Saturday, June 3, 2017

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 servant
Sayed 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 ban

Through 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, waitress
After 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 was raided, the owner usually bailed the staff out so that they would not have to spend the night in prison. But in a raid last November, the cafe's owner was out of town, and LM and the rest of the staff were arrested, along with the customers.
“We were taken to the police station and as the staff, we were sentenced to hefty fines of more than 20,000 SDG (almost $3,000), and if the fine was not paid, we would serve six months in prison,” LM said.
Two days after her arrest, LM managed to secure the fine with the help of her acquaintances and was released. LM’s parents never found out she had been arrested.
According to LM, other staff members who could not afford the fine were sent to different prisons across Sudan, some as far as 700 kilometres from Khartoum.
“I remember having to look for their families who had no information about this, and informing them that they need to raise money to bail out their children. It was traumatising,” she said.
No to Women’s Oppression estimates that at least 40,000-50,000 women are arrested every year by the public order police because of their clothing
Until today, there has been no actual article in the criminal code banning smoking shisha in public, but a local order has been in place for a few years. According to experts, this is just as powerful. 
“A local order is a decision made by the municipality,” explained Ahmed Sibar, a human rights lawyer working in Khartoum. And “a local order is valid and gives the judge the authority to prosecute and fine shisha consumers and providers based on it,” he added.
Before the ban in March, authorities had sometimes looked the other way and selectively issued permits for some hotels and cafes to serve shisha, especially those that cater to tourists, but the raids continued. 
The local order is implemented by the public order police, who also act as "morality police" and can arrest men and women for everything from smoking shisha to indecent clothing, under the Sudanese criminal law of 1991.
Raids conducted by the public order police usually happen very abruptly. They storm the venue, confiscate the shisha and arrest the staff and customers who are smoking.

Targeting women

Cafe owners can be fined 1,000 SDG (about $150) and those smoking shisha can be fined from 200-300 SDG each ($29 to $35). If they can't afford to pay the fine, they can be jailed from one to three months. 
“Because the local order fines the consumer of shisha a relatively small amount. The public order police always find other charges mostly related to dress code to increase the fine and arrest the shisha smokers, particularly the women,” said Al-Fatih Hussein, a defence lawyer in several cases filed against women.
Eyewitnesses to raids on shisha cafes in recent months have confirmed that women not wearing headscarves or wearing trousers are always arrested, even if they are not smoking shisha.
Sudanese women, one of them wearing trousers under a long black dress, walk in downtown Khartoum on 8 September 2009 (AFP) 
In December, journalist and novelist Hussam Hilali was sitting with a female friend in Pataya, a cafe in a wealthy area of Khartoum. 
As a precaution, they ordered only one shisha, with Hilali stating that he would assume total responsibility for smoking if the police were to show up.
“We had just begun smoking the shisha and talking when the public order police raided the cafe,” Hilali said.
He added that the officers were aggressive and he was immediately asked to drop the shisha.
“All the women sitting in the cafe were asked to stand, all of them were wearing [long] skirts except my friend who was wearing trousers and they used this as a pretext to arrest her," said Hilali, who refused to let his friend get arrested alone and insisted on going with her.
'All of them were wearing [long] skirts except my friend who was wearing trousers and they used this as a pretext to arrest her'
-Hussam Hilali, journalist and novelist 
Women arrested in shisha cafes are usually arrested for “indecent clothing,” as per Article 152 of the criminal law. It is punishable by a hefty fine that can reach up to 7,000 SDG (over $1,000), 40 lashes and sometimes a jail sentence of approximately one month if detainees are unable to pay fines.
Rights organisations argue that Article 152 is vague and the arresting officer who is left to assess what is indecent is not given clear guidelines because they are not detailed in the law.
Amel Habbani, a journalist and founding member of the group, No to Women’s Oppression, estimates that at least 40,000–50,000 women are arrested every year by the public order police because of their clothing. 

Repercussions of the ban

A waiter at the Coral Hotel, a prominent venue in Khartoum, said that they had stopped serving shisha following the implementation of the ban in March.
“As an administration, we tried to complain against this decision, but to no avail, even though we have paid our taxes and we have a separate space for women,” said waiter Ahmed Adil.
The hotel used to serve between 100-120 shishas every day, costing 80 Sudanese Pounds ($12). Clients would also order juice, tea or food along with the shisha that brought a hefty income to the hotel.
“We are losing a lot of money on a daily basis as a result of this decision,” said Adil, who worked in the women-only shisha section, which is now deserted.
'We are losing a lot of money on a daily basis as a result of this decision'
- Ahmed Adil, waiter
A regular client at the hotel told Middle East Eye that she had come on 9 April and was surprised about this decision.
“After that, I began looking for other options and I found other closed areas and even apartments that serve shisha, but I didn’t go. I am too scared that the police will also come there,” said the client.
Some cafes, however, are still discretely serving shisha behind closed doors. A small Ethiopian-run cafe in Khartoum is one of these cafes that is trying to keep a low profile.
The door leading to the cafe is always closed and photos of coffee greet customers at the entrance.
“We try to protect ourselves and our clients because we serve shisha; you can only enter if you’ve my number or the number of one of the other waitresses,” said Ababa, a waitress working at the cafe.
Some offer the service inside furnished apartments, but the risks are much greater. If arrested in one of these venues, a woman can face charges of practising prostitution.
“The closed cafes serving shisha are now seen as a threat because the authorities believe that other business transactions such as the drugs trade, prostitution and even human trafficking are taking place there," Sibar told MEE.

First published @

Sunday, September 18, 2016

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 trial

The 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 public image and presenting them as immoral as understood and seen by the conservative Sudanese society will cause confusion within the solidarity movement. This tactic is very dangerous as it will be used to instigate public opinion against the defendants and initiate a smear campaign that changes the entire discourse of the trial causing the lawyers to become distracted from the actual charges. The lawyers and the solidarity movement will waste precious time defending the defendants regarding this issue instead of actually campaigning against the bogus charges they face regardless of the fact that many are not even convinced that the state should have the right to persecute you for any material found on your personal devices!

Second of all, as the NISS confiscated the personal laptops, phones and other equipment from the defendants, their personal life became under scrutiny from a state that values its ability to enter your life, house and the privacy of your body under the so-called public order articles. It is very normal for the state to criminalize and persecute the behavior, dress-code and personal attitudes of Sudanese men and women, however, the court case used personal files to persecute the entire civil society by showing personal pictures of Midhat Afif Al-Deen and his family and friends. 

My picture was shown as part of the evidence….. I am standing with a close friend during her farewell party. Midhat was there and it is possible that he took the picture or it was later shared with him on Facebook... I don't remember. If you have to know, we are not naked, but our headscarfs were around our shoulders. Our picture was shown as pornography because the state pornograhizes women's bodies regardless of their dress-code and for this reason, the article on "dress-code" in the public order articles is loose and does not explain anything. You are naked in the eyes of the system regardless of how you dress. With women who are perceived as activists or active in the civil society, this is done on another level. Our pictures were shown to reiterate their point, this is the civil society here! They watch pornography and their women are uncovered and they are even smiling in the pictures! 

What an utter debauchery!

The civil society was painted as a world of debauchery and this debauchery was documented in pictures that were shown inside the courthouse, violating the privacy of the defendants and their friends. But it was done for this exact reason, the NISS wanted to put the whole civil society on trial and in Sudan, the worst kind of trial is a moral one. We hear about political detainees and we see their pictures circulate on social media, but in a country where lawyers believe that thousands of women and men are persecuted by the public order police (community security police), we don't see them and we don't hear their stories because the society becomes your biggest prosecutor after the court if the charges against you are questioning your "morality".

The trial was heavy on everyone. Some walked out before it finished, others walked out extremely uncomfortable. 

I feel extremely uncomfortable that we are not doing enough to fight this new kind of persecution, the Sudanese civil society will be doomed. Organizations have been shut down and civil society actors have been put in jail, but this last debacle was an attempt to discredit the civil society and we can not let this happen.

Because if this works, the next time a civil society organization will be tried , it will not be for national security crimes, but it will be for charges such as prostitution and defamation. The morals of the committed people behind TRACKS center are being investigated in a court house in Sudan, but they are in this situation because of their morals…their solid values and beliefs in working for a just society where human rights become a norm is the only matter that needs to be highlighted.

Friday, September 16, 2016

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 untold

Last 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 knows someone working for it. All citizens who are viewed as a nuisance are dealt with as a national security threat by an institution that views itself as only less powerful than God.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

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 issue which is the fact that the government of Sudan is failing to provide basic services to a significant percentage of its citizens and is failing to sustain the services that it is supposed to provide to citizens in the urban centers or those living in areas that are not frowned upon by the government. 

