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 @

No comments: