The 22-year-old Sudanese student driving political change in the country

The mystery woman in white, who became a viral sensation and protest icon after a video of her leading protest chants against overthrown Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir was shared hundreds of thousands of times on Twitter, has finally spoken out.

22-year-old student Alaa Salah has broken her silence to BBC News after earning herself the nickname “Kandaka”, meaning Nubian queen, for her fearless protesting against the former Sudanese president – who faced accusations of human rights abuses and political corruption before being overthrown.

“I didn’t expect to be called the icon of the revolution, and I don’t claim that I am the icon of the revolution. On the contrary, all Sudanese people are the icon of the revolution,” the humble young activist told the BBC.

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“I had no idea that my picture will spread, or that my video clip would go viral. When I stood up and protested on 8 March, Omar al-Bashir was still in power,” she continued.

“He was deposed three days later. It was possible that by standing the way I did to get shot from any direction or even after that.”

According to Sudan’s main opposition party, around 20 people have been killed and dozens wounded since the protests began in December.

Responding to the question of whether she and other activists had been frightened, the amazing woman said, “We weren’t scared – though we were aware of all possibilities.

“We could’ve been shot dead or injured on an arm or an eye. Anything could happen. I took part in the protests because I dreamt of a better Sudan, where everyone can live with dignity and honour.”

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Women have played a hugely important role in the protests, often forming the majority of demonstrators, with the inspiring young student becoming the figurehead.

Speaking of her new found “Kandaka” nickname, a name historically given to Nubian queens in ancient Sudan, the 22-year-old expressed her pride in the protesting women of her country.

“All of those struggling in the street and all the squares are Kendakas,” she told Reuters.

Words by: Kate McCusker

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