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"Sudan is not really a country at all, but many. A composite layers, like a genetic fingerprint of memories that were once fluid, but have since crystallized out from the crucible of possibility" Jamal Mahjoub, a Sudanese novelist

Updated: 2017-12-10T19:48:49.422-08:00


Police shisha raids spread fear as Khartoum cracks down on the pipe


It is a memory Hannah al-Sayed recalls very clearly. One night, while chatting and smoking shisha with her girlfriends in a cafe near the Nile in Khartoum, Sayed, a civil servant, recalled how the outing almost cost her her freedom.It was 8 January at around 7pm and Sayed had met her friends at the shisha cafe after work. What was meant to be a fun evening ended up with a police officer chasing them down, trying to arrest them.“I was with my friends in the women-only section and we were having a good time, until two plain-clothed men walked into the place. One of them was on the phone and was describing the location of the cafe,” Sayed said.Sayed suspected that they were officers and overheard them calling for back-up to raid the cafe, which is a common occurrence in Sudan.'I was with my friends in the women-only section and we were having a good time, until two plain-clothed men walked into the place'-Hannah al-Sayed, a civil servantSayed and others quickly began gathering their belongings to flee the premises, but one of the officers shut the door and told them that they “will get arrested today”.To this day, Sayed is still terrified by flashbacks of the event.“The other women began pushing him away from the door to leave and we were trying to get out, until he held my hand really tight and told us, 'you will not get out today',” Sayed recalled. She broke free and while the officer was chasing Sayed and her friends as they bolted for Sayed's car, he continued to scream out that if they did not stop, he would create a scandal and shame them.When they did reach her car, the officer opened the passenger door and forcefully tried to take away her car keys, refusing to let them leave.To their fortune, a brave waiter from the cafe had followed them to the scene. He held the officer back and gave the friends the opportunity to escape. Sayed never found out what happened to the waiter after he helped them.Minutes after Sayed and her friends left the cafe, all the women still in the cafe were arrested by the public order police.“It could have been us on that police truck. I don’t even want to know what would have happened,” said Sayed, who has resorted to smoking shisha at home since the incident.Shisha banThrough a decision announced via local newspapers, on 29 March 2017, the security affairs committee of Khartoum municipality issued a ban on public shisha smoking. They instructed the shutting down of all shisha cafes in Khartoum, Sudan’s capital. Sudanese man smokes Shisha at a market in southern Sudan in 2006 (AFP) Headed by the mayor of Khartoum, General Ahmed Abu-Shanab, the committee is responsible for initiating plans to secure the capital during important events or national holidays, among other tasks.According to local media, Abu-Shanab said that the municipality has ordered the closure of shisha cafes due to negative social and health effects. This decision effectively bans shisha in all streets, markets and public areas and puts an end to the issuance of permits to serve shisha.Shisha is widely popular in the Middle East and North Africa. The water pipe, in which flavoured tobacco is burnt using coal, passes through a water vessel and is inhaled through a hose known as a hookah or arghila.Before the official ban, LM, who preferred to use her initials only, used to work as a waitress in a cafe in Riyadh, an upscale suburb in Khartoum. She said that she had been arrested many times for working in a place that served shisha.“I will never forget all the times that the police raided the cafe and arrested us, I have entered the police station more times than I can remember,” said LM, who is in her early twenties, in an interview with MEE.‘I have entered the police station more times than I can remember’ - LM, waitressAfter being unemployed for months, LM accepted the job despite fears of getting arrested. The lingering anxiety that she felt every morning as she walked into work did not stop her because of a decent salary, in addition to tips.When the cafe[...]

TRACKS center trial, the Sudanese Government and Pornography


"They kept asking me if I have a boyfriend....the last time I was  kissed…they threatened to take naked pictures of me or montage a porn film featuring me," It was July 2012 and I was standing with an acquaintance inside the Haj Yousif court-house as we were waiting to attend the trial of several activists. The acquaintance, a young woman, had just been released from detention in the hands of the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) and was telling me her testimony. As I took mental notes to write down later, I kept thinking of my best friend who was asked during an interrogation by the NISS if she is a lesbian ...after they saw our pictures together… taken on a boat on my birthday. In 2012 and 2013, as Sudan saw a wave of mass protests, a number of tweeps confirmed that pornography websites, which are normally blocked by the National Telecommunications Council (NTC) were unblocked. Pornography was a way the NTC, a governmental body, was controlling the masses. They were almost saying: stay home and get off, but don't go out and protest!Using pornographic language and threatening activists that their images will be pornographized has always been a strong tool to suppress women activists in the past years, but a new case is proving that this tool has reached a whole new level.The TRACKS trialThe courthouse was full that day, the 4th of September 2016. It was the second session of a long-awaited trial, one that began six months after a training center in Sudan's capital, Khartoum, called the Center for Training and Human Development or TRACKS was raided by the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS). The center, one of Sudan's few remaining civil society organizations that trains on human rights as well as offers various language and IT diplomas, was also raided a year earlier, in February 2015. For most of 2015, the center's director, administrative manager and a trainer who was conducting a workshop at the time of the raid were embroiled in a legal battle as they faced capital charges. By late February 2016, the State Crimes Prosecution Office had found no evidence to carry on the investigation, the director was called in to retrieve the confiscated equipment.The honeymoon only lasted a few days, the second raid in March 2016 saw the 2015 case re-opened and another case filed against the director of the center, its female administrative manager as well as two volunteers, one freelance accountant and a visitor who was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. They were arrested at the time of the raid, released later that night and were summoned in for several weeks after that.The six defendants (including a 22-year old Cameroonian student who is studying in Sudan), sat in the courthouse that Sunday waiting to be tried, but in fact, the entire Sudanese civil society was on trial in Sudan that day and pornography and what was perceived as pornography were used as a political tool against them. Again, the personal is always political in Sudan.During the session, the plaintiff exhibited a pornographic film that was allegedly found on the laptop of one of the defendants, Mustafa Adam. They also accused another defendant, Midhat Afif Al-Deen of also having pornographic films on his laptop. For the lawyers, this film was irrelevant to the case which has articles such as waging war against the state and undermining the constitutional authority as you need a "militia" to wage war against the state and not a porno. For technical experts,  the plaintiff did not show evidence that the films were downloaded before the arrest of the defendants and by the defendants themselves. I personally understood this tactic in a completely different manner. First of all, the plaintiff understands that this case will become a public opinion case and understands that the international community is interested as human rights defenders/civil society actors are the ones on trial, so they believe that setting the ground by damaging the defendants's pu[...]

For the NISS in Sudan: the personal is political


A few days ago, the Lieutannt-Colonel, Taha Osman Al-Hussein, the director of the Sudanese President's Office, wrote his number on a piece of paper and pressed it into a woman's hand at a wedding event in Khartoum.The woman told her husband who rushed to see Al-Hussein and engaged in a physical confrontation with him, but the attendees broke up the fight, Sudanese-style and such. A few hours later, the husband, Ahmed Abdul-Gasim, was kidnapped by National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) and after heavy beatings and torture, he was dumped on the outskirts of Khartoum and had to be hospitalized according to his brother.Upon receiving this narrative as part of an advocacy google group I am in, I couldn't help but start thinking about how the NISS in Sudan has become personalized. Not that the apparatus has ever served the "national security " interests of the country , but it has become a tool used by individuals, in power or with relatives in power, to suppress, oppress and subjugate other citizens who get in their way. In fact, it seems that the NISS acts like a personal militia that is at your service if you have the right connections or right title.Abdul-Gasim came forward with his story and pictures showing his wounded  body was released on Sudanese social media and email lists, however, many stories of how average citizens can use their positions and connections to enlist the services of the NISS to punish them or teach them a lesson they can never forget are left untoldLast April, a woman in her 30s from Eastern Sudan was gang-rapped by the NISS and her story never came out. The woman who is a mother of seven girls was arrested by two NISS agents  after her employer accused her of stealing a gold ring. When the woman denied this accusation, her employer took matters into her own hands, she called her relative who works for the NISS and two NISS agents arrested the poor lady as she attempted to make ends meet.She was taken to one of the security offices and was whipped as she kept denying that she took the ring which was actually found by the owner. Apparently, it was misplaced….. but this did not spare the lady from their cruelty She was beaten and gang-rapped by two security agents, they removed her face veil and tied her hands with her toub (Sudanese traditional custom) and violated her in a governmental office. After this incident, the woman was forced out of the house of her husband's family with her daughters and was forced to live in a makeshift tent on the streets. The family and even her husband had serious problems trying to accept what had happened. A lawyer from the area agreed to provide her with legal aid, but since the NISS is involved , it is unlikely that the case will move forward and it is very likely that she will be persecuted once again for trying to stand up against NISS as they have extensive powers and immunities as stated in the National Security Act of 2010. Last month, three young women studying at a private university in Khartoum state were arrested by the police for allegedly having drugs on them. An acquaintance interviewed the woman who said that one of them was in a relationship with a man working for the NISS, after she left him due to a series of problems, he set them up. They were arrested by the police right in front of their university, in front of their colleagues in the most degrading way. Their families paid their bail, but upon their release, they were re-arrested as the NISS has more power than the police and judiciary system in Sudan. In their second arrest, they were sentenced to a month in prison at a time when they had to take their exams. They were not even allowed to leave prison to take their end of semester exams putting them at risk of having to repeat the year.Abdul-Gasim's story is yet another reminder that in Sudan, the NISS can be used against you as a citizen for the most personal matters. You basically can not mess with anyone who is part of this apparatus or kn[...]

