What the f*** is going on in Sudan?
“The bullet doesn’t kill. What kills is the silence of the people”
By Andrea Loftus
This week you’ve probably spotted the #SudanUprising hashtag amongst the tweets about Love Island and Michael Gove's cocaine habits and not given it a second thought. If this was important, we’d have heard about it right? Surely it would have been on the news no?
This is one example of how social media and online platforms can sometimes provide more insight into world issues than the news outlets we’re supposed to rely on for truthful information.
These hashtags are a mass intention to bring light to the horrific events that have unfolded in Sudan over the past couple of weeks. This includes 500 murders, 800 left injured, 1000 missing and men and women being assaulted and raped in the streets (estimated figures from several sources). These mindless acts of horror include bodies being tied to bricks and thrown in the Nile in attempts to mask the official death count of these innocent, peaceful protestors.
What led to this?
Although the full timeline of events is too extensive to include, there are notable moments that catalysed to the injustices taking place now.
In 1956, Sudan gained independence from Egypt and the United Kingdom (well, well, well) and its post-independence has witnessed multiple coups, internal tensions, economic problems, and oppression - specifically under President Omar al-Bashir.
Bashir had been running the country for 30 years following a successful military coup. However, his rule was plagued by internal crises over ever-rising prices and a shortage of goods and he is wanted by the international military court over war crimes in Darfur. In Darfur there was a mass ethnic cleansing of non-Arab and black minority farmers, and the scorching of the farmlands meant insufficient crops and consequential starvation.
It’s believed that Bashir was merely the face of the of the transitional military council, but the man pulling the strings was his second in command known as ‘Hemedti’. This malefactor commands the Rapid Support Forces, otherwise known as the ‘Janjaweed’ (Devils on horseback) who oversaw the genocide in Darfur and are currently employing the same violent and immoral tactics used there on the 8 million strong population of the Sudanese capital Khartoum.
These injustices have come as a counteraction against the peaceful demonstrations that have been taking place in Sudan since December 2018 against Bashir’s three-decade long rule. This man is responsible for countless crimes against humanity including the ethnic cleansing campaign in Darfur which killed tens of thousands of people and he also agreed to let Osama Bin Laden reside in Khartoum in the 1990s. Bashir is primarily responsible for the economic deterioration which has left the country with rising living costs and falling standards. As the living crisis escalated, demonstrators began as ‘sit-in’ outside of Bashir’s residence in Khartoum and after 22 unarmed civilians had been killed by military forces and following months of protests, Bashir was arrested on the 11th of April.
However, as a ‘ceasefire’ was announced, it was also decided that Sudan would have a transitional government for 2 years spearheaded by the Transitional Military Council. All prisoners were promised to be released providing a peaceful transitional atmosphere was sustained whilst a permanent constitution could be introduced for the party. But these people had built momentum and the most affirming part of the demonstration is that although Sudan is made up of many ethnic groups, and Bashir sustained power by oppressing the minorities, all ethnicities unified to overthrow him. And they weren’t done just yet.
The activists demanded the power be handed to a civilian government and this intention was acted on by a 2-month massive sit-in until a few weeks ago, when the aforementioned Rapid Support Forces militia violently attacked and shot unarmed PEACEFUL protestors during the holy month of Ramadan. It’s been reported by witnesses that Khartoum is now under complete siege, if you see someone you know being shot you can’t retrieve their dead body, bodies are being burnt and people are being made to drink sewage water.
It’s unacceptable that our nations and those in positions of power haven’t done more to bring attention to the massacre unfolding right now. But is there another reason for their silence?
The EU has ‘condemned the Sudanese military’, and rightly so, but it doesn’t take a genius to work out this isn’t something that needs applauding. So why won’t the EU say more? Although it isn’t explicit, it is likely related to the strategic importance of Sudan regarding the migrant crisis. During the peak of the refugee crisis, Sudan was responsible for hosting approximately 4 million refugees and displaced individuals trying to reach Europe, and this was called the ‘Khartoum Process’. The European Union essentially sends millions in aid to African governments and non-profits to ‘keep Africans in Africa’, disguised as an effort to improve their living conditions as to dissuade them from continuing their journey to Europe. However, this money goes to the border control led by, you guessed it, the villains in this equation, the RSF. The reality that condemning a government that has been preventing a larger influx of immigrants to your shores might result in their arrival seems like a handy enough reason to keep their mouths shut.
There isn’t radio silence, with the BBC’s African editor Fergal Keane interviewing people in Sudan and reporting on the stark contrast between the euphoric celebrations following Bashir’s fall, to the stomach-turning accounts of the violence seen today. One witness recount how member of the RSF, who deny any rapes have taken place, were arguing over who gets to assault a woman who it turned out was already dead, and he relayed how he saw “Death in all its forms. Ugliness of all kinds.”.
Who is the face of the movement?
