Tuesday, July 10, 2012

#SudanRevolts - post 2 (late June) -My friends are detained

This week, I went to meet Rashaida Shams Al-Deen , an activist with
the Girifna movement. I met her in South Khartoum to discuss helping
protestors access lawyers. We met for only 20 minutes and I remember
commenting that she was wearing a very beautiful dress.

The next day, all of her phones are off. I found out a few hours
later that Rashaida was arrested. The details of her arrest are very
little. We know that she was in the Amarat area at about 9:30 p.m, she
was not seen since then. Yesterday night, a source told me that she is
being held by the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS)
in Omdurman.

Last Friday, during a protest in Khartoum, another friend, Usama
Mohamed was picked up by the police then taken by the NISS. Just a few
days earlier, he had appeared on Al-Jazeera English and talked about
his participation in the June 30 protests.

Arrests are too common in Khartoum nowadays. You find lists of
detainees circulating online and you can’t help but recognize many
names. Some are activists, journalists and some are even family or

A few days ago, I was shocked when I found out that one of my cousins
was arrested in one of Khartoum protests. Sudan has been rocked by
nation-wide protests for ten days now. Initially, the protests came
out of the University of Khartoum culminating in nation-wide protests
on Friday 22 June 2012 where hundreds were arrested and major clashes
happened with the police.

This cousin has no political affiliation and is not an activist, but
in the span of a few hours, his life has completely changed.
His laptop and phone were confiscated and unfortunately, a work
colleague saw him getting arrested and although his work facilitated
his release from detention, he received a warning and had the company
car confiscated from him.

Like other protestors who were detained, he has a court case against
him and is at risk of receiving a lashing sentence or a hefty fine.
There is so much at stake when you decide to go out to protest in
Sudan. I was told about a young man in Al-Daim neighborhood who was
caught lightening a tire during a protest which is a common act of
defiance in which protestors light tires to stop traffic then go on to

The young man was given a 6 month suspended sentence meaning that if
he is caught in another protest, he will serve jail time.
Many of the protestors who have a case opened against them upon arrest
are charged with public disturbance and receive 20 to 60 lashes or ask
asked to pay a fine. Sometimes this fine is unofficial and it becomes
a bribe.

The arrests are ongoing, losing friends and colleagues to detentions
are becoming part a personal sacrifice amidst what is happening. With
each passing day, the arrests are coming closer to home.

When my best
friend, Maha El-Sanosi, was arrested this week, I received a call
from her sister while armed security agents were raiding her house and
taking her with them. She conveyed a message : Reem, she is telling
you to leave now.

I remember as a kid , we played this game when we were asked to state
the five items we will take with us incase we have to evacuate our
house in five minutes.

In less than five minutes, I packed one dress, a towel, my pajamas and
in my small bag, I took my laptop , passport, a bag of chocolate and a
box of oatmeal brought to me the same night by a friend.

I got into the car with my uncle. A few days before, my car was
attacked by a man I later found out has links to the NISS, but we had
to leave fast and he drove the car with shattered windows.

We drove for less than ten minutes when I asked my uncle to take me
back home. I felt that escaping is pointless and I felt guilty that my
best friend was going through all of this alone. I couldn’t get myself
to stay at anyone’s house and bring trouble to their doorstep.

I received so many calls and messages asking me to leave and
convincing me that it is better for me to be somewhere else and continue
writing. We went back home, parked the car and then I spoke to my
father whose soothing voice and logic convinced me. He told me that
because we are doing a lot at such a critical time and in order to
continue working, I need to live.

My friend came into the house at this point and told me that another
friend was waiting for us. I was going to stay at the house of distant

I arrived there at about 1:30 a.m. I began co-writing a statement
about my best friend’s arrest and tweeting and sending emails to media
contacts. She was finally released a little after 3 a.m. and asked to
come back tomorrow morning for an interrogation.

I spoke to her before I went to bed and it was apparent that many big
men were scared of two girls in their early twenties.

No comments: