Friday, February 17, 2012

Youth groups pressure Sudan government over rape and torture

Last January, as South Sudanese overwhelmingly voted for secession, what remained of Sudan was going through political and social transformation. There had been small-scale protests since the government of Omar Al Bashir, a military dictatorship, took over in June 1989 but January 2011 was different.

Not only did the 2011 protests call for change, they also encompassed a wider range issues affecting the Sudanese public.

When youth movements began emerging in 2011, they attracted the upper middle class, a section of society that had earlier distanced itself from the national issue and politics.

In December 2010, the Tunisian revolution took off and the government was overthrown, the following month calls on social media websites such as Facebook for change were getting louder in Sudan. As the revolution was unfolding in Egypt,the calls for mass protests became heard.

The protests were led by youth groups, notably Girifna (We are Fed Up) and Youth for Change (known as Sharara). Girifna was founded in late 2009 and was mobilizing the public against the ruling party before and during the Sudanese elections in April 2010.

It was founded by students and young activists who were fed-up with the government and wanted change. From day one, Girifna called for the overthrow of the Sudanese government through peaceful and non-violence means. The group communicates at the grass root level through public debates and events and also in the virtual world through its Facebook groups, twitter, Youtube channels and a regularly updated website.

Youth for Change (also known as Sharara) began in 2010 and has gained popularity through its heavy online presence and organizing the January 2011 protests known as the “2011 revolution protests”.

One of their Facebook events for the protest managed to attract over 10,000 youth.

H.K, a young university student joined the Jan 30 protest.

“I took food and clothes with me in a bag and put them in the trunk of my car, I was prepared to stay the night, we wanted it to become a Tahrir square,” said H.K

There were ongoing changes on the meeting points as organizers chose streets instead of a big square like Jackson square which made protestors an easier target as police forces surrounded them and blocked side streets. Amnesty international said that at least 150 protestors were arrested.

Many youth were detained for a few days to about two weeks. Some reported torture and even sexual assault at the custody of the police forces.

A young activist arrested in Khartoum North in January 2011 reported beatings, electrocutions, sleep deprivation and other horrendous forms of torture. He was kept there for nearly 50 days and came out with a chronic back injury and complaints about his knees.

In mid-February as other protests were taking place in Khartoum and its twin cities, Safia Ishaq, a young female activist affiliated with Girifna was kidnapped by a number of men and taken to one of the security services premises.

In a case that has received public outcry, Ishaq released a testimony that was published in late February last year. She states that she was gang-rapped by three security men who also beat her, insulted her and later dumped her on the side of a road.

She recorded a video where she told her story and subsequently became the first Sudanese woman to publicly come out and speak about sexual assault by the Security organ. The video has attracted over 100,000 views so far. After the incident, Ishaq had to flee Sudan as the security service was looking for her for speaking out against the sexual assault.

Girifna continue to raise the issue of rape of Ishaq and call for justice for all sexual violence that has been committed by Sudanese security forces against many Sudanese women.

“A year ago, a young Sudanese woman was violated and many more women were silenced through fear of sexual assault. Many people stood by her side and continue to face consequences for that,” read a statement from the the group, “we will never forget Safia. We will continue to peacefully resist the current regime and after Sudan’s revolution, we will push for a fair investigation and hold her rapists accountable”

Girifna has also petitioned the government of Sudan over detentions of activists affiliated to their group. Most youth activists are being held incommunicado for weeks and in some cases months.

In January 2012, at least 10 activists from Girifna and Youth for Change were arrested and detained from a few days to up to two weeks. Other students and youth activists such as Taj Al Sir Gaafar, Muhammed Idris Jeddo and Ibrahim Majzoub remain in detention since December 2011.

published @

No comments: