Friday, April 27, 2012

When is it worth it?

I was summoned by the journalism police this week because of an article on Awadia Ajabna, a girl shot by the public order police forces right in front of her door step. ( I also published it here -) I was surprised when the editor-in-chief sent me a text message informing me that I have to go to the police on Wednesday , why now? I kept asking myself.

 I wrote this column almost 50 days ago, why are they summoning me now? I ended up going to the interrogation at 2 p.m the next day with a lawyer who is also a friend (who I don't blame for not wanting anything to do with me anymore because of all the drama we bring to him) and a good friend of mine. I'm not going to go into a lot of details here.

In fact I really didn't want to talk about it because I didn't want to escalate the case and to be honest, I shut off from anyone who is not close to me.

But the next day, everything changed and a lot of issues came undone and I felt like ركبته الماسورة.

 Some friends visited me at home and I became certain of just how much her family does not care about her case and are in fact using the case to make money and improve their lives.

I was furious.

My mother was nagging on me telling me that I could serve time if this case goes to court while her family, her own blood, are selling the case. My friends left my house at 11:00 pm on Wednesday night and I was so frustrated. I couldn't go to bed and kept thinking all night- is it even worth it?

 -------Why I was summoned------

 When Ajabna was shot, her murder inspired so many protests in her neighborhood , the Sudanese public was furious and it was not in the interest of the police to take me or any author to court for writing about the case.

 So, we wrote.

 We all wrote about it, expressed our outrage and frustration at the human rights abuses.

We felt empowered by her family's initial reaction, they wanted justice for their murdered sister and we wanted to help them.

 It all happened at Awadia's memorial, it was on 14 April. I spent nearly a month working day and night to collect donations to make this event work out.

We faced a number of challenges and the fact that the event took place is nothing short of a miracle.

 After a speech by Sudanese journalist and feminist, Rasha Awad, who is actually banned from writing in Sudanese newspapers. Hell broke loose, a fight ensued between activists who began chanting " the people want to overthrow the regime" and regime-apologists who accused activists of using this memorial for their own agenda. The thing is, they did not. It just kinda happened.

Awad's speech was so powerful and highlighted the ongoing human rights abuses and all of a sudden, people couldn't contain their anger. The family stepped in and stood against the organizers and the activists, there was a lot of disappointment as the organizers found themselves in the middle of a family struggle. Some family members received money to stop escalating the case, that was obvious to us.

  -------Yes, It is worth it-----

When I went to the police on Wednesday morning, a part of me still felt empowered by the family. At least, two of her brothers could testify if this case goes to court. In fact, when the interrogator asked me if I have a witness from the family. I answereded yes. I felt so sure about that. The next day, I left the house with a friend not sure where I was going.

We ended up in a cafeteria somewhere with three other people talking about my case and Ajabna's family. I expressed my frustration at the family's stance.

 One of my friends, a journalist and activist told me a very touching story.

She has a police case against her dating back to 2009 for an article she wrote on the trial of a fellow journalist. That journalist was granted asylum abroad while the police comes to my friend's house with an arrest warrant every time she angers them with her activism.

 She told me how her mother pressures her and tells her that she ruined her career and life while the journalist enjoys living the high life abroad. After my friend told me this story, I felt horrible for wanting to do the same thing as her family- I decided to not sell the Ajabna case cheap and continue advocating for her.

 When I set out to write my column, the first column I've ever written and published, it wasn't only about Awadia Ajabna, it was about the video girl who was screaming and crying as she was lashed by the police and also about Nadia Saboon, the tea lady who died by accident because she was running away from the public order police.

 Ajabna to me represents an entire cause- the ongoing abuses by the public order police and how as civilians , we are not receiving the protection we deserve.

 I really owe it to Ajabna and Saboon, both martyrs in my opinion, to continue writing about their cases and fighting for their justice even if it comes at a great personal cost. Even if no one else is making noise.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