In December this movement was kickstarted by a majority of doctors, lawyers, students and women. As a reminder of who holds the power the people led a 2-day general strike which was responded to by everyone including doctors and pilots. This meant no work, no flights, absolutely nothing – except an overwhelming display of democratic core values and a nation with a clear goal.
A not very widely known fact about Sudan is the nature of their population, with 63% of Sudan under 25 years old and 43% of these under 15. These peaceful protests are sourced from the fountain of youth, and women take their places at the front line. For decades women have been subjected to repression with next to no legal protection, and instead of cowering in fear these strong females have come forward to voice their discontent.
The unofficial face of the revolution is that of 22-year-old Alaa Salah, a Sudanese architecture student and female anti-government protestor. After a picture of her on top of a car went viral, she’s been dubbed the ‘Lady Liberty’ of Sudan but assures her participation in the demonstrations was never to gain ‘fame’ but because “[her] parents raised [her] to love [her] home”. Though the image shows her as a beautiful young woman in white, what we can’t hear is that her power over these crowds came from her words. She recounts that on the day of the photos she had read a poem at about 10 different gatherings and after she found a group of women, they began to sing alongside her, and the momentum grew.
Why aren’t we hearing about this everywhere?
Back in April our timelines and news screens were dominated by images of the iconic Notre Dame up in flames. It’s not to say that this wasn’t a sad time for Paris and a tragic loss of history happening before our eyes, but was anyone inside? No. Was anybody killed? No. Yet within 6 hours upwards of 300 million euros was donated by two wealthy men to begin repairs.
A screenshot sporting the ‘blue for Sudan’ colouring compares the statistic of Notre Dame and the estimate we have from the ongoing horrors in Sudan with the title ‘Selective Empathy’. As a society we each have our own individual morals and priorities, but as a species, how can we not have the humanity to prioritise the safety and survival of a nation with the same martyrdom that can be felt for a building. In the same vein here in the UK, as our government pump money to renovate Big Ben, literally a chunky clock, we meet the 2-year anniversary of Grenfell with countless high-rise buildings still host to insufficient safety measures and flammable material constructions. Mankind have sufficient resources to protect every single man, woman and child in Sudan, the problem is the moralistic will of the minority in power who possess the world’s financial bounty.
The main source of information is coming from online platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter as individuals on the ground in Sudan share facebook lives and regular updates about what’s happening. For the past 7 months, the activists and protestors have been heavily relying on social media, be it within Sudan or linked to the diaspora, but the internet there has been shut down for over a week now, severing their link to the outside world.
It’s a shared view that mainstream international media and news outlets NEED to be doing more to disclose the humanitarian crisis unfolding in real time. As with many overseas crises, several individuals have been very quick to point out that race plays a large role in why we’re systematically desensitised to events like these, with mass shootings in the western world centred around white victims. The Sudanese are black and Muslim and the lack of empathy and solidarity from our mass media could be seen to display not only inherent racism but selective caring on a large scale.
A line from the poem Salah read at a demonstration went “The bullet doesn’t kill. What kills is the silence of the people”. Now more than ever, as many do fall at the hands of violence and are blocked from speaking for themselves, it is our duty to be their voice. If we cannot rely on those in power to do their duty and represent us, we must ourselves peacefully protest alongside our Sudanese brothers and sisters and ensure that history does not forget the horrors that are being allowed to take place. Silence is deadly, and we’re ready to shout.
How to help
A great way to educate yourself briefly on the history and current affairs in Sudan in a more light-hearted form is by watching Netflix’s ‘Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj’. He eloquently details the events that led to today’s attacks and includes visuals and interviews.
PATRIOT ACT: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2S3cBp4ucEU
Follow the #IAmTheSudanRevolution #SudanUprising hashtags on social media to find a wealth of information and personal accounts of what’s happening and from the past few months.
You can take action by...
- Writing to the government - Writing to the houses of parliment or to your local council is the one of the most powerful ways you can express your anger and distress about Sudan
- Use ResistBot to text your members of Congress. Text RESIST to 50409 and it will help you contact your elected officials and tell them to help the people of Sudan.
- Give to UNICEF, which is working to help the children displaced by the conflict. Donate here
- Donate to Save the Children, which has been working in Sudan since 1984. Donate here. If you prefer the International Rescue Committee, it has been in Sudan since 1989 fighting malnutrition and helping displaced families. Donate here
- This Facebook campaign aims to raise funds for food and medicine for those in Sudan. Donate here
- Sign this Change.org petition demanding that “The UN must investigate the 3rd of June human rights violations in Sudan by the Military.” Sign here
- This GoFundMe campaign out of the U.K. claims to be working with a Sudanese group to bring emergency medical aid to Sudan. Donate here. This GoFundMe campaign is dedicated to providing medical support for the group of non-violent protesters waging a sit-in. Donate here
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