Young men in camouflage and headbands colored red to symbolize sacrifice consider themselves kamikazes ready to blow up tanks of rebels.
"We are ready! We are ready!" the men cry at a rally in downtown Khartoum.Just ask Suad Ahmed, a 63-year-old female activist jailed repeatedly for her beliefs, about such shows of devotion, and she has a different take: The government is forcing men to die in a distant and increasingly unpopular civil war.
Ahmed is one of hundreds of Sudanese women who have taken to the streets of Khartoum to protest the conscription of young men. Many, they say, are taken off buses, detained at checkpoints at night or picked up in the streets. Others are barred from entering universities, taking jobs or leaving the country until they serve in the armed forces, protesters say.
"They hijack people in the streets, and you won't know where your child is. You don't know whether he is alive, dead or missing," said Ahmed, who has led protests since December.
The women's activism is remarkable in Sudan, where the Arab world's only revolutionary Islamic government has dismissed women from the civil service, tried to force women to wear veils and sought to suppress, rather unsuccessfully, their political work.
The women's resilience is testament to discontent over a war, Africa's longest, that costs $1 million a day.
The government has dismissed the women's protests.
"It is a natural response from parents to a new routine in their life, a new demand on their children and their households," Information Minister Ghazi Salah el-Din said. "It's very natural."
Sudan's government was in the headlines last week after U.S. missiles hit a Khartoum factory the American government said was producing precursors to chemical weapons.