It Keeps Getting Worse

Picture: Sudanese Police Officers who Occupied the Church Compound and Refused to let us in. My friend, M.S took this picture
I had the most frustrating week. I was frustrated at how the government used the Higleig conflict to market themselves and repackage themselves as nothing but Sudan's saviors and the masters of Islam. It is known that at times of war and uncertainty, people wrap themselves around their leaders, they want to be protected and rescued from this situation. With the government's horrendous track record and their addiction to conflict at the expense of their population's safety and well-being, I don't see why I should be grateful to them that Higleig is no longer an occupied territory. Then yesterday, I head something that made me even more frustrated. An angry mob of extremists attacked the church compound in Jireif. All of a sudden, an ugly scenario played in my head. Sudan keeps getting worse. Southerners have faced discrimination and attacks in the past week because of Higleig and of course the racist propaganda pushed down our throats by the government and the president's uncle, Al-Tayeb Mustafa through his newspaper, Al-Intibaha. So the attack came after an imam in one of the mosques , in collaboration with other imams, instigated the people in the neighborhood to "demolish" the church as Southerners worship there and they no longer have the right to be in Sudan as of April 9th. So, a friend created a Facebook event and we all decided to go to the church at 12 p.m. today to show solidarity and clean-up with our Christian brothers and sisters. 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. is a time where you are not supposed to be out and about in Sudan unless you want to get a sun-stroke. It was scorching hot. We arrived there only to find one police car and a large truck full of soldiers at the entrance. They were condescending , refused to let us in and asked us to get a permit from the police station. So, we needed a permit to enter a damaged church to help out? We refused to leave, but thanks to them, we had to stand at the entrance under the sun and not in the shade. They kept provoking us by asking us to move away and waved their batons at us. So, the "solidarity event" continued. We stood there trying to convince them to let us in, after all, the criminals were allowed inside the compound and the police intervened after all the damage was done and now they can at least let us in to clean up the place and support Sudanese Christians. At 3:30, we managed to get papers and posters ( we did not want to do this in the beginning) and wrote down our thoughts ( We are against religious extremism, Religion is a constitutional right etc) and we stood on the street holding the A4 pieces of paper and posters in an attempt to spread awareness . If the police officers refused to let us do what we set out to do, at least we get our word out to the public. Buses stopped to read the signs and some people showed their support, others drove by not even acknowledging our existence. We were called communists and asked if we are Ethiopians. We stood there for 30 minutes then left, many with throbbing headaches, to go home to our families or get back to work. We left feeling a great responsibility. A responsibility to educate and to prevent the growing extremist movement in Sudan. It doesn't help that the president said that Sudan is now 98% Muslim after secession even though Sudan has a large community of Coptic Christians and Christians in the Nuba Mountains and Abyei and other areas, in addition to the remaining South Sudanese minority.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

My problem(s) with Higleig

Last week, the South Sudanese army entered Higleig, an area in Sudan's South Kordofan state and took total control of it and still controls it as we speak even though Sudan's army claims to be "20 km" and " a few hours" away from "liberating Higleig".

Surely, every Sudanese person was quick to condemn the SPLM for occupying Higleig and they have the right to, since Higleig , as far as we know, is part of Sudan (even though if the citizens of South Kordofan were given the right to hold a self-determination referendum, they would gladly want to become part of South Sudan).

I think before we quickly decide to side with the Sudanese government and the national army for their attempts at taking back a piece of our territory, we should try to understand why this happened in the first place.

-For weeks, the Sudanese air forces bombed Bentiu, the capital of Unity state in South Sudan. As much as they deny it, there is solid proof that they did. hmmmmm....Why would they do that? I think they were just trying to provoke the SPLM. If this is the case, then lets try to understand why.

-As the SPLM was moving towards Higleig, the army forces stationed there were communicating with the leadership of the army and updating them on the situation. The leadership in Khartoum refused to give the forces in Higleig the green light to take action. So, they just sat there and did nothing , until they clashed with the SPLM. I'm not saying that the forces there were powerful enough to stop the advancing SPLM forces, but why were they stopped from taking action?

Jihad Comes to Town

The call for Jihad is everywhere in Khartoum and it is sickening. In newspapers, you see the adverts and you also see posters around the city. Students affiliated with the ruling party are even beating students at universities into submission to... Jihad. (side note: Shouldn't one actually want to go to Jihad? When did Jihad become by force?)

The GOS knows very well that Sudan can not afford this war. The country is drained and it turns out that after South Sudan seceded with 80% of Sudan's oil revenues, the government doesn't have a Plan B. Just ask them about agriculture and they wouldn't even know what to say.

But the point is, the GOS has one aim in life- to stay in power- and it it would do anything to remain in power and this is where it all starts to make sense.

When you are losing popularity and your people can't stand you and are blaming you for everything ( increasing prices/ expensive houses etc), you need to get them on your side. If you can't get them on your side, why not use the "patriotism" card?
And it is working on some level. In the sense that we are all condemning it and supporting the government in their attempts at reclaiming back our "occupied lands" !!!!

