By Corrie Hulse
Known on Twitter simply by the hashtag #SudanRevolts, the protests that erupted in Khartoum nearly a month ago now do not seem to be fading. In fact, the movement is gaining momentum, with those involved hoping to finally see real change in the country. Calling for the removal of current President Omar al-Bashir (among other demands), the movement’s goals are ambitious to say the least. Yet as daunting as it may seem, success is crucial both for the people of Sudan and their new neighbor South Sudan.
If you have followed news out of the region at all over the past decade, you are well aware of the struggles the people have faced. From genocide, to economic oppression, to border violence, the Sudanese people need to see a reprieve from the violence and oppression they have known. It is time for change in the region, and these young protesters hope to be the catalyst for that change.
As the movement progresses, actions have been planned for every Friday. Today has been labled “Kendakh Friday”, a tribute to the history of strong women who have fought for peace and change. One of the hallmarks of these protests is the central role women have taken. I have previously written on the ability of women to serve as peace revolutionaries. Here stands yet another example of where they have been able to show their power.
This past week, I had the honor of speaking with a young journalist involved with Girifna, one of the main student groups at the center of it all. Fellow Mantle writer Emily Cody introduced the group in her piece published yesterday. For her safety, as the situation in Khartoum has become dangerous for journalists, she has asked to remain anonymous. However, this brave young journalist was willing to share her thoughts on the movement and those fighting for change in Sudan. What follows is our brief exchange.
What would you say was the catalyst for the current protests, known online as #SudanRevolts? Was there a final straw that pushed people to speak out?
There is a lot of anger and frustration towards the government. The economy is in shambles and the government has no idea how to deal with it. Our budget is spent on military and we have major conflicts. The tipping point was removing fuel subsides which led to yet another increase in prices; people were already struggling to eat so the protests began [at the University of Khartoum] where students engaged in a week long sit-in last year against police brutality and the [university] administration. This [university] has always been a centre for protests and has led Sudan's revolutions in 1964 and 1985.
Who is involved? Reports make it sound as if this is mostly a student movement. Is this true?
In the first few days, it was students from University of Khartoum then other universities joined them, then it spread to neighborhoods and, since Friday 22nd, every Friday there are mass protests after Friday prayers.
How did you become involved in the protests, and with Girifna?
I became involved because I want regime change and I am an activist. I became involved in Girifna because I want regime change and saw that Girifna is full of energy and creativity and they work at the grassroot level.
Who isn’t involved that you would hope to be?
I think the people hailing from marginalized areas who reside in Khartoum have yet to fully participate, for a few reasons. They have supported the previous revolution, but they didn’t gain much in terms of political representation and economic development, so they are wary about this and also. They are usually subjected to worse police and security brutality (i.e., held for longer time in detention, beaten more, etc.).
What has been your experience at protests? There have been reports of violent crackdowns on protestors and many arrests. Have you experienced this?
It is touching to see people raise up against injustice and a dictatorship. I saw police brutality and heavy teargas in residential areas. I have many friends detained, some for nearly three weeks now, but this is making people stronger and more adamant to protest.
What do you think must happen for there to be a regime change in Sudan?
I think we need the protests to continue but all sectors need to join: youth, civil society, political parties, and the professionals. Then when the protests intensify, there needs to be civil disobedience and for this to happen, you need the professionals to join in and this will be a turning point.
What is your hope for this movement?
My hope is for the protest movement to continue until we overthrow the government. There is no going back, we have become very out there and if we stop protesting, I foresee more oppression and an even more aggressive crackdown on activists.
Do you think the international community should get involved and help?
The international community should acknowledge that this is real. We are revolting against our regime and they are not just sporadic protests. There is a lot of focus on Syria and I understand why, but we need them to support this. We need them to recognize that we are revolting and there is violence against protestors and we need them to support our choice to remove the government.
What do you think the world should know about the protests, and about the situation in Sudan right now?
I want them to know that we have over 2,000 detainees. Some are students, some are activists, journalists, mobilizers, community organizers. They are facing long-term detentions, they are subjected to psychological and physical torture. This is all because they made the choice to protest and call for peaceful removal of the regime. I want the world to know that the police and security are using heavy tear-gas, nerve gas and are beating us with batons, sticks and metal rods. I want the world to know that even if we are tried and sentenced to lashings and fines or long-term detentions, we will not stop.
Follow Corrie on Twitter @corrie_hulse