As an avid reader of newspapers due to my profession, I've almost chronicled all the articles about the mismanagement of the state since 2011. The newspaper articles are usually in the form of documents leaked about corruption charges: the money swindled from Khartoum State by the former governor, the corruption of the former Defense Minister when he was the Interior minister, the unknown pipeline that was discovered by the government of South Sudan, the fact that an official in the ministry of justice bought and sold half of the land in Khartoum state, the bogus companies that are so good at getting tenders from the government etc.

Munzoul Asaal of the University of Khartoum estimates that at least 120,000 civil servants were sacked to the public good in the 1990s as the government aimed to replace the entire civil service with individuals who are Islamists, loyal and non-threatening regardless of their qualifications. This created a state that is not only loyal to the party that grew out of Al-Inqaz in the1990s, the national congress party, but one that is so mis-managed, it only makes sense to the NCP affiliates and no-one else.

For a long time, I've thought that the Sudanese state functions haphazardly due to the work of very few employees or based on the bribes that are given, but I've came to realize that maybe there is a system and the NCP has created a system that does not make sense to outsiders to continue in power and exclude those who are not affiliated with it.

But the system broke …it has been breaking for years, but due to the recent excessive lack of money in the country, it stopped working. I am hypothesizing that this is due to several reasons:

-The country was heavily oil-dependent, it neglected all other natural resources and now there is no production because there is no functioning industry and no money coming into the country.
-The corruption became too much, rumors have it that the NCP actually told its cadres to "yes, you can steal, but leave some money to run the country". But then again, the swindling of public funds continues and with the decrease in funds, there is less likelihood for excess money to be pumped into the state affairs.
-Again lack of funds means that things can't be fixed and the infrastructure that is already challenged can not be maintained. 
-The NCP is divided, the club that did not want Bashir to run or for Sudan to hold elections in the first place are unhappy and not doing the roles they traditionally carried out to hold the fragile state together, the old guard were so competent in the system that is in place and they made it work for them. Now the old guard is gone, the likes of Nafie, Ali Osman, Osama Abdullah, Al-Jaz etc.
-The multiple "hot summers" did not salvage the situation in the two areas, Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile, and even if the conflict in Darfur is marked with low intensity fighting, the militias in Darfur are used to large amounts of money and they need to be paid to stay in order.

Now, the government is set to increase the price of water and electricity to the dismay of citizens who are already struggling to make ends meet as they are heavily taxed because the money extorted from Sudanese people became one of the main sources of income to the state..government. Some believe that the heavy water and electricity cuts were for this reason- to exhaust and terrify people into submitting to the new increases because life is already difficult…power cuts are bad for business…water cuts are expensive for households as they have to pay large amounts of money for a bucket of water. Just submit already!

That is not the issue in question, the increase is merely another attempt by the government to raise more funds not to provide services, but to literally keep the party in power. Bashir and his party are fighting against odds, they are used to taking a piece from public funds and can not be weaned from this regardless of the fact that funds are continuing to decrease, warlords need to be paid and wars need to be fought on the pretense of stopping the armed movements from taking power. 

Because staying in power is costly, the infrastructure will continue deteriorating and cuts will continue. 

Back to the protests….asking for basic services and protesting for your demands is noble and in line with the constitution that we earned as a result of thousands of deaths during the civil war. However, if we don't situate our demands within the large context of the mismanagement of the country, we will achieve gains that will last for hours and we will continue doing what the government wants us to do. Exhaust all of our energy and waste our human potential protesting for days and weeks in a row for services that we pay for, but don't get.

This physical and mental exhaustion thet goes into staying up waiting for water to trickle down the tap and for the bucket to fill makes you so busy and overwhelmed, you can't see past your simple demand.

But we can't give them what they want!

Monday, December 8, 2014

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 الرقابة
وتقوم "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 "الراكوبة" الإخباري، ومنتدى سودانيس أون لاين Sudanese-Online، وغيرها من المواقع. وتم حجم موقع يوتيوب في آواخر عام ٢٠١٢م احتجاجاً على عرض الموقع  لفيلم "The Innocence of Muslims".
إلا أن هذا الهجوم على حرية التعبير لم يمنع ظهور الصحف الرّقمية خلال عامي ٢٠١٣م و ٢٠١٤م، حيث ظهرت صحيفتي "التغيير" و"الطريق"، وأسستا حضوراً قويا على الانترنت. إنّ تحول الصُحف من النسخة الورقية إلى النسخة الرقمية ليس مرّدة مواكبة النسق العالمي للتحول للصحافة الرّقمية، بل هي في الحقيقة محاولة للتحايل على الرقابة التي تفرضها الحكومة على الصحافة المطبوعة في السودان.

إلا أنه على الرغم من ذلك، يعاني المدّونون و الصحفييون الرّقميون من مُتلازمة الكتابة على الإنترنت "حرية التعبير عن الرأي، وانعدام الحرية بعد التعبير عن الرأي" ، حيث يتعرضون للمُلاحقة والإعتقال والترهيب نتيجة لنشرهم لمقالاتهم الرّقمية ولنشاطهم السياسي على الإنترنت.
في يونيو ٢٠١٣م ، أعتقل "جهاز الأمن والمخابرات الوطني السوداني"  الصحفي خالد أحمد، مدير تحرير صحيفة "السوداني"، لأن هناك مقال نشر على الإنترنت يحمل اسمه الأول. وحوّت المقالة معلومات حساسة حول العملية العسكرية في بلدة "أبو كرشوالا" في جنوب كردفان في الوقت الذي كان فيه الجيش يحاول استعادة السيطرة عليها من يد الحركة الشعبية لتحرير السودان (الحركة الشعبية).  وكان أحمد ضمن عددٍ مجموعة محدودة من الصحفيين الذين زاروا "أبو كرشوالا"، إلا أنه  نفى كتابته للمقال، وصرّح بأنّ بريده الإلكتروني تعرّض للاختراق.
وحتى مارس ٢٠١٤م، ظل أحمد خالد قيد المحاكمة أمام محكمة حقوق الملكية الفكرية ، تحت طائلة قانون جرائم المُعلوماتية وقانون العقوبات. وبالإضافة إلى ذلك، في يوليو ٢٠١٣م،  تم اعتقال ثلاثة شبان في بلدة شمال كُردفان تعليقهم في الفيسبوك حول اتهامات بالفساد ضد حكومة شمال كُردفان ، ووجهت إليهم تهمة التشهير. ويعتقد المحلّلون بأن هذه القضايا  تُعد سابقة من نوعها، وتؤسس لسن قانون جديد من شأنه فرض رقابةٍ أكثر صرامة على وسائل الاعلام و الإنترنت، وشبكات التواصل الاجتماعي.
كما عانت الصحف على الانترنت ووسائل الإعلام أيضا من عُنفٍ  تقني من جهات موالية للحكومة، منها هجمات القرصنة في شهر في أبريل ٢٠١٤م على موقعي صحيفة سودان تريبيون Sudan Tribune  وموقع "عاين " "3ayin" .
وقع احداث سبتمبر ٢٠١٣م
وعلاوة على كل ما تقدم، تجلّت آثار احتجاجات شهر سبتمبر ٢٠١٣م خلال العام، كما هددّ مسؤولون حكوميون بفرض قانون على الاعلام الرقمي. فعلى سبيل المثال، صرّح وزير الإعلام للحزب الحاكم،  ياسر يوسف إبراهيم، في مقابلة أجراها في يوليو ٢٠١٣م، بأن هناك حاجة إلى سنّ قانونٍ للإعلام الالكتروني " يمنح السلطات الحق في حجب المواقع التي تنتهك القيود المتفق عليها". وخلال الفترة ما بين يوليو ٢٠١٣م ويونيو عام ٢٠١٤م، قامت حكومة السودان بتقديم طلبات لشركة "فيسبوك" للإفصاح عن المعلومات الشخصية لخمسة حسابات مستخدمين لديها، وهي طلبات لم تردْ من الحكومة من قبل. وعلى أية حال لم تستجب إدارة "فيسبوك" لأي من هذه الطلبات.
وبالإضافة إلى ذلك، بدأت جميع شركات الاتصالات حملة صارمة لفرض تسجيل شرائح الهاتف النقّال حيث تم الإعلان عنها في التلفزيونات والصحف واللوحات الإعلانية في الشوارع، وتم توفيرخدمة تسجيل الشرائح عبر مراكز الخدمات المتنقلة في الأماكن العامة، وتنظيم المسابقات واليانصيب للفوز بجوائز قيمة من المبالغ النقدية والذهب، أو السيارات لأولئك الذين يقومون بالتسجيل. ويتطلب تسجيل شريحة الهاتف النقال هوية شخصية وطنية وعنوان منزل المستخدم، وهو الأمر الذي يعده النشطاء وسيلة من قبل الأجهزة الأمنية لتعقب أرقام هواتف المُستخدمين.
واستمرت مراقبة الاتصالات الرقمية وشبكات وسائط التواصل الاجتماعي، فضلاً عن التنصت على المكالمات الهاتفية، ومواصلة استهداف المجتمع المدني وأعضاء المعارضة السياسية؛ لا سيما في أوقات الاضطرابات أو أثناء الاحتجاجات.
العراقيل الناتجة عن العقوبات الأمريكية على السودان
