Sudan: Arrests and torture fail to quell uprising

One of the regular Friday protests against the regime of Omar Al Bashir, June 29.

Since the outbreak of a new protest wave on June 16 that has spread across Sudan, the National Congress Party (NCP) regime has conducted mass arrests of thousands of activists in a desperate attempt to quell the revolt.

Some of those arrested have been released, but many remain in detention without charge — often in unknown locations with no outside contact.

Protests continue to be viciously attacked by the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS), police and what protesters call Rabata (“bandits” — government-armed militias).

Many protesters have been severely injured and the government has pressured doctors and hospitals not to treat the wounded. One woman was blinded after being shot with rubber bullets, and a mother who simply went to collect her son from university sustained injuries after being beaten by security forces.

Protesters have described the effects of new tear gas used by security forces that causes vomiting, bleeding and paralysis.

As well as arrests at demonstrations, the NISS has been rounding up activists in their homes, often detaining a family member in their place if they are not found.

Protesters injured in attacks on rallies have been detained upon leaving the hospital following treatment for their wounds. Journalists, bloggers and activists with high media or online profiles have been targeted.

Torture of detainees has included fierce beatings, sleep and food deprivation, racist and sexist abuse and the shaving of eyebrows and other degrading acts. There have also been reports of the rape of women detainees.

A July 11 statement by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch called for an end to the attacks on peaceful protesters. It detailed the arrest and abuse of scores of activists from a wide range of organisations, including the major opposition parties and student groups Girifna (“we’re fed up”) and Youth for Change. 

Many women are among those detained, including Nahid Jabralla, head of the women’s rights group SEEMA.

On July 3, the Sudanese Communist Party (SCP) issued a statement outlining the kidnapping of party member Salah Samareab by the security forces. The SCP said: “Despite the many attempts by lawyers, Salah’s family, and human rights organisations to locate the place of his detention the official answer is a big no.”

There are serious concerns for his well-being, as he is diabetic, requiring daily insulin. Since then, more SCP members have been arrested.

The regime’s attempts to terrorise the people off the streets has not been successful. Demonstrations have continued daily, involving various sectors of society.

Doctors rallied on July 9 in support of the movement and to announce the formation of a new united doctors’ union. Many were arrested in the hours and days following. Lawyers also rallied and are planning to take their protest to the presidential palace on June 16.

The economic situation is degenerating, with food prices escalating. One of the latest manifestations of the government’s austerity measures have been bread shortages, leading to long queues in Khartoum to buy the staple food.

On July 4, 19 opposition parties in the National Consensus Forces (NCF) signed the Democratic Alternative Charter (DAC). The charter supports the peaceful overthrow of the regime and outlines proposals for the transition to a peaceful, democratic Sudan. This includes a transitional period to pave the way for democratic elections and the establishment of a secular state.

The July 4 Sudan Tribune reported that NCF chairperson Farouq Abu Issa said the meeting agreed “the national project is now represented in toppling the regime and obliterating the hallmarks of the NCP from all levers of power in the Sudanese State”. 

Leaders of the Sudan Revolutionary Forces (SRF), which includes several Darfur rebel groups and the Sudanese People’s Revolution Movement-North, issued a statement on July 11 welcoming the DAC and calling for an inclusive meeting of all political forces opposed to the regime to “discuss and exchange ideas about jointly working together and to agree on a national democratic program”. The SPRM-N is leading the resistance to Khartoum’s brutal wars on the people of South Kordofan and Blue Nile State

Fridays have provided a weekly focus for the uprising, with a different theme each week. July 13 rallies were dedicated to Sudanese women, who have borne the brunt of the war, poverty and repression of the NCP regime and who have been at the forefront of the struggle against it.

Protests took place once more on the campuses, in the mosques and on the streets of cities and towns across Sudan. And once again the police, NISS and government-armed thugs attacked protesters with tear gas, rubber bullets, sticks and knives.

Women were particularly targeted for arrest, along with mothers of protesters. On July 13, Azza Tijani, head of the Sudanese Women’s Union, was detained along with her daughter. In the days before July 13, Khartoum University, a centre of the uprising, was subjected to raids before NISS forced it to shut down.

Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir continues to downplay the uprising, claiming on June 11 that rather than an Arab Spring, Sudan will face “a hot summer that will burn its enemies”.   However his statements appear increasingly ridiculous as the people of Sudan prove that they will no longer accept NCP rule.

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