The Green Bucket and Me


My life has been full of buckets lately , I've grown accustomed to the agonizing process of living in a house where water coming out of the tap is rare; and a lot of energy is invested, time is wasted on waiting for water (for some odd reason, it only gushes out of the tap in our upstairs kitchen or from the "Wudu" tap in the front yard) and filing all the buckets available. I am now very fond of my large green bucket and make time to make sure it is full of water all the time, even though I hate the process of waiting for it to fill-up and having to carry it upstairs. We've been suffering from electricity cuts at work and it was almost the usual in Ramadan. Working while fasting is already difficult, but trying to work in the heat without the luxury of having water to quench your thirst is nothing short of a test. As I sit in my relatively luxurious office, one of the women who stopped by our office for an appointment said that their electricity comes on at 6 p.m. before it cuts again at 2 a.m. She lives in one of the humble neighborhoods in the South of Khartoum and during times where electricity has become rationed, it seems that the authorities think that the poorer you are, the more capable you are of handling power cuts. Or maybe they thought that if you live in the marginalized areas around Khartoum, you don't deserve the electricity that the government gave you out of benevolence ……to vote for them in the national elections. Looking at the people around me, it seems that we got the better deal. We live next to many key government buildings and this somehow makes us lucky. The last time my mother went to buy no electricity credit, the lady working there told her almost matter-of-factly, "right now 80% of Omdurman has no power." Nonetheless, there is a damned tree in Al-Arda street which seems to be making our life difficult; every time one of its branches collapses, we suffer from a day-long power cut as the electricity office tries to figure out the problem before they finally remember the tree and decide that it is the main reason. I would never demand for the tree to be cut, plants are our lifeline, but why are the electricity wires and cables so intertwined with the tree and its branches? As I am spending a good proportion of my evening filling and transporting water buckets and worrying that two buckets might not be enough for washing the evening dishes, I see pictures of protests in different neighborhoods around Khartoum condemning the water and electricity cuts. I have to admit, the protestors are creative, they close the streets with empty water buckets, Azyar and bags of trash that have been left uncollected for weeks. Then, I sat down one day and thought about it in all possible ways…1) It is good that neighborhoods are mobilizing and taking matters into their own hands.2) The protests were led by women and men who are ordinary citizens and were not orchestrated by political actors or activists. It means that many ordinary mostly apolitical citizens will gain a lot of awareness and knowledge on how to manage resistance and use peaceful ways to protest with clear demands. 3) It is easier to get people to protest around issues that are central to their lives and they feel it on a daily basis as opposed to….war in Blue Nile?4) People are holding the government accountable for not providing even when they are paying for the austerity measures implemented by the NCP  and are paying so many taxes. It is almost that we as a people are subsiding the government to not provide services.Then, I became very uncomfortable with this line of thought. Why are we advocating for such protests if the demands are so…basic and are tied to a specific demand that the government can provide i.e. bring back the electricity or water.  So how effective are such protests, anyways? I came to think that the issue is not whether they are effective or not , it is that the protests need to be tied to the main i[...]

دراسة عالمية: السودان ثاني أسوأ دولة في أفريقيا في حرية الانترنت


تصدرُ في هذا الأسبوع الدّراسة العالمية لـ "حرية الإنترنت لعام ٢٠١٤م"، والذي تُفرد للسنة الثانية على التوالي فصلاً كاملاً عن السودان.  وكانت مجموعة "قرفنا" قد قامت بكتابة الجزء المُتعلق بالسودان في تقرير "حرية الإنترنت" في العام الماضي، إلا أن تقرير هذا العام كُتب باسم مجهول للدلالة على استمرار القيود المفروضة على الحريات في السودان.ويغطي تقرير "حرية الإنترنت لعام ٢٠١٤م" ، الصادر في ٤ ديسمبر ٢٠١٤م خمسة وستين دولة في ست مناطق جغرافية. ويغطي التقرير الفترة ما بين مايو ٢٠١٣م إلى مايو ٢٠١٤م. وتقرير "حرية الانترنت لعام ٢٠١٤م" هو الإصدار الخامس ضمن سلسلة تقارير بدأت منظمة "فريدوم هاوس"  باصدارها في العام ٢٠٠٩م. ويُعد تقرير "حرية الانترنت" كـ "أحد المراجع المهمة لصانعي السياسات، والصحفيين، والناشطين في هذا المجال الذي تتزايد أهميته و المتعلق بحقوق الانسان".ويُصنّف التقريرالعالمي لعام ٢٠١٤ وضع حرية الإنترنت في السودان بـأنه "غير حر"، حيث حصل السودان على ٦٥ نقطة من أصل ١٠٠، مقارنة بـ ٦٣ نقطة في العام ٢٠١٣م.  ومن ضمن ١٢ دولة افريقية، يُصّنف السودان ضمن ثلاثة دول أخرى في فئة "غير حرة" ، ويحتل السودان المرتبة ١١ متقدماً فقط على اثيوبيا.  وسيكون الفصل المتعلق بالسودان لهذا العام مثيراً للإهتمام ومثيراً للقلق على حدٍ سواء حيث يُغطي التقرير فترة الاحتجاجات الدّامية في سبتمبر ٢٠١٣م حيث قُتل ٢٠٠ شخص على الأقل، والفترة التي تلتها، والحملة الشرسىة ضد الحريات الصحفية وحرية التعبير.كما شهد السودان أيضا قطع خدمة الإنترنت، والتي وصفته شركة استخبارات الانترنت العالمية  Renesys بأنه "أكبر تعتيم للإنترنت تقوم به حكومة منذ ما حدث في مصر في يناير ٢٠١١م."   وكانت الحكومة السودانية قد نفت علاقتها بحادثة قطع الإنترنت. وعزّت "الهيئة القومية للاتصالات"، وهي وكالة حكومية، انقطاع خدمة الإنترنت إلى حريق شبَّ في مكاتب شركة "كنار"، إلا أن الكثيرين يعتقدون أن "الهيئة القومية للاتصالات" دبّرت الانقطاع كجزء من ردة فعل الحكومة السودانية لقمع الاحتجاجات. وتتفق شركة Renesys مع هذا الرأي، حيث قالت أنّ حادثة قطع خدمة الإنترنت في السودان "تشير بقوة إلى عمل منّسق لأخفاء السودان من الإنترنت."انتقال الإعلام لساحة الإنترنت للتحايل على الرقابةوتقوم "الهيئة القومية للاتصالات"، وبحسب السلطة المّخولة لها، بحجب أي مواقع ترى بأن محتواها "غير أخلاقي" ويحوي "هرطقة"، كما تقوم بانتظام بحجب الصحف الرّقمية او مواقع الإنترنت التي تنشر تقارير معارضة للحكومة مثل موقع صحيفة "حريات"، وموقع "الراكو[...]

قرفنا" تكمل الخامسة"