On another note, I don't remember South Sudan ever making noise about "Higleig" being part of South Sudan before…why now? Abyei was always contested between the two countries, but Higleig was not. The two countries even went to court over Abyei.
The thing is, South Sudan is pissed off. They shut down their oil production to piss off Sudan because they can not agree on oil transit fees and they will never agree as long as Sudan is asking for so much money.

Higleig is where most of Sudan's oil comes from , so why should Sudan have a stable oil supply while South Sudan can not?

I have so many questions *sigh*

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Call for JIHAD on South Sudan by PDF

I found this gem in a Sudanese newspaper a few days ago. I was shocked and stopped spending one pound on this newspaper that I always had reservations about. What a discussing piece of crap!

Just in case you don't know, the Popular Defense Forces (PDF) is a retarded force initiated by the current Sudanese government during the Sudanese civil war.

It is looking to expand its force by recruiting "jihadists" and if you decide to join, they promise you a pledge with "martyrdom"!

Where is Salah Gosh

Rumors about Gosh been circulating in Khartoum for a long time. Some say Gosh is detained in Kober prison. Some say he was murdered in cold blood. Some say he is in Ethiopia planning a coup. Some say he is under house arrest. The question remains: Where is Salah Gosh? Gosh is the former head of the notorious National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS). In fact , he created this institution and presided over it at a critical time. Thousands were killed and tortured under his watch and he personally interrogated some known activists who know him as Salah "Fourth Floor".

Sunday, April 15, 2012

40 days ago, Awadia Ajabna was killed by Sudan's police

Last week, the death of Awadia Ajabna, a young woman living in Al-Daim  shook Khartoum and the entire country as her relatives and angry youth took to the streets and protested. In a country where human life is cheap and 1.5 million died in the civil war and hundreds of thousands died in Darfur and otherplaces, it was interesting to see how one woman managed to capture the attention of a capital where the majority are apathetic to the suffering in the Sudan outside Central Sudan. 

Why did Awadia Ajabna become a national cause even more than the Manasir protest that went on for over 100 days?

Its surely not because she is a celebrity. Awadia worked in a kindergarten and came from a family that hails from the embattled Nuba Mountains, a periphery within a periphery. Two years ago, she ran in the national elections to represent Al Daim, the neighborhood she lives in, as part of the Sudanese National Labour Party. She was loved by her family and respected by her neighbors, but the way she died became the main source of anger and frustration.

According to her sister, the Public Order Police were patrolling the neighborhood. This police force is notorious and is known for using vague laws to extort money from men and women , they are despised in Sudan. Their main aim is to fight social corruption and they can arrest women for "indecent" clothing and men suspected of consuming alcohol.

Naturally, the meaning of indecent clothing is unclear and it is based on the opinion of the arresting officer. As they patrolled next to the Ajabna house, they stopped her brother and accused him of  being drunk. He was allegedly speaking on the phone and they most probably wanted to bully him into taking his phone as a compromise. The brother in question argued with them when things  heated up, the police forces retreated , but came back larger in number and armed. It remains unclear whether they raided the house, but what we are sure of is that Awadia was shot in the middle of a chaotic situation where a number of officers opened fire on her family and neighbors who are unarmed civilians.

She was killed by the public order police forces. When someone is shot in the head, you can not but say that this was a deliberate act.

Today, Amal Abbas, the veteran journalist and editor, writes in Al-Sahafa that " it is not strange that a civilian dies in front of her house in light of a regime that for two decades has enabled the culture of war and incriminated the other especially women in the practices of the public order police," 

It is also not strange that the public order police is armed. For years, it has degraded women in Sudan by restricting their dress and appearances in the public life and subjected them to public lashings. In 2010, right before the international day for human rights, a video appeared of a woman being lashed, violently.

Toni Morisson, who won the Nobel Prize in Literature, wrote in Newsweek Magazine, that she has seen "many instances of human brutality, but this one was particularly harrowing."
Morisson went on to describe how proud the woman in this video made her feel. She wrote "after each cut of the lash into your flesh, you tried to stand; you raised your body up like a counter-whip. It so moved me to see your reactions; I interpreted them as glimmers of hope, of principled defiance."