وأشار التقرير أيضا إلى أن العقوبات التي تفرضها أمريكا على السودان تظل بمثابة حاجز أمام حرية الوصول إلى المعلومات والمعرفة. وتشمل هذه القيود حظر البرنامج الأصلية أمريكية الصنع، وبرامج مكافحة الفيروسات،  والتحديثات الأمنية. وقد أعاق النظام العقوبات الأميركية أيضا الإمكانات التعليمية في السودان، حيث لا يتمتع المُستخدمون داخل السودان من خدمات المواقع التعليمية المجانية على شبكة الإنترنت مثل Khan Academy، والباحث العلمي لموقعGoogle، بالإضافة إلى عدد ضخم من الدورات التعليمية على الانترنت MOOCs. وأشار التقرير إلى أن هذا يشكل انتهاكاً لحق الجميع في التعليم. كما شملت الحواجز العقبات الأخرى التي تعيق الوصول إلى الإنترنت عدم تمكن المقيمين في السودان  من الاستفادة او الوصول إلى مواقع تصميم خرائط الأزمات crisismapping، أو المواقع الأمريكية لحشد التمويل الجماعي على الإنترنت.   
بالإضافة إلى ذلك، تم رصد برمجيات مراقبة وفلترة تابعة للشركة الأمريكية "بلو كوت سيستم" Blue Coat Systems في ثلاث شبكات داخل السودان، مما دفع واضعي التقرير إلى القول "وما توضحه هذه التسريبات هي أن العقوبات الامريكية ضد السودان لم تعرقل على النحو المنشود الحكومة السودانية من الوصول إلى أو شراء برامج مراقبة أمريكية الصنع. بل على العكس، تعرقل العقوبات الأمريكية في كثير من الأحيان - عن غير قصد - وصول المُستخدمين العاديين لتكنولوجيا المعلومات والاتصالات ..."
 منهجّية الدراسة:
يصنّف  تقرير"حرية الإنترنت لعام ٢٠١٤م" الدول عن طريق بناءً على  تواجد عوامل "بيئة مواتية"  لحرية الإنترنت من خلال الإجابة على 21 سؤالاً منهجياً تسمح بالمقارنة بين الدّول، بالإضافة إلى إمكانية  تحليل الأنماط الناشئة على المستوى الإقليمي او العالمي.  تتراوح النقاط ما بين (0) وهي تعني أفضل حالة لحرية الإنترنت،  و(100) هي أسوء وضع لحرية الإنترنت، ويتم حساب هذه النقاط عبر قياس ثلاثة فئات:
  • العقبات التي تُعيق الوصول إلى الإنترنت: وتتضمن تقيم البنية التحتية، والحواجز الاقتصادية، والبيئة التنظيمية، والمحاولات التي تقوم بها الدولة لمنع الوصول إلى تكنولوجيات أو تطبيقات محددة؛
  • القيود المفروضة على المحتوى:  مثل فلترة وحجب المواقع، فرض الرقابة أو الرقابة الذاتية، وتنوع المصادر الاخبارية على الانترنت ومستوى النشاط الرقمي لأغراض اجتماعية وسياسية؛ و
  • انتهاكات حقوق المستخدم: يشمل ذلك أي نوع من الاضطهاد والمضايقات الناجمة عن النشاط على الإنترنت، وفرض القيود على الخصوصية والمراقبة التي تنتهك الخصوصية.
وبحسب النقاط المحسوبة في الفئات المذكورة أعلاه ، يقيّم تقرير "حرية الإنترنت" الدول كـ (حرّة) حيت حصولها على نقاط ما بين (0) إلى (30)؛ وكـ (حرّة جزئياً) إن حصلت على ما بين (31) إلى (60) نقطة؛  و (غير حرّة) إن حصلت الدولة على نقاط تتراوح ما بين (61) إلى (100).  وفي معرض توضيح منهجية دراسة "حرية الإنترنت لعام، تضيف منظمة "فريدوم هاوس" ما يلي:
إن هذه الدراسة ليس الغرض منها تصنيف الحكومات أو الأداء الحكومي في حد ذاته، بل هو تقيمٌ لوضع الحريات في العالم  وحقوق والحريات التي يتمتع بها الأفراد داخل كل بلد. وتتأثر حرية وسائل الإعلام الرقمية في المقام الأول بقرارات الدولة ، إلا أننا نأخذ في عين الاعتبار الضغوط والهجمات التي تشنها الجهات غير الحكومية، بما في ذلك الجريمة السرية المنظمة.  . ولذلك فإن هذا التقييم مؤشر يعكس بشكل عام التفاعل بين مجموعات متنوعة من الجهات ذات الصلة، سواء الحكومية أوغير الحكومية، بما في ذلك الشركات الخاصة.