في 30 اكتوبر 2014، اكملت "قرفنا" الخمس سنوات. قبل خمس اعوام اقدم ثلاث شبان جيران في ودنوباوي، امدرمان على تكوين منظمة سياسية لمقاومة انتخابات 2010.لم يكونوا متأكدين من اسم المنظمة او آليات عملها، لكن احدهم جاء بالاسم.....قرفنا. كانوا يريدون اسما قصيراً وملفتاً، اسم يمكن تذكره بسهولة. تم اختيار اللون البرتقالي عشوائياً، عندما لفت نظرهم عندما كانوا يختارون ورقاً ملوناً في احد دكاكين بيع الاوراق.ولدت قرفنا وهم يحتسون الشاي في منازلهم ويناقشون محتوى المنشور الذي سوف يأخذ طريقه إلى المطبعة. وفي الحقيقة تم اصدار اول منشور في ليلة ولادة الحركة. ومع تواصل نقاشاتهم حول مايريدون فعله، لم يكونوا يتوقعون ان تنمو الحركة وتحوي متطوعين من كل السودان، و من السودانيين خارج ارض الوطن..... لم يكونوا يعلمون التحديات التي سوف يواجهونها.الانتخابات السودانية الاولى من نوعها في 21 عاماً، كانت عام 2010. كان السودان في مفترق طرق كما صرحت كافة القنوات العالمية، واستحقاقاً قبل انتهاء اتفاقية السلام الشامل. عادت كل الاحزاب، والقادة المعارضين للوطن، كما عاد إلى دائرة الضوء او الى العمل "الغير سري" الذين يعيشون ويعملون تحت الارض.كانت الانتخابات سوف تسير بالتأكيد لتكون معيبة، وقع حزب المؤتمر الوطني اتفاق السلام الشامل ولكن لن يتخلى عن السلطة إلى أي طرف سياسي آخر. ومع ذلك، لم تكن هذه هي المشكلة الوحيدة ، كان الذين يركضون للانتخابات مشكلة أخرى. كانت وجوههم مألوفة جداً فقد شاركوا في اللعبة السياسية السودانية من الخمسينات أو على الأقل في الثمانينات. للشباب، كانت الانتخابات تقريبا نكتة، وكثير من سكان السودان هم الشباب ولم يروا أي انتخابات تجري في السودان من قبل، ولكن بالنظر إلى الناس الذين يركضون لتمثيل السودان، كانت الوجوه لا علاقة لها بالشباب.بحلول شهر أكتوبر، والانتخابات قادمة كانت المعارضة بين الحملات الانتخابية للترويج لمرشحيها "القديمة ولكن الذهبية" اومقاطعة الانتخابات، لأن حزب المؤتمر الوطني لم يكن نزيهاً ومتجهاً لتزوير الانتخابات، ولم يقدم لهم المتفق عليها للضغط والفضاء الحملة.ولدت قرفنا من الإحباط من الحكومة والمعارضة، استناداً إلى حقيقة أن الشباب كانوا "سئموا" من الحكومة والمعارضة، ولكن أيضا لخلق الأمل، وهو العنصر الذي كان في عداد المفقودين من السودان لسنوات.بعد أيام فقط، تطرقت لها صحيفة الشرق الأوسط في احد المقالات.... ومنذ ذلك الحين، أصبحت أحد الأصوات الرئيسية المعارضة في الانتخابات. وجاءت التبرعات يوما بعد يوم، من المواطنين العاديين الذين احبوا فكرة إبداعي[...]

Girifna Turns Five


On 30 October 2014, Girifna turned five years old. Five years ago, three friends in the old neighborhood of Omdurman, Wad Nobawi, embarked on creating a youth political movement to resist the 2010 general elections.They were not exactly sure what to name it or what their mechanisms would be until….one of them came up with the name Girifna. They wanted something short and catchy, a name that will be easily recalled by people. The orange color was picked at random,  they saw it as the most powerful color as they wanted to chose colored papers in the stationery shop. Girifna was born in their houses as they sipped tea and argued over the content of the flyer on the way to the printing house, in fact, the first flyer was produced the night the movement was born. As they discussed what they wanted to do, they did not expect that the movement will grow to encompass volunteers all over Sudan's states and in the diaspora, they didn't know the challenges they will face. Sudan's first elections in 24 years was the general elections in 2010. Sudan was at the crossroads as the international channels reported. It was a long overdue elections before the end of the CPA. All of the parties and leading opposition figures were back to the country or back to the spotlight from living and working underground. The elections was surely going to be flawed , the NCP signed the CPA but will never give up power to any other political party. However, this was not the only problem was the elections, the people running for elections were another problem. Their faces were too familiar and were or have been involved in the Sudanese political game from the 1950s or at least the 1980s. For youth, the elections were almost a joke, many of Sudan's population were youth and have not seen an elections taking place in Sudan before, but looking at the people running to represent Sudan, the faces were not even close to youthful.By October, elections were coming up and the opposition was between campaigning for their "old but gold" nominees and boycotting the elections because the NCP was dishonest and will rig the elections and did not give them the agreed-upon space to lobby and campaign. Girifna was born out of frustration with the government and the opposition, based on the fact that youth were "fed up" with the government and the opposition, but also to create hope, an ingredient that was missing from Sudan for years. Just days later, Al-Sharq Al-Awsat reported on the movement and from then on, it became one of the main voices of opposition in the runner-up to the elections. The donations came in day by day, from ordinary citizens who liked the new creative idea of the movements and political activists who saw in Girifna what their parties lacked, heavy street -based work and activism. At one point, the movement distributed 120,000 flyers a day and the flyers made their way on buses to Medani and Port Sudan and through unknown ways to the IDP camps in Darfur and the  Sudanese refugees' camps in Chad. What distinguished Girifna from other political movements in Sudan is many aspects of its existence..Firstly, its founders and first members to join the movement were born in the 80s and 90s and came of age during the NCP's rule, they saw a Sudan in the worst shape it had ever been in, they received the المشروع الحضاري Ingaz civilizational project's educational curriculum with their brainwash, they were young when the official "opposition" gallivanted in neighboring countries and abroad building one opposition coalition after the other and failing to deliver Sudan from its decades-long political deadlock. Secondly, they saw the big gap between the traditional political parties and their constituencies. Girifna marketed on this by representing itself as a street movement. The movement recruited dozens of volunteers to distribute flyers[...]

Memory from September 2013- the Brown Scarf


Last week, I found the flimsy brown scarf lying on my couch between my other scarfs and a black skirt. It was washed and ironed and folded, almost too neatly for such a rebellious scarf. I didn't even know that it had left my wardrobe where I kept it since Friday the 27th of September 2013.Let me tell you the story of this small scarf, which is more like a neck tie than a scarf. It was a very hot Friday, my best friend, Sara, came over in the morning after hearing news that a large protest will take place in Omdurman that day, it was a long week, mass protests took place all over Sudan and were suppressed by live bullets. By Friday, over 200 were killed.We agreed to go to the protest and live-tweet what was happening. I wore leggings and on top of it, a black dress belonging to my mother and orange shoes since I couldn't find my sneakers….. and most importantly, a beautiful teal cotton scarf. It had an exceptional color and although Sara told me not to wear it. I insisted on wearing it because its material will make me cool down. Before we left the house, I sprayed some vinegar mixed with water on the edge of my beautiful scarf, in anticipation of heavy teargas.We left the house in a big group, my parents and my aunt, my two cousins who never protested before, my uncle and ..Sara. We walked to Al-Gala2 neighborhood before we saw masses walking towards us, they were chanting while holding big signs with anti-government slogans.We stood there in shock before we found ourselves in the middle of the protest. Estimates by various groups and my father who I consider a good statistician said that the protest had up to 10,000 people.We marched for a long time until we reached the Central Police Station next to Omdurman Locality.There was a moment of silence before the crowds shouted "peaceful", dozens of police officers and plain-clothed security officers stood there in shock, at the massive numbers and the loud voice.My best friend told me that when the crowds chanted "peaceful", one plain-clothed security officer signaled "NO" with his finger.We should have seen it coming.When we reached the middle of Street 40, I put more vinegar with water on tissue-paper and then put it inside my scarf before wrapping the scarf around my mouth. I wanted to breathe in as much vinegar as possible. I could see the tear-gas coming.At some point, the crowds stopped and sat on the floor and began chanting the national anthem while I felt like I was going to faint from the heat and exhaustion, Sara and I crossed the street and knocked on one of the houses and asked for water.I took a few sips from the water then turned around to make it back to the crowds when I saw them getting dispersed. They were trapped and army vehicles were coming from both sides, firing live bullets into the air. The crowds were running, both from the live bullets and from the tear-gas bombs that were being fired left and right.I remember seeing people running at me , dozens were trying to force themselves into the house were I had asked for water. I crouched on the floor and put my hands on my head. I saw hands reaching out to me, my best friend and another friend were in tears, screaming at me to come inside the house.I made myself into the house with dozens of young men and women. A young man was leaning on the wall, with his face stretched in pain, his arm was dislocated or broken or something…during the chaotic dispersal scene.Another young man was asking for a cloth, a scarf…something to tie the poor guy's hand. I took off my beautiful teal scarf and wrapped his arm with it and then tied the scarf to his neck.A young woman who lives in the house where we were staying gave me the brown scarf.For a long time, I thought about my scarf, my friend told me it is now hung on the young man's wall. As a beautiful souvenir from the September protests.I also thought about the brown sc[...]

Open Letter to Safia Ishaq


Dear Safia,We have never met, but I know you.When you were gang-raped on the 13th of February 2011, I was in Tripoli, my father was stationed with the UN there at the time, and we arrived in Libya after we were evacuated from Egypt as the revolution there unfolded. We were escorted from our house as military barricades filled the streets of Cairo, taken to terminal four and put on a World Bank plane to Dubai. From Dubai, we came to Libya only for another revolution to unfold.Five days after your life changed forever, the day you were arrested by the national security service as you were buying your art supplies and then subjected to a horrific gang-rape by three security men as they muffled your screams and beat you into forced submission…. the protests would start in Benghazi in Western Libya and we would again evacuate Libya just days before the airport was shut down.The whole world was changing in February 2011, Safia, your world changed and my world changed as well.Ten days later, I am in a cold country and my mother is hospitalized, I am scared and afraid of loss, I check my Facebook only to find a video circulated by a movement called Girifna. In the video, you are wearing a blue scarf and speaking about your rape. You went through something unimaginable, but you were not broken, you spoke about rape in a conservative society where rape is a stigma and a rape victim is stigmatized. You spoke about it at great personal risk..... the video was filmed and you were in hiding. Your family refused to speak to you for days after February 13th, Safia, they just could not grasp what happened to you. Some of your friends were in detention from the protests and others were arrested by the police who wanted to blame them for your disappearance.In the video, you are collected as you tell what happened to you in details, towards the end, you break down in tears as the emotional ordeal becomes too heavy on your heart then you explain why you did this things don't remain this way, so it doesn't happen to any girl again. So things get better.So things get better...such a small sentence, Safia, but it has become my motto. A loaded phrase ….that gives me inspiration to continue to fight for human rights. I became an activist after watching your video and seeing how people reacted to it. Too many things need to get better, Safia. You shouldn't have been arrested or raped, because no-one deserves to be subjected to this. You shouldn't have been shunned by your family and called a liar by the government's propaganda because rape is serious and is a dangerous weapon ..... legitimatized by the mentality that makes it acceptable to fight wars over women's bodies and accept violence against women because they are active and taking part in resistance and protests . Because they exist in the public sphere.I think of you many times, every year I remember you in the days leading up to February the 13th, I watch the video and I am touched by your message of hope against all adversity. Thank you Safia for touching my heart with your words and courage.[...]