Only two years ago, the public order police killed another woman. Nadia Saboon, a simple tea lady was trying to make ends meet in a market in Khartoum. The public order police attacked the tea sellers and poor traders in the area in what is described as a "sweep". She ran for her life, but fell onto a metal stake and bled to death. Saboon died , but her story was not as publicized as Awadia's ordeal.

The difference is, this is the first documented time the public order police kills a woman in the safety of her house, in her comfort zone. 

Awadia's death inspired many protests. For days, youth protested on Sahafa street and inside Al-Daim. They held banners saying that "Awadia is a matryr. They said they want retribution. 

Protestors burned the public order police station in Al-Daim. They say that Ethiopians and tea ladies living there are particularly happy as the police officers working there used to blackmail them and subject them to humiliating abuses. 
The area was turned into a military zone. Police cars and trucks full of armored police officers caught my attention on my way to the funeral. 

The tear-gas was very intense inside alleys. People in Al-Daim say that an old grandmother died as a result of the intense tear-gas. A young girl studying at Sudan University called Omnia is currently being hospitalized as the tear gas bomb hit her on the head during the protest.

I'm particularly fond of Amal Abbas's daily column a few weeks ago, she ended it by saying that " let the events of Al-Daim be a trigger towards total change."

Friday, April 13, 2012

Khartoum panics over fuel shortage fears

Published @

The impact of current hostilities between Sudan and South Sudan are becoming manifest in Khartoum with residents panicking over possible fuel crisis.

Vehicle owners and operators formed a bee line at petrol stations Friday, to replenish their supplies ahead of envisaged shortage.

However, the government said that Sudan had enough oil to cover its needs for months to come, adding that there were functioning oil fields inside the country other than Heglig, which South Sudan had taken control of.

The oilfields of Heglig produce about half of Sudan's total supply.

The Ministry of Petroleum said that Sudan had 10,000 tones of gasoline in storage and had taken all measures to cope with a war scenario.

Similarly, the Governor of Khartoum State, Mr Abdel-Rahman Al-Khider, has asked mosque officials (imams) to use Friday sermons to reassure civilians that their welfare would be guaranteed despite the conflict.

Meanwhile, Sudan Government has accused the opposition parties and movements of masterminding the long lines at petrol stations to create panic, by urging their members to queue at the retail outlets.

Vice-President Al-Haj Adam told the opposition parties that" they will always find petroleum available even if they want to drink it or use it to burn themselves".

South Sudan announced Thursday that it had shut down oil production in Heglig, while Khartoum said it had sufficient oil supplies for its citizens.

Published: Juba and Khartoum defiant over Contested Territory

South Sudan President Salva Kiir. FILE | AFRICA REVIEW |
By MACHEL AMOS in Juba and REEM ABBAS in Khartoum

Posted Thursday, April 12 2012 at 15:05 @

The possibility of Sudan and South Sudan returning to war looked more real Friday as both sides remained defiant over a contested oil-rich region.

South Sudan President Salva Kiir ruled out withdrawal from Heglig, as Khartoum vowed to fight a "war of dignity" with the former to reclaim the lost territory.

South Sudan took control of Heglig from Sudanese forces on Tuesday in fresh clashes with the Khartoum Armed Forces.

The UN and the African Union have called for South Sudan's immediate withdrawal from Heglig.

President Kiir said Khartoum took it as a military weakness when he ordered the troops to refrain from overrunning Heglig last month.

It was not. But we always believed that everything could be resolved by peaceful means, President Kiir stressed.

This time, I said that I would not order the forces to withdraw, said the President, amid applause from a packed House.

He said the decision was not because South Sudan was interested in war, but only wanted to resolve the problem once and for all.

In Khartoum, the minister for Defence, Mr Abdel-Rahim Mohamed Hussein, said that the conflict was part of a plot to "overthrow the regime".

"Taking over the oil-fields is the first step, to be followed by taking over a key town in Southern Kordofan, then taking over Khartoum," he told parliament.

Heglig is part of South Kordofan State where a rebellion against the Khartoum government has raged since last June.

However, the area was also contested with South Sudan because the latter believed that in the 1956 border demarcation, Heglig was part of its Unity State.

Sudan denies the claims and has vowed to reclaim what it considers to be occupied territories.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, in a phone call on Wednesday, urged President Kiir to order his forces to withdraw immediately.

The UN Secretary General gave me an order to immediately withdraw from Heglig. I said I am not under your command, Kiir said, attracting applause.

Withdraw troops

President Kiir accused UN and the international community of being unfair in handling the matters between the two neighbouring states.