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 إبداعية جديدة، من الحركات والنشطاء السياسيين الذين رأوا في قرفنا ما تفتقر إليه أحزابهم، العمل الميداني الكثيف والنشاط في تنظيم واحد.
في ايام الذروة, وزعت الحركة 120,000 نشرة يومياً، واخذت طريقها على حافلات لمدني وبورتسودان وعبر طرق غير معروفة لمخيمات النازحين في دارفور ومعسكرات اللاجئين السودانيين في تشاد. ما ميز قرفنا من الحركات السياسية الأخرى في السودان العديد من جوانب وجودها ..
أولاً، ولد مؤسسوها وأعضائها الأوائل في الثمانينات والتسعينات، وشبوا خلال حكم حزب المؤتمر الوطني، رأوا السودان في أسوأ شكل كان عليه من أي وقت مضى، وتلقوا من المشروع الحضاري منهجه التعليمي مع غسل الدماغ. وعندما كانوا صغارا كانت "المعارضة الرسمية" في الدول المجاورة والخارج لبناء التحالفات المعارضة واحدا تلو الآخر، وعاجزة عن اخراج السودان لعقود طويلة من الجمود السياسي.
ثانياً، رأوا فجوة كبيرة بين الأحزاب السياسية التقليدية ودوائرهم. سوقت قرفنا على هذا من خلال تمثيل نفسها على أنها حركة الشارع. جندت الحركة عشرات المتطوعين لتوزيع منشورات في الأسواق ومحطات الحافلات، والجامعات وجميع المواقع المكتظة بالسكان. لم يمض وقت طويل بعد أن بدأت، بدأ متطوع يبلغ من العمر 17 عاماً وناشط اكبر سناً، في دفع الحركة لتنظيم مخاطبات عامة. بعدها، سوف تنظم الحركة مخاطبات علنية في الأسواق ومحطات الحافلات. كان للمخاطبات صدى مدوياً في الخرطوم، وخلقت ضجة حول الحركة على مستوى الحي وكذلك على الإنترنت عندما تم نشر الفيديو.
ثالثاً، الحركة التي اسسها الشباب، اعادت السلطة مرة أخرى إلى الشباب، وهو القطاع الذي يمثل غالبية السكان في البلاد ولكن عادة ما يتم تهميشهم داخل المؤسسات السياسية والمؤسسات الأخرى.
نمت قرفنا بسرعة كبيرة قبل عيد ميلادها الأول، وانتشرت في جميع أنحاء السودان، أنشات موقعاً على شبكة الانترنت، وجود مكثف على وسائل التواصل الاجتماعية، وأصبحت معروفة للجمهور والمجتمع الدولي.
مع التمدد جاءت المشاكل. بدأت الحركة تعاني من ضربة تلو الأخرى، كحركة رئيسية فعالة مناهضة لحزب المؤتمر الوطني خلال الانتخابات، ألقي القبض على أعضائها وارهبوا. في فترة مع كل منشور، سوف يتم اعتقال متطوع.
أخذت الحملات الأمنية تثقل كاهل الحركة، فجهاز الأمن الوطني وبموارده الجيدة ومجهزاً بقسم كامل للتعامل مع ما يسمى "حركة الشباب". ومع ذلك، كان السبب الرئيسي بنية الحركة التي استمرت لتفشل مراراً وتكراراً.
فعلت الحركة الكثير من العمل وغيرت وجه النشاط في السودان، فعلت ما لم تتمكن أي مؤسسة سياسية من القيام به في السودان على مر السنين. جعلت الشباب مهتمين بالقضية الوطنية، ومهتمين بالسودان ومستقبله.
جعلت النشاط السياسي جذابا او =="cool".
من بدايتها، أنتجت قرفنا فيديو ساخراً سوف يستمر كمصدر إلهام للحركة لسنوات. كما وزعت الأساور البلاستيكية البرتقالية التي كانت جذابة، وخلقت العلامة التجارية للحركة، وبدأت حركة الأحداث البرتقالية حيث يتجمع الشباب في شارع النيل يرتدون ملابس برتقالية اللون، وهو اللون الذي تم وصفه بأنه لون المقاومة.
