Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir looks on as he receives his Egyptian counterpart at Khartoum International Airport outside the Sudanese capital on October 25, 2018. (Photo by ASHRAF SHAZLY / AFP)        (Photo credit should read ASHRAF SHAZLY/AFP/Getty Images)
Ashraf Shazly/AFP/Getty Images
Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir looks on as he receives his Egyptian counterpart at Khartoum International Airport outside the Sudanese capital on October 25, 2018. (Photo by ASHRAF SHAZLY / AFP) (Photo credit should read ASHRAF SHAZLY/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:39
Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir steps down
Reuters
Now playing
02:14
Military spokesman announces transitional president in Chad
alexey navalny russia health vladimir putin Kiley pkg intl ldn vpx_00012003.png
alexey navalny russia health vladimir putin Kiley pkg intl ldn vpx_00012003.png
Now playing
03:06
Navalny ally warns he is in dire health. Here's how he got here
Cuba communist party new leadership Oppmann pkg intl hnk vpx_00000529.png
Cuba communist party new leadership Oppmann pkg intl hnk vpx_00000529.png
Now playing
02:44
Meet Cuba's new leader who's not a Castro
Indian railway worker saves child from oncoming train
Indian Ministry of Railways
Indian railway worker saves child from oncoming train
Now playing
00:55
See moment child is saved from oncoming train
screengrab hong kong oscars
IMDB / Field of Vision
screengrab hong kong oscars
Now playing
02:49
Hong Kong won't air Oscars for the first time since 1968
A split of Alexey Navalny and Vladimir Milov, one of his advisers.
CNN/Getty Images
A split of Alexey Navalny and Vladimir Milov, one of his advisers.
Now playing
02:50
'Absolutely disastrous': Navalny adviser on Navalny's medical test results
reality check john avlon
reality check john avlon
Now playing
02:59
Avlon: Will GOP still parrot Putin's disinformation post-Trump?
Reuters
Now playing
01:20
Firefighters battle flames in South African national park
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny delivers a speech during a demonstration in Moscow on September 29, 2019. - Thousands gathered in Moscow for a demonstration demanding the release of the opposition protesters prosecuted in recent months. Police estimated a turnout of 20,000 people at the Sakharov Avenue in central Moscow about half an hour after the start of the protest, which was authorised. The demonstrators chanted "let them go" and brandished placards demanding a halt to "repressions" of opposition protesters. (Photo by Yuri KADOBNOV / AFP) (Photo by YURI KADOBNOV/AFP via Getty Images)
YURI KADOBNOV/AFP/Getty Images
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny delivers a speech during a demonstration in Moscow on September 29, 2019. - Thousands gathered in Moscow for a demonstration demanding the release of the opposition protesters prosecuted in recent months. Police estimated a turnout of 20,000 people at the Sakharov Avenue in central Moscow about half an hour after the start of the protest, which was authorised. The demonstrators chanted "let them go" and brandished placards demanding a halt to "repressions" of opposition protesters. (Photo by Yuri KADOBNOV / AFP) (Photo by YURI KADOBNOV/AFP via Getty Images)
Now playing
02:09
Alexey Navalny 'close to death,' press secretary says
WINDSOR, ENGLAND - APRIL 17: The Duke of Edinburgh's coffin, covered with His Royal Highness's Personal Standard is carried to the purpose built Land Rover during the funeral of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh at Windsor Castle on April 17, 2021 in Windsor, England. Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark was born 10 June 1921, in Greece. He served in the British Royal Navy and fought in WWII. He married the then Princess Elizabeth on 20 November 1947 and was created Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth, and Baron Greenwich by King VI. He served as Prince Consort to Queen Elizabeth II until his death on April 9 2021, months short of his 100th birthday. His funeral takes place today at Windsor Castle with only 30 guests invited due to Coronavirus pandemic restrictions. (Photo by Adrian Dennis/WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Adrian Dennis/WPA Pool/Getty Images
WINDSOR, ENGLAND - APRIL 17: The Duke of Edinburgh's coffin, covered with His Royal Highness's Personal Standard is carried to the purpose built Land Rover during the funeral of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh at Windsor Castle on April 17, 2021 in Windsor, England. Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark was born 10 June 1921, in Greece. He served in the British Royal Navy and fought in WWII. He married the then Princess Elizabeth on 20 November 1947 and was created Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth, and Baron Greenwich by King VI. He served as Prince Consort to Queen Elizabeth II until his death on April 9 2021, months short of his 100th birthday. His funeral takes place today at Windsor Castle with only 30 guests invited due to Coronavirus pandemic restrictions. (Photo by Adrian Dennis/WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Now playing
02:29
See memorable moments from Prince Philip's funeral
ITN
Now playing
02:10
Princes Harry and William seen together at Prince Philip's funeral
Getty Images
Now playing
03:00
The end of an era has arrived in Cuba
Cuban prime minister Fidel Castro talking with parents of some of the American prisoners held hostage for food and supplies by the Cuban government after the abortive emigre invasion at the Bay of Pigs, January 1963.
Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Cuban prime minister Fidel Castro talking with parents of some of the American prisoners held hostage for food and supplies by the Cuban government after the abortive emigre invasion at the Bay of Pigs, January 1963.
Now playing
05:37
Remembering the Bay of Pigs invasion, 60 years later
Myanmar Bago killing Hancocks pkg intl hnk vpx_00002309.png
Myanmar Bago killing Hancocks pkg intl hnk vpx_00002309.png
Now playing
03:39
Eyewitnesses recount bloody crackdown in Bago, Myanmar
MAY LEWIS via Reuters
Now playing
00:49
Here's why this river turned white
(CNN) —  