Can artist campaigns help reunite the centre and the periphery in Sudan?


In the 1990s, as the war continued to escalate in Southern Sudan, Northern Sudanese activists arrived in conflict-affected areas in what was called a ‘peace convoy’. Initially the activists felt they were “mistrusted and no-one wanted to speak” to them, but after some days, this changed and people began to open up. Much the same has happened since 2011, when war broke out in Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan and activists began pitching the idea of visiting the conflict areas and the refugee camps to send a message of solidarity.Sudan’s conflicts have often involved areas on the marginalised periphery revolting against the more powerful and wealthy centre, and there is a gulf between the people who live in these different areas too.Hajooj Kuka, a Sudanese filmmaker, has spent significant time in Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan to film the perspective of those affected by war as they navigate their lives through Antonov bombing raids, and reaffirm their cultural and physical existence through music, dance and story-telling. When Kuka arrived at the IDP and refugee camps, usually finding himself the only or one of a very few there from the centre, he was met with many questions: “Why are people from the capital not coming here? Why is the only doctor in the area an American and not a Sudanese? Where is the centre in all of this?”Kuka is not the only Sudanese artist attempting to highlight the country’s devastating conflicts. Art VS war is a cultural campaign carried out by Nabta Art and Culture Center in collaboration with the National Group for Cultural Policies. From his office in Cairo, Ahmed Isam – a Sudanese artist – designs colourful posters detailing the amount spent on war as opposed to government expenditure on the arts and mixes images of war planes and soldiers in camouflage with art supplies and musical instruments. The campaign is slowly growing from social media to posters and t-shirts; and by the end of the month it will head to refugee camps for musical and cultural exchanges between the centre and the conflict areas.The film and the campaign should not be taken lightly; they are both innovative ways to build a bridge between the centre and the periphery and show solidarity from the centre, the place that Kuka and Isam believe can really pressure the government to stop the war.Yet so far in Sudan, activist groups have been largely unable to mobilize people around the problem of war.The September EffectIn 2012, Girifna, an activist group, campaigned for a protest day named “Darfur Baladna Friday” or “Darfur our home Friday,” during the protests known as Sudan Revolts. However, “Darfur Baladna Friday” never quite materialized in Khartoum. Some argued that it failed because it was Ramadan, others say that people never really related to what the day was intended to represent. The day did have one positive output: a note circulated online, written by Omdurman youth to Darfuris describing how they are saddened by what is happening in Darfur.A few days later, there were protests in Nyala, the capital of South Darfur state, and more than a dozen youth were shot dead. There was a sense of embarrassment in the centre: when the capital’s residents protest they are tear-gassed and detained, in the periphery, the government goes straight to live bullets.The September 2013 demonstrations, during which more than 200 people were killed, mainly in the capital, were a turning point. When the bodies of protesters began piling up it was a shock to the centre. The government that allegedly protected them from the evil people in the periphery had now begun killing them too. The events of September 2013 echoed loudly in the war areas too. Kuka says that it made people realize that Sudanese in the centre could also be killed.The September incident opene[...]

Freedom to Hassan Ishaq, the journalist and my friend


Dear Hassan,It took me two days to really comprehend that you were really arrested. Minutes after your arrest, a friend posted the news on Facebook, he only wrote "Hassan Ishaq was arrested".I asked if it is Hassan the journalist. I did what any person not in their right mind would do, I called both of your numbers, it is a stupid move I reckon , but something many of us do when we hear that someone was arrested. It is almost our way of trying to confirm that the arrest didn't take place or that you managed to escape.A few days later, by coincidence, I found a notebook while organizing my writing notebooks. I flipped the pages to see what I was writing in 2012 and found two pages full of notes about you. It was an attempt at documenting that you were summoned by the NISS in mid 2012 for your articles and the threats you received. To the bottom right, I had asked you for your family's numbers …just in case! I called your sister , telling her I am Hassan's friend and I just wanted to see how they are doing. She did not know about your arrest Hassan. She told me that you had a work mission in Al-Nuhud then vanished, your phone has been off for days. I just could not tell her , I told her yes you have been MIA and I would contact her if I find out something.Someone must have told her and I am glad it didn't have to be me, she called me the next day and told me the news and asked if you will be released soon and if you will be tortured. I told her that you are okay, even though I knew about the torture and that you were taken to the hospital.I met Hasan in 2012,  I worked at Al-Jareeda newspaper for a few months, supervising a weekly file in the English language and Hassan was collaborating with the newspaper at the time. Ishaq was very disciplined in his work, he was a real journalist and produced exceptional work with the little resources he had. The newspaper paid very low salaries, barely enough to cover transportation and breakfast money, but Hassan went out of his way to cover sensitive human rights cases. When no one was writing about the detention of the University of Khartoum students or the detention of Dr. Bushra Gamar or the crackdown on the media, Ishaq was contacting families, lawyers and activists and pushing very strong pieces to get published.Hassan would write his article in his notebook then type them when a laptop or a computer becomes available at the newspaper as he did not have a personal laptop. He was born to be a journalist, always chasing news that mattered to him, talking to people and researching stories on the internet. Hassan resigned from Al-Jareeda newspaper after he was summoned by NISS in April 2012. He was asked by the editor to "water-down his daring writings" and he just couldn't get himself to do it. As a colleague working in the newspaper field, my advise was to keep working at the newspaper to keep a stable income and do freelance work for websites that respected his daring writings. He continued working as a journalist, sending his writings to Sudanese websites which published his work for no pay at all. To make ends meet, he worked all kinds of jobs, in an oven in the market in his neighborhood, brick-laying in construction sites…everything to continue writing.In July 2012, during the trial of his friend, Rudwan Dawood, Hassan was arrested while covering the controversial trial. He was beaten, robbed of his phone and precious press card.He returned to Al-Hasahisa to stay with his family. I once told him over the phone, just work as a farmer Hassan, if they don't publish your work, then they don't deserve to have you as a writer. In Al-Hasahisa, Hassan worked different jobs to make it day-to-day, his most precious possession was his notepads and pens, he would write op-ed and articl[...]

Sudan protest victims still seeking justice


At around 3 p.m. on the extraordinarily hot afternoon of May 28, Sara Abdel-Bagi's mother stood in front of the Bahri court complex in shock and in tears. In the middle of the street, with one hand in the air, she screamed, "There is no god but God, there is no justice for my daughter." The other hand clutched her thobe, the local Sudanese customary attire, as it kept collapsing on the road.Women and men from Abdel-Bagi's family, together with activists who attended the court session, formed a straight line and closed the street, holding signs with pictures of martyrs who fell during the September 2013 protests in Sudan. Some read, "We will not forget, we will not forgive."The September protests, also referred to as Sudan Revolts 2.0, began in Medani, the capital of Al-Jazeera state before it spread to Khartoum state and elsewhere. The protests came after President Omar Bashir announced the removal of fuel and gas subsidies. The protests quickly grew bloody, with Amnesty International estimating that 210 protesters had been killed by government forces.Hundreds were arrested during the protests and dozens remain in prison with ongoing trials for their participation. In January 2014, Bashir called for a national dialogue with opposition parties. Some parties, such as Umma, the largest opposition party, and the Islamist Popular Congress Party,joined the call for dialogue, but Umma suspended the dialogue after its leader was arrested by the national security forces in May.The judge adjudicating the trial of Sara's murder concluded that "there is confusion and contradictions in the testimonies of the witnesses," and ordered that Sami Mohamed Ahmed, a former soldier accused of shooting Sara Abdel-Bagi to death, be freed.After the court adjourned, the scene was chaotic. Sara's sister Eiman, a journalist, was held back by family members as she kicked down a traffic triangle while her aunt chanted, "One million martyrs for a new dawn." Tearful activists holding signs were screamed at by armed riot police who waved their clubs at them, threatening to use force while plainclothes security officers grabbed the signs and shoved them into a plastic bag. One protester told Al-Monitor, "He put the posters with the martyr's pictures in a trash bag."On Sept. 25, 2013, Sara Abdel-Bagi left her house in distress with her sister for her uncle's house, only a few meters away, to attend her 15-year-old cousin’s funeral. Her cousin, Suhaib Mohamed Musa, had been shot dead while participating in the fourth day​ of the mass protests. Abdel-Bagi never made it to her cousin's funeral; she was shot right in front of her house. When she reached the hospital, there was no specialist to treat her and she died, Eiman told Al-Monitor. Her family struggled to cope with the aftermath. Just reaching the court was a challenge on its own."We received everything from threats to total refusal to even open a complaint against [the soldier] Ahmed. Many discouraged us and said there will be no justice," said Abdel-Bagi's aunt Fatima al-Amin, also an activist.It took 67 days for the police to arrest Ahmed, even after he was named by witnesses in court on Oct. 9, 2013. There were 12 witnesses in total, with five testifying that they saw him shoot her, according to the documentation submitted by the family's lawyer to the court and seen by Al-Monitor.One witness. who is related to Ahmed, said that he was the only one dressed in civilian clothes who was armed in the area, and that he saw him shoot her."Even one of the defense witnesses reitera[...]