كان لقرفنا دور كبير في النشاط الإعلامي الاجتماعي، وتأسيس الثقافة الفرعية التي ولدت في فترة ما بعد 30 يناير2011، من دعوات لمحاكمة النشطاء المعتقلين في الحملات السياسية، وتسجيل الفيديوهات مع عائلات المعتقلين ومع المعتقلين بعد الإفراج عنهم.
على صعيد آخر، لم تكن الحركة قادرة على الحفاظ على نفسها. جعل الهيكل اللامركزي وعملها كحركة مقرها الشارع، من المستحيل تأمين نفسها أو أعضائها وسط حملات أمنية مختلفة. في النهاية، اسست الحركة لتكون هناك، في الشوارع مع الجمهور، وهذا جعل أعضائها واضحين جداً ومعرضين للاعتقالات.
منذ البداية، لم تكن للحركة قيادة، والتي جعلت جميع الأعضاء على قدم المساواة والمشاركة على قدم المساواة في إجراءات العمل. نمت الحركة من خلال عملها، ولكن بقي أساسها ضعيفاً، غير موجوداً تقريبا.
رأت الحركة في نظام اللامركزية أنها من شأنها أن تبقي على العمل مقسماً بين خلاياه المختلفة وسيضمن امان أعضاء، ولكن كان للنظام عيوب. جعلت عدداً كبيراً من الأعضاء يواجهون خطر الاعتقال دون الأخذ بعين الاعتبار استعدادهم للقيام بذلك. كان العديد من أعضاء الحركة يفتقرون إلى الخبرة السياسية السابقة، وكانت قرفنا أول تجربة لهم، وهذا يعني أنها تفتقر إلى البرامج التدريبية السياسية التي تقدمها الحركات السياسية الرسمية للتامين والتعامل مع جهاز الأمن الوطني.
وعلاوة على ذلك، لم تستطع الحركة أن تفلت من نفس الأحزاب السياسية التقليدية التي تمردت عليها. منذ البداية، استهدفت قرفنا بشكل كبير من قبل الحكومة من خلال جهاز الأمن الوطني لأنه رأى فيها تهديدا وحركة قد تثير احتجاجات واسعة النطاق ضده، بل أكثر من ذلك من قبل المعارضة، التي تسعى للسيطرة على الحركة من خلال عدة طرق.
أولاً، رأت المعارضة في حركة قرفنا تهديداً وفرصة، تهديدا لأنها استطاعت استقطاب أعضاء من شبابهم الذين ضاقوا ذرعاً ببيروقراطية الأحزاب التقليدية وفرصة لأنها كانت حركة ناشطة ذات وجود حقيقي  في الشارع. وعلاوة على ذلك اعتقد كل طرف التمكن من تبني قرفنا من خلال دعمها لوجستياً وتشجيع أعضاء شبابهم لمواصلة التواجد في الجسم.
أخيراً، مع كل هذا الضغط المستمر واستنفاذ الكثير من طاقة الأعضاء في ابعاد قرفنا من أن يتم التحكم بها من قبل مؤسسة سياسية وجعلها تستمر مستقلة، بدأ الهيكل الضعيف للحركة ينكشف.
قرفنا مثل جميع الحركات الاجتماعية والسياسية المعاصرة في السودان، وقعت ضحية لكثير من أمراض المؤسسات السياسية التقليدية. وأبرزها، الاتهامات بأن بعض الناس حول الحركة هم عملاء لجهاز الامن، أو وكلاء لهيئات أخرى، استبعاد بعض الأعضاء في محاولة للحفاظ على حركة أكثر أمنا. هذا المرض المعين أثر على حركة من نمط "فصيلة الأسرة" واستمر لاضعافه.
مع كل تحدياتها، ستظل قرفنا واحدة من أقوى الحركات السياسية في التاريخ المعاصر من السودان ويومًاً ما سوف يكتب تاريخها مع كل عيوبها وانتصاراتها.
عيد ميلاد سعيد قرفنا، وارجو ان تعمر بصحة.