For most people in Sudan, Omar al-Bashir is the only leader they have ever known, his 30-year rule defined by brutal oppression and astounding political survival.

Under Bashir, an entire generation grew up in the shadow of war, where the threat of torture in infamous “ghost houses” was never far away, and press freedom nonexistent.

Girls grew up looking over their shoulder for marauding gangs of “morality police,” ready to flog them simply for walking down the street with a male friend.

Boys in the north grew up in fear of being dragged from their homes to fight the civil war in the south.

CNN Senior International Correspondent Nima Elbagir.
CNN Senior International Correspondent Nima Elbagir.

Bashir taught everyone to live in fear. But he also taught them what they didn’t want, and even under his decades-long oppression they still, incredibly, visualized a democratic society.

On Thursday they came a step closer to achieving it, helping to topple the 75-year-old dictator who managed to cling to power despite being wanted by the International Criminal Court in connection with atrocities in Darfur.

After taking control in a coup in 1989, and becoming president in 1993, Bashir has proven himself the consummate political survivor. He conducted a campaign of ethnic cleansing in Darfur, yet simultaneously made himself indispensable to Gulf states and the West through military campaigns and cooperation on counter-terrorism.

EXCLUSIVE: As Sudan brutalizes its people, the US offers closer relations

Almost overnight, everything changed

I was 11 when Bashir came to power and remember waking one morning to find the streets of Khartoum empty. People stayed in their homes for what felt like days. After that, life changed very quickly.

Sudan went from a very normal country to one where every aspect of our lives – from our clothes, to the company we kept – was suddenly scrutinized with terrifying consequences.

School uniform dresses needed to be below the knee. Our gym kit needed to include full-length trousers. Simply being in a car with a boy not related to you would warrant a flogging. This was how Bashir exerted control in Sudan and it shaped everything about my coming of age.

The 1990s were blighted by Bashir’s interrogation and detention of his opponents, real and imagined, in infamous “ghost houses.”

You’d be hard pressed to find a Sudanese family who doesn’t have a family member sent to one of these torture chambers. Indeed my uncle was sent to one because he had been a communist at university.

For years the president even tried to ban music, and parties had an 11 p.m. curfew. But people still found a way to play music. It was one of the rare crackdowns that just would not stick.

Now, the music and singing that has been such a huge part of the protest movement cannot be silenced either.

Bashir has been ousted, but the protesters aren’t quitting their sit-in any time soon. There’s a real concern that this uprising will stop here, that the same power structure of rule will continue.

We’ve seen in the past how Bashir managed to make himself so geographically important – and difficult to dispose – from committing Sudanese forces to fight in Yemen to the recent negotiations with the US over the last four months of these demonstrations.

But part of his undoing was centralizing his rule. The tools Bashir used in the past – of casting off those he said were really to blame for corruption or atrocities – were now in his inner circle, and increasingly difficult to shed.

Ultimately, it was the youth within his own country that acted when the rest of the world did not.

Sheena McKenzie contributed to this report.