Mariam Yahia's Story


Mariam Yahia, a mother in her 20s is currently facing apostasy and adultery charges under Sudan's Criminal Law of 1991. Yahia is accused of leaving Islam and converting to Christianity in a complaint brought against her by a family claiming to be her direct family. Mariam's story unleashed a war in Sudan where one side views itself as guarding Islam from the other side, the infidels. Although the war could be viewed as a religious one, it is in fact political, Maryam by staying firm on her position to remain a Christian put the entire Islamist project in jeopardy, a young woman has stood against a patriarchal judiciary system that has its laws tailored specifically to punish women and a political system that doesn't accept religious diversity.On Thursday 15th of May, I sat in a cramped court house at Al-Haj Yousif Court Complex in Khartoum North, the court house had more people standing than sitting and dozens were standing in front of the court house, knocking its wooden door every few seconds only to be told that they can not be allowed in. Mariam Yahia was locked inside the defendant's cage with a bearded sheikh who represented the Sudan Scholars Council.We waited for at least half an hour only for the bearded sheikh to step outside the cage and sit next to the judge.The judge asked Mariam what her decision is, in other words, if she decided to return to Islam. She said just one sentence, "I am Christian and I am not an apostate,"The courthouse was silent then astonished. Some let out screams they tried to suppress with their palms, others cried, tears of worry for Mariam.I was absolutely surprised, just days before, Mariam's lawyers and husband spoke about the pressure she is facing in jail, by the prison guards and the women imprisoned with her and by the state and the entire judiciary system. Just two days before the Sunday session where she was sentenced to execution and 100 lashes under Article 126, Apostasy, and Article 146, Adultery, Mariam received an unwelcome state visitor in prison telling her that she needs to recount her christian faith and return to Islam to escape execution. She was told that an appeal could take years and she could be stuck in jail for four years before she would be free.In that context, as a mother of a boy under 2 years old and the future mother of a girl that she will give birth to in the coming weeks, it would have made a lot of sense for Mariam to recount her faith and choose the easy way out.However, there is no easy way out for Mariam.The StoryMariam's story began with the judiciary system in September 2013. On the 14th of September 2013, a man who claims to be her brother filed a complaint that he saw his missing sister with a South Sudanese man. She was arrested along with her husband the next day , the police said that they were able to track her using her cellphone number after arresting her husband's cousin by mistake. Mariam was in and out of jail based on adultery charges as her family claimed that she is Muslim by birth and she can not have married this Christian man, Dr. David Wani, and because they have a child together, this is Zina or adultery as based on Article 146 of the Criminal Law. In mid-January 2014, Omdurman Women's Prison became Mariam's full-time home with her now 20 months old son, Martin. Around that time, her defense team said is when the apostasy charges were added as based on Article 146 of the Criminal Law.Mariam said that her mother is Ethiopian and her father is a Sudanese Muslim and she was raised as a Christian following her mother's religion. She lived in Gedarif before moving to Khartoum sometime in 2005 , she married Dr.Wani in late 2011. At the time her family, which represents the complainer in this case, claimed that s[...]

Sudanese press suffers under economic woes


Originally published @ year 2013 was a year of economic woes for everyone in the newspaper industry in Sudan. For the first time in years, inflation is rapidly heading towards the 50% mark, with the Sudanese pound (SDG) losing over half of its value.  As a result, newspapers initially had to change their price from 1 SDG to 1.5 SDG and then eventually to 2 SDG by November 2013.This increase has turned newspapers into a luxury, like the expensive English butter biscuits gathering dust on the shelves of supermarkets. A few days ago, Al-Ayam newspaper, one of the few independent newspapers in Sudan, published figures indicating a 50% decrease in the circulation of newspapers in general in 2013 compared to the year before, while many newspapers were forced out of business.Al-Ayam, one of Sudan's oldest newspapers, was established in the 1950’s and survived a number of dictatorships that censored it and even shut it down for years.  However, the outlet is desperately struggling at the moment, clinging onto a life jacket in a bid to survive the current economic wave."Nearly 80% of the issues printed are sold, which is good distribution.  However, we don't print the same issues every day - we print based on our financial situation," said Ahmed Al-Sheikh, an editor at Al-Ayam.Al-Ayam receives practically no revenue from advertising, meaning that the newspaper has to survive on its distribution funds, and the instability this has produced has led to many journalists leaving its payroll.Death of the rebelTwo months ago, Al-Qarar newspaper disappeared from the newsstands. Al-Qarar, known by journalists as "an act of rebellion," was launched by journalists who were frustrated at working in newspapers owned by businessmen. It was first printed in October 2012 with founders who decided that they wouldn’t take salaries until the newspaper was able to stand on its feet.  It never did."I was committed to the newspaper and what it represents so I stayed there, although I made less than what I made two years ago at another newspaper.  Sometimes, the pay came months late," said Ayman Senjrab, the news editor at Al-Qarar.Like others at Al-Qarar, Senjrab was practically a volunteer, but he and his colleagues enjoyed working at a newspaper and the unique experience it entailed. The well-known journalist is currently waiting to hear whether "the rebel" will be back in business or not, but he is concerned for its future. The newspaper has to pay back debts it owes to the publishing house, but in reality, it needs to get back into business to recoup the money it owes."I expect to see more newspapers collapsing with this deteriorating economy, and the independent newspapers will lose the battle first," Senjrab told DCMF.Along with Al-Qarar, many newspapers, covering sports, as well as political and social affairs, have had to stop printing, and they have done so making very little noise. Al-Akhbar, Noon, Al-Mawaj Al-Azraq, Sada-Al-Malaab, Al-Helal, Al-Mereikh, Al-Shabka, New Sport, Super and Fanon have all disappeared from the kiosks in Khartoum. Untenable expensesThe circulation of political newspapers went from 258,000 to between 130,000 and 140,000 in 2013 with sports newspapers’ numbers also dropping, and social affairs newspapers suffering a 40% loss in circulation.At the beginning of 2013, many newspapers were complaining over the prices of paper, which had more than doubled following the austerity measures of 2012.  At the end of 2013, the government implemented another wave of austerity measures, this time removing fuel subsidies, which caused a rapid increase in all prices and led to a week of prote[...]

On September Protests


Originally published @'s protest began after Sanhouri was buried in Buri cemetery. The protesters marched for two hours from Buri to Street 60, one of the main streets in Khartoum."The police began firing heavy tear gas and rubber bullets to crack down on the protest, then the live bullets began," said Hamid Mohamed, an engineer who joined the burial and protest. Mohamed's friend was injured by a rubber bullet to his head and taken to the hospital right away. "I saw an older man who was shot in his leg by a live bullet," Mohamed told Al-Monitor in an interview. He added that there were more injuries, but because people dispersed he could only confirm the ones he witnessed.Peaceful is what activists have called the ongoing protests in Sudan, which began in Medani, the capital of Jazeera state, on Sept. 23, a day after President Omar al-Bashir announced new economic measures to save the collapsing Sudanese economy. Economic measures include the lifting of fuel subsidies, which immediately caused prices to double.The protests in Medani saw civilian deaths as well as the burning of gas stations, the symbol of this round of economic measures. The next day, the anger spread to Khartoum and other cities in Sudan. On Sept. 25, the building of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) in the Ombada locality in Khartoum state was burned to ashes in addition to two police stations and various gas stations. The Sudanese government has refused to admit that protests are happening in Khartoum, accusing instead the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF), a coalition of armed movements, of instigating acts of violence in the state and referring to the protesters as homeless people and thugs.State television and government-owned newspapers have reiterated the government's message, showing videos of groups of youth burning cars and vandalizing, while activists and independent media have accused the government of using thugs to scare the public and imposing a media blackout, as various newspapers were confiscated and the Internet shut off for over a day.However, speaking to the national radio on Sept. 27, Sudanese Interior Minister Ibrahim Mahmoud admitted that over 600 people who took part in the protests have been detained since last week. While Mahmoud spoke, Omdurman city — a locality in Khartoum state — was brewing, as thousands of protesters walked for over an hour from Wad Nobawi to Street 40.It was 16-year-old Sara Yousif's first protest, the first time she expressed her anger at the government. Yousif just took the high school exam and will go to college next month. "I am out because I want the government to leave; we want a better life," said Yousif, who was encouraged by the pictures of protests she received on WhatsApp, the smartphone instant messaging application.Yousif marched with her sister, cousin, aunts and uncle. The group walked to Wad Nobawi, where the protest began, joining large numbers in chants calling for the toppling of the government, screaming that they will give their blood and lives to Sudan.Each time the protest passed soldiers, riot police and security agents, they chanted the word peaceful, emphasizing that they are unarmed protesters who only want to express themselves.After an hour of marching and chanting, the protest stopped, and the protesters began singing the national anthem. At this point, riot police and security soldiers surrounded the large protest from the front and the back and shot tear gas canisters and live bullets."They used live ammunition and this dispersed the protest. We were on the[...]

