Sudan: Sanaa Awadkareem: Our collective tragedy

Sudaneseonline / WLUML Networkers
Sanaa Awadkareem was forced into marriage and then disfigured with acid by her estranged husband.
The tragedy of Sanaa Awadalkareem, a victim of a unique case of domestic violence of the worst kind, became a case of public interest when it was highlighted in local and international news articles, first published in Alrayaam newspaper (Sudan) and consequently on Sudanesonline (an electronic news outlet, concerned with issues pertaining to the Sudan;
This human tragedy, a crime of passion by proxy, began in 2005 when Sanaa, then a 17 year old high school student preparing for her High school university entrance examinations was forced to marry a town clerk from a nearby village from her home of Um Hajjar, Managil province, Central Sudan. Her family and particularly her father did not heed her repeated objections to the marriage. Following a honeymoon from hell, as was described in one of the local articles, she moved with her estranged groom to Khartoum North, in the outskirts of the Sudanese capital. After several months of feuding with her groom, and in which the husband attempted to entice the bride with witchcraft and local black magic potions, to which both she and her family were exposed, she returned to live with her family in their home in Um Haggar Almakashfi,in central Sudan. Shortly thereafter her estranged husband Altirafi Awadallah Ahmed, planned with malice aforethought his wicked revenge. Under the pretext of visiting Sanaa’s hometown for a family funeral, he began to convince the most naïve and sympathetic of Sanaa’s relatives, her brother Mustafa. He convinced him that if he poured the magical potion of spiritual waters that a learned Sheikh (spiritual leader) had prepared, the evil spirit that bewitched Sanaa would leave her and she would view her husband in a favourable manner and they would be able to resume a normal married life. The naïve brother asked the husband if he would pour the potion himself but the husband told him that the spiritual healer had decreed that a blood relative should pour it in order for the spell to be broken.

So while the beautiful Sanaa lay sleeping in the early morning hours of the night Altirafi and Mustafa stealthily crept to where she lay quietly amidst her parents and Mustafa poured the “magic potion” over his sister’s face, unbeknownst to him that he was pouring a highly concentrated solution of caustic soda( concentrated sodium hydroxide solution). It was later discovered that Altirafi had bought the caustic soda from a tyre and battery repair shop under false pretence.

Ensuing tragedy

As Sanaa was rudely awakened by the hot caustic liquid burning her face scalp and eyes she began to scream and startled her parents and upon hearing her cries of agony her mother in a state of shock from the grotesque scene started to cry out loudly, upon which the cowardly groom ran away and her brother in shock stood by and watched. The loud agonizing screams awoke the neighbours and one of Sanaa’s brothers came to her rescue, poured water all over her face, unfortunately the damage was already done. Sanaa’s beautiful face (see attached before & after images) became a coagulated red scorched piece of scarred meat , which would later swell to a black balloon. Her beautiful silky black hair began to fall en masse and worst of all her eyes burnt beyond recognition became rock solid and she could not move her eyeballs, particularly her left eye which was rendered a coagulated burnt ball. Her brothers immediately transferred her to Almanagil Hospital and following that to several other hospitals in the capital where she underwent multiple attempts of plastic surgery consisiting of skin grafts and reconstructive surgery to the nose and other facial structures. However a final decision was made to send her to Egypt for reconstructive surgery to the eyes as one eye was functional (the right eye). In Egypt she received several sessions of ophthalmic reconstruction, scalp reconstructive surgery and six months of laser therapy / sessions. The surgical treatment was an economic hardship on the family and finally they ran out of money and returned to Sudan, after a year of struggle abroad.

Sanaa currently lives with her brother Awadelkareem (her main caretaker) in the outskirts of Khartoum in Alsalamma township, awaiting financial assistance and depending on the kindness of strangers to help her travel to the US to receive further reconstructive plastic surgery so that she can have a semblance of a normal life. Currently she is ostracized from her family and village and covers her face in a black veil as she feels a lot of pain in her eyes. There has been an outpouring of sympathy from all over the Sudan and particularly from Sudanese expatriates for Sanaa’s tragedy and now local human rights and other local northern Sudanese organizations are working hard to organize a fund to help treat and defend Sanaa.

Donations will be collated so that she can get the proper treatment for her injuries and further reconstructive surgery at the Grossman Burns center in Shearman Oaks Hospital, California as a start, pending her visa status etc. In the meantime, her family has also suffered, her mother is suffering form a mental breakdown, her father because of guilt from what has become of his daughter because he insisted on the marriage cannot financially support his family. All her brothers who were university students have had to abandon their studies and seek jobs to finance Sanaa’s treatment and support their family back in Almanagil. Her guilty brother Mustafa was never able to look his sister in the face again and even though she has forgiven him, ashamed he refused to stay with the family and his guilt drove him to travel to the South of the country.

Crime without punishment

The public outcry that has ensued from this tragedy particularly amongst the local human rights and religious groups has been because this poor young soul never had a chance to see justice taken on her behalf. Her father because he was poor was forced to withdraw a court case against the true culprit for this crime, Altarifi in exchange for money as compensation for her treatment. This agreement is a traditional custom practiced in many parts of the country where the injuries are usually accidental and not premeditated, but because this was a crime via proxy the guilty party was able to manipulate the local laws and convince village elders to intervene on his behalf. So after a brief period of incarceration, this human monster is free, to live a normal life, while his young victim is imprisoned in her tragedy and has lost the happy future all young women look forward to. Investigations by local Sudanese journalists claim that he is happily married to another woman and that he continues to work, unthreatened by any authority. We recently learned that he is also attempting to remove the police file, from the local police station where this crime was reported.

Those of us who are concerned citizens of the Sudan and the world at large would like to see Sanaa’s internal and external wounds healed, that she pursues her university education. Sanaa was accepted to the University of Juba as a student in the Faculty of Arts & the Humanities. Finally we all want to see justice served for her and that the culprit be punished.

For inquiries into ways you can help please address e-mails to:

This piece was summarized from two articles published on Sudanese online:

2 March 2008