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A Symbol of Sudan’s Resistance

Featured in a new Guardian documentary, “the ‘Spider-Man’ of Sudan”, who cannot be named for his safety, has become a symbol of protests that began in October. Dressed in his increasingly frayed suit and mask he and other demonstrators confront teargas canisters, water cannon and often live bullets. During the protests his childhood friend was killed by security forces, who have also been accused of sexually assaulting women and hunting down activists. It was as a homage to his friend that he picked up the suit, less as a disguise than as a symbol of both his loss and the account they heard as children, of the spider who protects the Prophet Muhammed and his companion by spinning a web across the mouth of a cave they are hiding in, meaning their enemies pass by without looking in. “Spidey” was among hundreds of thousands of people whose protests in 2019 led to the fall of dictator Omar al-Bashir and the creation of a transitional government, which was itself ousted in a military coup in October 2021. According to film-maker Phil Cox, Spidey has become a representation of the atmosphere in the country. His distinctive suit seems to energise protesters around him and symbolises the resistance, while his teaching work was galvanised by the 2019 movement, like many other social and cultural activities.