الموضوع ما النظام العام، الموضوع الراي العام


شهر ١٠ الفات، مشيت بنك الخرطوم  عشان اقضي كم غرض. واقفة في واحد من الصفوف  الكتيرة البتجسد الفهم السوداني "للصف". في راجل كبير في السن واقف وراي  و بدون مقدمات، قال لي يا بت "ارفعي الطرحة" …الطرحة الكانت في كتفي  طبعاً.. لمن قبلته عليهو تاني بنبرة حادة اكتر قال لي يا بت ارفعي الطرحة…غطي شعرك..واصلته في وقفتي لحدي ما جاء دوري بعد نص ساعة و في النص ساعة دي… سمعتة محادثة بين الراجل الكبير دا و شاب واقف جامبو و المحادثة دي كانت مهمة و بتعبر عن كيف الشعب زاتو بقى متمسك بثقافة النظام العام و بيطبق في نظرياته.بعد ما الراجل قرر اني بت ما عندي اخلاق و "فاجرة" قال للشاب الوراهو "شفته الفاجرات ديل هم الجايبين لينا الظلم و الفقر و الوضع النحنا فيهو هسي" ووافق الشاب و اتكلموا عن كيف لو البنات لبست كويس  الحاجات حتبقى كويسة و البلد حترجع لي خيره.   لمن قريت  قصة اميرة عثمان مع النظام العام ، اتذكرته الراجل دا و المنطق بتاعه. ممكن في ناس تستغرب لكن حتى بدون ناس النظام العام، الشعب السوداني بقى كلو نظام عام. يعني لو طرحتك وقعت في الموصلات، ما محتاجة ترفعيها لانو الراجل او المراة الوراك حيرفعوها ليك طوالي. لو توبك وقع، نفس الناس ديل حقولوا ليك البسي عباية يا مرا.. العباية سترة اكتر..واصبح الشعب شغال لصالح النظم العام لانو مقتنعين انو في مشاكل اجتماعية حيقيقة من تفكك الاسر، الاطفال فاقدي السند، الفقر الما حصل قبلي كدا، المخدرات الخ...هسي لو سالتوا الراجل في البنك علاقتي انا او البنات شنو بوضع البلد، حيقول ليكم انو البلد دي منكوبة عشان لبس البنات الي بيمثل ليهو و لناس كتير اكبر موشر لفساد المجتمع او تفكك الاسرة او كل الظواهر السلبية. لانو الرؤية (زي ما اتنقلت ليهم من ثقافة النظام العام) هي انو انحراف المجتمع بيبدا من النساء لانو هم البيحملوا خارج الزواج (قضايا الزنا هنا بتتحاكم فيها النساء بس) ، هم البيغروا الرجال الى الرزيلة ، هو البخلو اولادهم ينحرفوا بالاهمال و هم و هم و هم. فلو الثقافة دي بتخلي الزول يفكر انو تفشي المشاكل الاجتماعية هي سببها النساء يبقى ساهل انو يربط بين الحاجات دي و المشاكل الاقتصادية …يعني النساء بيبقو سبب مشاكله اليومية و الضائقة المعيشية اليومية.و راي الراجل فالبنك هو من غير ما يكون عارف بيتماشى مع قانون النظام العام. قانون النظام العام زي ما قال واحد من الاشخاص الوضعوا القانون: [...]

Sudan's Anti-FGM Campaign Avoids Using the Term


A new nationwide media blitz in Sudan calls for the end of the practice of cutting girls' genitalia. Critics say its edge is dulled by not directly referring to FGM and instead relying on a word that means "complete."

Published @

Time to Let Sudan’s Girls Be Girls, Not Brides


Published at IPSLawyers and rights activists are calling for a change in Sudan’s laws which allow for the marriage of girls as young as 10.It is time, they say, that Sudan’s laws recognise gender equality so that the country’s girls and young women can take control of their lives and leave behind the cycle of child marriage and abuse.“(Activists) are advocating a change in the personal status laws as they discriminate against women and aim to keep them in the household,” said Khadija Al-Dowahi, from the Sudanese Organisation for Research and Development (SORD), which conducts research on child marriage.Sudan’s 1991 Personal Status Law of Muslims does not grant women equal rights. It also promotes child marriage. Article 40 of the personal status law sets no age limit for marriage and in fact states that a 10-year-old girl can be married “with the permission of a judge”."Before we observed more marriages of girls in agricultural communities … now it is increasing in cities because of the economic situation and the attempt by families to preserve their girls from the corruption of the city." -- human rights lawyer Amel Al-Zein“The personal status laws basically state that girls can get married when they are old enough to be able to comprehend matters … but you could easily say that girls understand matters at the age of 10,” Al-Dowahi told IPS.In addition, Sudan has not ratified the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.The U.N. Children’s Fund estimates that a third of Sudanese women now aged 20 to 24 were married before the age of 18. In rural areas, where the problem is more persistent, child marriage is as high as 39 percent as opposed to 22 percent in urban areas.A visit to Khartoum Hospital shows clearly just how widespread the phenomenon of child marriage is in Sudan. Inside, there is an entire Obsetric Fistula ward – the patients there are mostly young mothers whose bodies are too underdeveloped to allow them to give birth, making them prone to developing fistula.Amel Al-Zein, a lawyer who has researched the issue of child marriage, is very critical of the country’s personal status laws.“Unlike other countries in the region or Islamic countries per se, it does not specify a certain age for marriage, which is the only guarantee to controlling child marriage,” Al-Zein told IPS.Al-Zein stated that women could not go to court to get a divorce or undertake any legal procedures before the age of 18, which contradicts the fact that girls as young as 10 are married.“When we began researching issues of gender justice, we started seeing how child marriage is interlinked to many issues facing women, the women go to courts to fight over custody and get a divorce only to discover how terrible and discriminatory the laws are,” said Al-Dowahi, whose organisation has proposed reforms to the laws.Related IPS ArticlesMarrying Off South Sudan’s Girls for CowsSudan Hits Hard at Female ActivistsFighting for a Free Press in SudanSOUTH SUDAN: Equitable Oil Deal Needed For PeaceSORD has recently established a legal aid centre for women being discriminated against by the personal status laws. So far 46 cases have arrived at the centre since its inception three months ago.Meanwhile, the Council of Sudanese Scholars, a prestigious religious body, is  causing controversy. Last year when its secretary-general, Prof. Mohamed Osman Salah, spoke in favour of child marriage, activists became infuriated.Salah told the press in October 2012: “Islam encourages youth to marry to[...]

