Sudanese Revolution: The Fear Barrier has been Broken

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A South Sudanese refugee girl and her mother stand outside a make-shift hut at the Dar es Salaam refugee camp, in the capital Khartoum, on 28 June 2012. (Photo: AFP - STR)

By: Maha Elsanosi

Published Monday, July 9, 2012

Over the course of 23 years, the Sudanese government has done a excellent job of provoking, marginalizing and devaluing the average Sudanese citizen. For two decades the people of Sudan have stood by in silence as the country's debt accumulated and Africa's once-largest nation was forced to split into two halves. They watched as their warmongering regime displaced hundreds of thousands of Sudanese people and committed countless atrocities and human rights violations against their own men, women and children. A trigger was in order, and on 17 June 2012, the female students of the University of Khartoum lit the first spark of the Sudanese revolution. Throughout the history of Sudan, women have been known to be at the forefront of such struggles. In 1964, during the Sudanese people's first revolution against a military dictatorship, the women were on the frontline along with the men.

The University of Khartoum is a prestigious institution. It is home to Sudan's intellectuals and future leaders and therefore the heartbeat of the Sudanese revolution. Protests launched from inside the campus three weeks ago when students denounced the government’s recent austerity measures that were planned to make up for a budget deficiency totaling up to $2.5 billion. After two decades of silence, high commodity prices brought the people of Sudan together. The scope of the protests expanded over subsequent days and reached other universities by domino affect. Soon enough, the protests became nationwide and extended to other states and cities. For two weeks now, mosques in Sudan have turned into hubs for protest every Friday.

The first Friday was "Sandstorm Friday," where a revolutionary whirlwind swept across Sudan and shook the throne of the National Congress Party (NCP). The second Friday was dedicated to the president's advisor Nafie Ali Nafie, who was quoted as saying last year that the Sudanese people have a better chance at licking their elbows than toppling the regime: it was named "Elbow Licking Friday." Nafie then made a feeble attempt at retracting his statement, professing that it was not directed at the Sudanese people per se, but at opposition parties. June 30 witnessed a large number of protests in celebration of the "Salvation" Government's final anniversary. The third Friday, 6 July 2012 is scheduled to be "Outcasts' Friday," a pun referring to President Omar al-Bashir's latest speech referring to the Sudanese revolutionaries as outcasts.

After Friday prayers, people gather outside the mosques and begin chanting against the regime. Among their chants is the all too familiar "the people want to bring down the regime" and "no, no to the high prices of commodities." The protesters make it clear that "we are not protesting only at the increased prices of sugar and fuel, but are protesting against those who robbed our country in the name of religion." Opposition parties have played a significant role in the protests. In Wad Nubawi, for example, a protest began from the Ummah Party mosque in Omdurman after the imam called on worshippers to protest after prayers. This has since become a weekly trend.

Police and security forces have responded to peaceful protests with tear gas, including firing canisters inside mosques. The tear gas has also been used in people’s homes. The Sudanese Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) is thought to have employed a strong type of tear gas that leads to unconsciousness in the Khartoum neighborhood of Al Daim. Police and security forces also used excessive force and beaten protesters during their clampdown. Some hospitals, puppets to the ruling NCP, refused to provide treatment to injured protesters and instead reported their names to the NISS, leading to their arrests.

At night in various Khartoum neighborhoods, protesters burn tires and hurl stones to block traffic in streets that are frequented by riot police. Protesters take over the area and chant against the regime until the heavy rain of tear gas becomes unbearable and the protest is forcibly dispersed. This has been the recurring story for the past three weeks.

The protests have gained a lot of support over the past few weeks but the notorious NISS has launched a heavy campaign to crack down on protesters. Dissenters are being kidnapped from the streets and activists abducted from their own homes.

Ever since Sandstorm Friday, many cases of missing individuals have been reported. Parents who cannot locate the whereabouts of their children often assume the worst. When captured, NISS officers immediately confiscate the detainee's phone and switch it off, leaving their families and loved ones sick with worry. Thousands have reportedly been kidnapped by the NISS and are located inside the NISS offices, prisons or “ghost houses.” Ghost houses are known as the location where physical torture and psychological abuse takes place. In the case of a short detention, the NISS applies its abusive techniques to emotionally abuse, harass and blackmail the detainee.

Since the beginning of the Sudanese revolution, Western media has erroneously reported it as nothing but a protest against "austerity measures" thus linking it to Greek-like fury, rather than broader political discontent with the regime. In reality, the austerity measures are what instigated the people to take to the streets. But it is the 23 years of continued corruption and poor living conditions that is driving the Sudanese revolution forward and pushing it towards success.

The Sudanese people have grown weary of the regime's tactic of using religion in an attempt to manipulate the mind and legitimize their rule. They have grown tired of the blatant corruption and uneven distribution of wealth. They have now realized that the fear barrier has been broken and the deafening silence of the people has transformed into a series of loud bangs… they will stop at nothing in their quest for freedom.

Maha Elsanosi is a Khartoum-based Sudanese blogger and activist. She blogs at mimzology.blogspot.com

The views expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect al-Akhbar's editorial policy.

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