Whatever aerial bombardments were being conducted in South Sudan were a violation of our sovereignty. When we report them to the international community, they don't take it as something that concerns them, President Kiir said, arguing that whenever Juba took a step in self-defence, it became a matter of international concern.

"You are not doing justice to all of us," said the South Sudan leader.

"You want to see justice done to Sudan and not South Sudan, and this is unfair."

President Kiir also warned that if his Sudan counterpart Hassan Al-Bashir did not withdraw troops from Abyei, despite international calls to do so, Juba would reconsider it position and possibly return to the contested region.

Meanwhile, Sudan intensified aerial bombardments on Thursday, dropping four rounds of bombs in Bentiu, the capital of Unity State.

Unity State Information minister Gideon Gatpan said a SAF warplane hovered over the area in the morning and dropped the bombs on Rubkona County.

He said the target was oilfields. The army spokesman, Col Philip Aguer, confirmed the bombing, accusing Sudan of provoking a meaningless fighting.

Sudan TV stated Wednesday in a news broadcast that many youths had come forward to join the armed forces to get back their country's lost territory.

In another development, a Sudanese parliamentarian has donated $374,000 (1 million pounds) to support the war efforts against South Sudan.

Sudan has filed a complaint against South Sudan at the UN Security Council and asked the Security Council to pressure Juba into retreating from its territory.

"Sudan has full rights in international law and UN documents to respond to this attack on Sudan's peace and unity," said Khartoum's UN ambassador Dafallah Al-Haj Ali

A presidential aide, Mr Abdel-Rahman Al Mahdi; said that "Sudan will not fold its hands while Heglig is occupied and will work to get back its territories that were raped as an act of self defence".

Friday, April 6, 2012

Sudan Youth Skip the Party

Unlike youths his age in other countries, 21-year-old Hamid Khalafallah, who lives in Khartoum, does not attend house parties.

"You never know when the sweep will strike," says the Sudanese Engineering student.

Sweep, also known as kasha in Sudan, are regular operations carried out by a special force called the Public Order Police to arrest beer drinkers and those engaging in 'other immoral acts'.

The force is a well-oiled state machinery that fights corruption of morals.

Launched after the current government came to power in a bloodless coup in 1989, the force is spread across the country.

From arresting "indecently dressed women" to cracking down on mixed sex house parties and tea ladies in markets, the public order forces use vague laws and their right to arrest and try the accused on the spot.

Even though Khalafallah has never been arrested at a party, he, just like most of his peers, was aware of the risk. He says that the "sweep" happens at least once a month.

A 19-year-old student, who calls himself DJ Biggie, has a different experience. He began partying four years ago and has been arrested several times.

Recently, while at a party in Riyadh, a suburb of Khartoum, the Public Order Police emerged and arrested him together with other guests.

"I was lucky I knew someone who could get me out before I was tried and fined," he recalls.

Although he was roughed up on the way to the police station, he was later freed. His friend wasn't as lucky.

"When they arrested my friend, they beat him really bad and shaved off his dreadlocks," says DJ Biggie.

Siha, a regional organisation working on women's issues, explains that the Public Order articles of the 1991 Sudanese criminal code emphasised "restrictions on women’s dress, conduct and manner of social interaction".

International attention

In 2009, a Sudanese journalist Lubna Hussein made international headlines and inspired a nationwide campaign against the Public Order laws when she refused to receive "40 lashes" for wearing indecent clothing.

Ms Hussein was arrested in a cafe while she was attending a concert along with other girls. And the arrests continue.

Recently, a crackdown by the same police force on a private party in an apartment in Khartoum led to the trial of a number of youth for adultery.

M.M.A, a youth activist who followed the case, observed that the Public Order laws were so flawed that the youth chose to be tried for adultery and get lashed instead of the actual crime they were accused of. His full name cannot be revealed for fear of reprisals by the force.

"Initially, they were arrested for the intention to commit adultery, even though it was just a party. Such a charge would send them to prison for a month and require them to pay a hefty fine, so they chose the easier way out," he said.

The easier way out was to be tried for adultery.

During the same week,, a young woman, Ms Awadia Ajabna, was shot dead by the Public Order Police forces after they accused her brother of consuming alcohol.

Ms Ajabana was caught up in the middle of the chaos.

Her death inspired a wave of condemnation against the police force that many hope will stop their arbitrary arrests and mistreatment.

published @