Friday, October 31, 2014

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 in markets, bus-stops, universities and all locations that are heavily populated. Not long after it began, a 17-year old volunteer and an older activist pushed for the movement to organize a public talk. Soon, the movement was organizing informal public talks known as "mokatabat" in markets and bus stations. The talks had a loud echo in Khartoum, creating a buzz around the movement on the neighborhood-level and also online when the videos were posted.

Thirdly, the movement which mostly rallied youth around it, gave the power back to youth, a sector that represents the majority of the nation's population but is usually marginalized inside political institutions and other institutions. 

Girifna grew too fast before its first birthday, it spread all around Sudan, established a website and a social media presence and became known to the public and to the international community.

With fame..comes problems. The movement began suffering from one blow after another, as the main active anti-NCP body during the elections , its members were arrested and intimidated. At one point, with each batch of flyers, a volunteer would get arrested. 

The security crackdowns took their brunt on the movement because the NISS is well-resourced and equipped with an entire office to deal with the so-called "youth movements". However, the main reason remained the structure of the movement that continued to fail it time and time again. 

The movement did a lot of work and changed the face of activism in Sudan, it did what no political institution was able to do in Sudan over the years. It made youth interested in the national cause, interested in Sudan and its future. 

It made activism "cool".

From its onset, Girifna produced a satirical soap video that will continue to inspire the movement for years. It also distributed plastic orange wristbands that were cool and created a brand for the movement, at one point, the movement create orange events where youth would gather on Nile street wearing orange, a color that was branded as the color of resistance.

Girifna had a big role in the social media activism sub-culture that was born in the period post Jan-30 2011, with the invitations to the trials of activists to the political detainees campaigns and recording videos with families of  detainees and with detainees upon their release.

On another note, the movement was unable to sustain itself. Its decentralized structure and its work as a street-based movement made it impossible to secure itself or its members amidst the various security crackdowns. At the end, the movement was based on being out there, on the streets with the public, and this made its members too visible and subjected to detentions. 

Since the beginning, the movement had no leadership which made all the members feel equally in charge and equally involved in the work processes. The movement grew through its work, but its foundation remained weak, almost nonexistent. 
The movement saw in decentralization a system that will keep the work divided amongst its various cells and will secure the members, but the system had flaws. It made a large number of members face the risk of detention without taking into consideration their readiness to do so. Many of the movement's members were with no prior political experience , Girifna was their first experience, meaning they lacked the political training packages provided by more formal political movements on security and dealing with the NISS.

Moreover, the movement couldn't escape the same traditional political parties they rebelled against. From the onset, Girfina was heavily targeted by the government through the NISS as they saw it as a security threat and a body that could spark large-scale protests against it, but more so by the opposition, that sought to dominate the movement through several ways. Firstly, the opposition movement saw in Girifna both a threat and an opportunity, a threat because it was attracting their youth members who were fed up with the bureaucracy of the traditional parties and an opportunity because it was an active body with a real street presence. 
Moreover each party thought of embracing Girifna through supporting it logistically and encouraging their youth members to continue being present in the body. 

Finally, with all this ongoing pressure and the members exhausting a lot of energy to prevent Girifna from being controlled by a political institution and to make it continue being independent, the weak structure of the movement began to unravel.

The movement like all contemporary social and political movements in Sudan began to fall victim to the many diseases of the traditional political institutions. Most prominently, the accusations that some people around the movement are NISS agents or are agents of other bodies and the exclusion of some members in an attempt to keep the movement more secure. This particular disease affected the "family-type" movement and continued to weaken it. 

With all its challenges, Girifna is and will remain one of the most powerful political movements in the contemporary history of Sudan and one day, its history with all its flaws and victories should be written.

Happy Birthday Girifna, may you age well.