Friday, February 17, 2012

University of Khartoum raid; Sudan govt takes suppression to new level

KHARTOUM: About 500 University of Khartoum students were beaten with batons, forced out of the dorms into police trucks and detained at 4 a.m today following a raid on the dorms. I received a message from a student activist and student from the dorm at 9 a.m. telling me that he was arrested and is kept at the Souq Mahali police station in Khartoum with friends.

Volunteer lawyers and activists are currently working on securing their releasing students on bail. Students could face charges ranging from “causing public nuisance” and “disturbing public safety” which they could be made to face in court. A lawyer has said that some students were released on bail, but it is still unclear whether they are able to go back to the dorms.

The Sudan government has been cracking down on activism on the university for a while. On 22 December 2011, at least 700 students from the University of Khartoum marched on a solidarity protest with Manasir students to protest the lack of action on the Manasir cause. The Manasir, an ethnic group from Northern Sudan, has engaged in a sit-in strike, 300 km from Khartoum since November 2011 to protest their displacement as a result of the Merowe Dam and the lack of compensation.

Peaceful student protestors faced a heavy crackdown from the police forces. At least 70 students were arrested as a result and dorms were vandalized and raided by police forces on that same day.

On Sunday, 25th of December 2011, Khartoum University students began a week-long protest and sit-in that attracted anywhere between 10,000 to 16,000 students to protest police brutality, the administration’s position on the police forces entering the campus and arresting students and they also demanded that students are compensated for loses.

The sit-in was organized and attracted a lot of support from students who united on a common cause. However, on Thursday the 29th of December, the university administration announced that it would suspend studies until further notice.

Consequently the authorities closed down the university and arrested student activists such as Taj Al Sir Gaafar and Muhammed Idris Jeddo on 30 December 2011. The students remain in detention. The University of Khartoum was instrumental in the 1964 and the 1985 revolutions in Sudan.

There has been shrinking space for freedom of expression since Arab Spring uprisings in neighbouring North African nations began in late 2010. The government of Sudan has tightened the noose on youth and opposition groups that are calling for change as well as cracked down on independent media. Since July 2011, 8 newspapers have been suspended by the security forces. Many opposition parties have members in detention.

Since early 2011 when the Arab Spring began, opposition groups have publicly called for regime-change as the only way forward for Sudan. President Bashir who heads the current ruling party, the National Congress Party, came to power in 1989 after staging a military coup and overthrowing a democratically-elected government. Since then, Sudan has been embroiled in violent conflicts.

The Manasir strike is one of the grievances that are uniting the Sudanese populace in their search fro reform

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