Sudan Hits Hard at Female Activists


KHARTOUM, Jul 2 2013 (IPS) - More and more of Sudan’s female politicians and rights activists are being arrested and detained in the government’s clampdown on opposition political parties.Asma Ahmed, a lawyer and member of the banned Sudan People’s Liberation Movement–North (SPLM–N), was released on Jun. 14 after a five-week detention. She believes that the Sudanese authorities are increasingly targeting women because they have become more active in the political and social arena in recent years.“The targeting of women activists is because we are continuing to send our messages effectively. If we weren’t, we would not be detained … but detentions will not make women less keen to continue activism,” Ahmed told IPS.The rebel SPLM–N was banned in 2011 when it took up arms against government forces in Sudan’s South Kordofan and Blue Nile states.“My house was watched for a few days before my detention. My family was told by National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) officers that I had been summoned, and so I went to the interrogation in Khartoum north and didn’t return home that day,” Ahmed said.According to international rights watchdog Amnesty International, Sudan’s 2010 National Security Act, “provides agents of the security services with wide powers of arrest and detention. Torture and other ill-treatment remain widespread.”In April, Human Rights Watch said in a statement that “in recent months the Sudanese government has increased repression of political and civil society groups. The authorities shut down four civil society groups in December, accusing them of receiving foreign funds, have also closed down Nuba cultural groups, and recently re-instated restrictions on the media.”It is unclear how many women remain in detention. The Sudanese Council for Defending Rights and Freedoms, an independent body of human rights defenders, lawyers and politicians, stated that the SPLM–N alone has 600 detainees, a significant number of whom are women.Women are not exempt from the scare tactics used by security services. The events culminating in Entisar Al-Agali’s arrest are almost like a Hollywood action film. She was driving home from a meeting on Jan. 7 when a car belonging to the NISS began following her until she reached Africa Road in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum.“They tried to stop my car, but I was speeding and trying to get away. They caught up with me and hit my car from the back and, because I was trying to avoid an accident, I stopped the car,” Al-Agali told IPS.Al-Agali had returned from Kampala, Uganda where she had been taking part in the talks that led to the drafting of the New Dawn Charter, a document signed by Sudanese opposition political parties, as well as rebel groups and civil society, that deals with the methods to be used to bring down the Sudanese regime and set up a transitional government in the war-torn country.“I spent 87 days in Omdurman Women’s Prison, 75 days of which were in solitary confinement,” said Al-Agali, who is a leading member of the opposition Socialist Unionist Nasserist Party.Al-Agali was the only woman to be detained after the signing of the New Dawn Charter on Jan. 6, which saw a wave of arrests of political leaders. She is, however, not the only woman to spend weeks or months in detention in the past two years.In November 2012, 34 alleged members of SPLM–N, most of whom are government employees, were detained in Kadugli, the capital of the embattled state of Southern Kordofan. On Apr. 26, 14 were rele[...]

Sudanese journalist targeted for allegedly insulting the military


Published @Index on CensorshipWhen three journalists were invited to accompany a military official to a town supposedly recaptured from rebels, they did not expect to end up caught in crossfire. One journalist is being targeted after an anonymous and more honest account of the incident appeared online.Charges have been brought against journalist Khaled Ahmed for allegedly writing a report critical of the Sudanese military.Ahmed was one of three journalists that accompanied Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) chief of staff Esmat Abdelrahman on a visit to Abu Karshola, a neglected town in the embattled state of South Kordofan — where there has been a war between the government and rebels from the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement – North Sudan Faction (SPLM-N) since June 2011. The visit was organised to celebrate the town’s “liberation” from rebels.Both SAF and the media were blocked from Abu Karshola between late April and late May. The town was occupied by the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF), a coalition of rebel groups (including SPLM-N), which has fought the Sudanese government in different parts of the country since 2011. While the group contends that its departure in May was a “tactical” move, the government has asserted that it regained control of the town.On 31 May three journalists flew over Abu Karshola in a military plane. Rather than finding a “liberated” town, Ahmed told Index that what he actually saw was a war-zone. During their visit, they were caught in crossfire as they toured the army force’s front lines. A few bullets came too close to Ahmed, and soon after he and the other journalists were taken back to the army base for safety.“A military plane was called on for our aid, it was shot down by the SRF, we were three journalists stuck in a battlefield,” said Ahmed.While rebels claimed to have downed the plane, official reports said that the plane crashed due to mechanical failure.The journalists eventually returned safely to Khartoum. Ahmed’s report was published in Al-Sudani, the pro-government newspaper he works for. However, another more realistic account was published and circulated online by someone named Khaled — and that version has been attributed to Ahmed.The report gave a version of events left out of the SAF’s spokesperson’s official statements. It painted a picture of an exhausted and confused army that actually isn’t in control of a ghost-town that the government claims it controls.On 4 June security forces arrested Ahmed, as the report included eye-witness details drawn from the trip, and was penned by someone that shares his first name.“I reserve the right to remain silent — I can’t answer”, said Ahmed when asked about whether or not he wrote the more honest account.“I was told that I am detained due to a complaint filed by the army, I was interrogated for two days and asked about whether I wrote the article. I denied it, but they told me that I will be charged,” said Ahmed.Ahmed is now facing four charges: harming the morale of the armed forces, sharing military information, tarnishing the reputation of the Chief of Staff, as well as electronic publishing (as per the new electronics crimes laws). He also said that his email and Facebook page were hacked.The Electronic Crimes Police, which deals with crimes online, held Ahmed for a day. The law, (passed in 2007), means that journalists publishing online, as well as individuals discussing “sensitive” issues on social media websites could be detained, fined, and tried. He faces up to five[...]

Doctor Sara Told me Stories of Abuse


Doctor Sara sits in a pharmacy in one of Omdurman's neighborhoods, not far from Ahfad's University for Women. She interacts with people every few minutes, asks about their problems, takes the doctors prescription, hands them the requested medicine…. She makes jokes with her patients and giggles when they are nervous or exhausted. The young pharmacist is also an activist, she is interested in issues that affect our lives, issues that affect women. When I talked to her friends at the clinic where the pharmacy was located about sexual harassment, they laughed and called such matters "Sara's issues", they are really her issues. Sara documents stories of sexual harassment in her head, taking mental notes and carrying out in-depth interviews with the women she meets on a daily basis. She said she wants to do so much more, but she has little time. I told her I will go with her, we could go undercover to one of the factories where biscuits are made and uncover the sexual harassment there. We agreed to wear torn tours and to gain the trust of the women there before we collect their stories. We had many cups of juice today and sweet tea in her pharmacy and later inside the clinic where she told me many stories she documented. I took down many notes, almost filling my notebook. Story one: "Everyday, a different one picks me"Fathia* came to Sara a year ago. A 40 year old women who was working at one of the factories. She complained about "pain in her stomach". Sara: she told me , there is something moving inside my stomach. After a few questions, I transferred her to a specialist in the clinic . This is where Fathia's story began with Sara and Sara's stories began with women and men working in factories. She became curious about  them, asking around, what happens to them? is the sexual harassment really that bad there?Fathia's father remains unknown, but we know for sure that he does not live in Khartoum state. Her mother died and Fathia now lives with her mother's husband who is referred to as "Uncle- AlKhal". She told the doctor that he is a "women thief" and he comes at night. She didn't speak clearly about him, but it is clear that she was the victim of abuses within the family, did the "Khal" sleep with her? Is it possible that Fathia, from a simple family and uneducated, is even aware and is able to comprehend what has happened to her.Fathia works at a factory and factories are the site of grave cases of sexual harassment . Sara: I asked a young boy who just took his high school examination about the factories… he comes by every now and then. I asked him because during the summer breaks, he does menial jobs including working in factories. He told me, innocently "ya Dr. don't remind me if I remember, I will not feel well…these people live together like they are married, they don't even shower after that, she told me…laughing at his sheer innocence.Sara wondered what could have happened to this young man. young boys are usually at risk of sexual harassment just like women, especially in poverty and oppressive situations and the lack of awareness that plagues our societyWhen the doctor examined Fathia he found her 10 weeks pregnant. He asked: are you married? Who does the baby belong to?Even Sara spoke to her, and she told her I don't know who the father is..they are a lot."Everyday, a different one picks me," said Fathia, putting it simply.Working in factories happens in shifts, there is the scary shift which is 8 pm to 8 am. It remains [...]

Sudan's shift from print to online newspapers


Bringing together journalists banned from writing in newspapers, Al-Taghyeer offers a chance for greater freedom onlineIn July 2011, while South Sudan was celebrating its independence, National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) officers walked into Ahjras Al-Hurriya, a daily newspaper, in Khartoum, and closed it down. They told the staff that since the newspaper has foreign, in this case South Sudanese, investors, it is prohibited from publishing. The newspaper’s license was taken away a month later, not giving it space to challenge the decision of closure.Rasha Awad was the head of the political section at the newspaper at the time. A month later, she became a columnist in Al-Jareeda, an independent daily newspaper.  But that did not last long.Awad was stopped from writing in early 2012.  While the NISS does not legally stop journalists from publishing, it issues directives to newspapers asking them to stop a certain journalist writing if they want to avoid confiscations of newspaper issues or even closure.By the end of 2012, the list of journalists not allowed to write in Sudanese newspapers grew to at least fifteen.Some of them found other professions, or took on editing roles in newspapers, some decided to take matters into their own hands and start their own newspaper, an electronic newspaper.On World Press Freedom Day, Al-Taghyeer, an electronic newspaper, was launched. The newspaper’s name, which means “Change,” is enough to make the government uneasy, its byline reads “Our Bet is on the People,” and the newspaper’s writers, although known for their excellent reporting, are names that have been stopped from writing, detained and even tortured, or had lost their jobs due to newspapers closing down or cutting back on staff.“Journalism should seek to create positive change in the society,” said Awad who is an editor at Al-Taghyeeradding that “the newspaper seeks to be professional in its reporting, but biased in shedding light on topics that are not covered in mainstream media.”Awad said that in covering wars, corruption or human rights, they have to cover all sides in their reports, and this is where their professional abilities play a role; it is not about the topics they cover, it is about how they cover them.The newspaper has attracted journalists such as Abu-Zar Al-Ameen who was detained and tortured for over a year, Khalid Fadul, who was banned from writing last year, veteran journalist and columnist, Faisal Mohamed Salih and Stella Getiano, a South Sudanese journalist and writer who was a staple in Sudanese newspapers before moving to Juba in 2012.Now in its second week, the newspaper has covered the conflicts and political developments in Sudan, the displacement that will be caused by the dams in East and Central Sudan. It also distinguished itself by having a profile, a gender and a youth section, which are the kind of sections disappearing from other newspapers.Salah Ammar who is in charge of the newspaper’s youth section said that it seeks to publish stories that touch on their readers’ concerns.“85% of our readers so far are from Khartoum, although we think that the parameter of Khartoum could include the states that are bordering Khartoum. We also have an 80% readership in the 23-34 age-group on Facebook,” he told Doha Centre for Media Freedom.Ammar added that although stories that are focused on one region or a state outside Khartoum are very difficult to research and write[...]

