of misogyny and toxic masculinity. Sentencing a rape survivor to death is inhumane and unjust. But because of the law in Sudan and the misogynistic world we live in, #JusticeForNoura probably won’t come to fruition.