Sudan Nile Dam Threatens To Drown Nubian Villages


KHARTOUM, Sudan — On the morning of June 13, 2007, Mohamed Fageer Sid-Ahmed spent one hour convincing his mother that he needed to participate in a protest taking place later that day to protect his land.Osman Ibrahim Holding Booklet on MassacreHis mother was adamantly against the idea — he was her only child after all — but he won the argument and joined the protest. Thousands of Nubian women and men protested that day from different towns and villages that would be affected by the Kajbar Dam, a dam project proposed by the Sudanese government in the mid-1990s.The protesters marched to the dam site to protest; after being hit by heavy tear gas, all of a sudden, live bullets were fired and Sid-Ahmed was the first victim to fall to the ground.“He was shot in the back. At the time, he was giving water to the protesters, but police forces shot at the protesters from up the mountains,” said Osman Ibrahim, the secretary-general of the Higher National Committee to Resist the Kajbar Dam, in an interview with Al-Monitor.With tears in his eyes, Ibrahim told the story of Sid-Ahmed and the story of his activism against the Kajbar Dam since 1995.Ibrahim hails from Nubia, an area that stretches from northern Sudan to southern Egypt and dates back thousands of years.When Egypt built the High Dam in the 1960s, tens of thousands of Nubians in Egypt and Sudan were displaced. In Sudan, they were resettled in an area far away from the Nile, the bloodline of their community.“I feel that there is a conspiracy against Nubians, the government wants to get rid of us, they think we are all Communists,” said Ibrahim.The government of Sudan stated through Yousef Tahir Qureshi, an adviser to the governor of Northern state, that the dam will generate 360 megawatts of electricity.Qureshi told the Sudan News Agency (SUNA) earlier this month that two large-scale agricultural projects will be established and services will be offered to those resettled.The head of the anti-dam committee, Ezzeldeen Idris, told Al-Monitor that it is unclear how many villages will drown.“The dam implementation unit failed to provide us with a feasibility study that tells us how high the dam will be, so we can't clearly say how many villages will be submerged,” said Idris, who lives in Fareeg, one of the villages threatened.Sometimes government officials make revealing statements about the dam, helping Nubians to estimate the extent of the damage.“Qureshi said that the drowned area is 180 kilometers (112 miles), which means from Kajbar to Al-Guld, which is 25-30 kilometers from Dongola, the capital of Northern state,” Ibrahim said.Arif Gamal, a Nubian scholar now teaching at the University of California at Berkeley, wrote on that in 1964, as Nubians were being transported by train from their soon-to-be submerged villages, one woman left the train and ran back to the village. There was confusion on board for some time, and then as people were preparing to follow her, they saw her coming back. She went to lock her house, she told everyone.The woman's house was locked, but soon submerged in water. Half a century later, Nubians refuse to go through the same ordeal.“What is happening is seriously making us think about secession, why would we want to be in a state that wants to drown our villages along with our culture and history?” Ibrahim asked, bitterly.Ibrahim was detained for a month in a wave of arrests of Nubian ac[...]

The new press law: violations and restrictions or transformation and freedom?


Recently, Rishan Oshi, received a job offer from a newspaper in Khartoum.  The young journalist, whose last job was working as an editor for Al-Tayar before it was closed down by the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) for unknown reasons last summer, was very excited about getting back to work.The negotiations with the newspaper were underway when the newspaper backtracked, one of the editors working there objected to hiring her claiming that Rishan is a NISS target.  He called her “trouble”.“Last June, we received a phone-call from the NISS, telling us that Al-Tayar is suspended, we were told that they still don’t know the reasons,” Oshi told DCMF.Al-Tayar’s staff still doesn’t know the reasons. After months of protesting and campaigning for their newspaper, they began looking for other job opportunities during the worst period for journalism in Sudan and for job opportunities in the journalism field.Last year, the crackdown on the press in Sudan resulted in financial losses for newspapers in Sudan due to low advertisements and confiscations of entire issues of newspapers at printing houses, as well as an unstable work environment for journalists who are left unpaid for months.Over fifteen journalists were stopped from writing directly by the NISS, while others such as Oshi are isolated until “readers forget their names and they are out of the market,” as she puts it.A new press law – the worst in years?Last December, the press woke up for another day of fighting to survive, to find the parliament debating a new press law.“The press laws were proposed at a time when the country is going through a constitution-making process.  It makes sense to finalise the constitution before focusing on press laws,” said Faisal Al-Bagir, a journalist and a press freedom activist.Al-Bagir, who coordinates the Sudanese Journalists for Human Rights network, believes that this press law is the worst since Sudan’s first press laws in 1930.To be exact, this is the fifth press law in the last two decades.  However, from the outset, the 2013 press law had unknown parents, each side was claiming that it was not their baby.Idris Al-Douma, the editor-in-chief of one of the best-selling independent newspapers in Sudan, Al-Jareedasaid that “the new regrettable laws are meant to shut down the mouths of journalists.”Al-Douma knows about restrictions, his newspaper has been confiscated many times since it opened in 2010, and was suspended for more than 3 months in 2011 leading to heavy financial losses.In the language of the NISS, confiscation means that an entire issue is seized from the printing house during the night, after it has been printed. Although the NISS calls a number of chief editors in the evening to revise the material published in the newspaper, and assists them in editing the newspaper, they sometimes confiscate the newspaper if the newspaper insists on publishing a specific article, or as retribution for publishing an article.Even when there is freedom of expression, there is no freedom after expression.“I was taken to court many times for my writings, my last trial was two months ago and I was declared innocent,” said Oshi.New forms of censorshipIf the NISS acts as a censor, the press laws will compete with the intelligence agency as a strong censor.The new press laws, if passed, will legalise the closure of newspaper[...]

The soul of Khartoum


Published @- Governor of Khartoum, Abdel-Rahman Al-Khider has been determined to “civilize” Khartoum in the past few months. The idea seemed well-intentioned in the beginning .Tea ladies are women who sell flavoured tea and coffee on the pavements. Their customers sit around them on stools usually under the shade of a tree in any street in Khartoum.It is a breezy morning and being the Sudanese person you are, you crave a cup of tea. You turn to your right hand-side, you see a tea-lady and you begin walking her way. You take one Sudanese pound worth of Legimat (Zalabaya) and a cup of tea ‘with medicine’, the Sudanese word for tea spices such as cinnamon, ginger, cardamom. You are enjoying the delicious snack and you get up from the short stool and head to the tea-lady to pay her for the delicious snack. She is no longer there.You stand there in utter shock: but she was just there. Your curiosity drives you to take a right into a side-street and you find her sitting at the end of the street, with stools around her and customers sitting there enjoying their cup of tea. You pay her only after asking, what happened?“There was a police sweep coming our away, we are not allowed to be on main streets anymore,” she tells you. The Governor of Khartoum, Abdel-Rahman Al-Khider has been determined to “civilize” Khartoum in the past few months. The idea seemed well-intentioned in the beginning, a wider four-laned Nile street, a beautiful corniche for walking, cleaner streets and more greenery.The state government saw the need to civilize Khartoum by civilizing its people. The police raids on men who wash cars on main streets began: they would get picked up or prevented from doing their work by the police. The governor said they are making the streets dirty and it looks uncivilized. In all honesty, they could be given serious tips on how to keep the surroundings clean when washing a car, but most importantly, you are denying a large number of youth the only income between them and living a life of crime. After all, we could all think of million things to do other than standing in the sun the whole day.Then, we all turned to another job that is bringing an income to many families, especially families headed up by women. Tea ladies have become a part of our community, a “marginal” job at the centre of Sudanese life, whether for the civil servants or the unemployed youth and the underemployed journalists who keep a tab at their favorite tea ladies’ berth.There is Sara*, a young tea-lady in West Omdurman who worked at some company, but left after being subjected to sexual harassment by her supervisor and now works as a tea lady. Or Helewa, who fought with the rebels, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) during the civil war and now makes a living making the best Zalabeya in Khartoum.Last week, Helewa wasn’t there, she was harassed out of that spot she favoured for years, by the police.I like the new greenery and the colorful benches on the side of Nile Street, but I also like Khartoum state with tea ladies on main streets and men selling peanuts and cold hibiscous juice by the side of the street.After all, they are the soul of the city. [...]