Sunday, May 19, 2013

Doctor Sara Told me Stories of Abuse

Doctor Sara sits in a pharmacy in one of Omdurman's neighborhoods, not far from Ahfad's University for Women. She interacts with people every few minutes, asks about their problems, takes the doctors prescription, hands them the requested medicine…. She makes jokes with her patients and giggles when they are nervous or exhausted. The young pharmacist is also an activist, she is interested in issues that affect our lives, issues that affect women. 

When I talked to her friends at the clinic where the pharmacy was located about sexual harassment, they laughed and called such matters "Sara's issues", they are really her issues. Sara documents stories of sexual harassment in her head, taking mental notes and carrying out in-depth interviews with the women she meets on a daily basis. She said she wants to do so much more, but she has little time. I told her I will go with her, we could go undercover to one of the factories where biscuits are made and uncover the sexual harassment there. We agreed to wear torn tours and to gain the trust of the women there before we collect their stories. 

We had many cups of juice today and sweet tea in her pharmacy and later inside the clinic where she told me many stories she documented. I took down many notes, almost filling my notebook. 

Story one: "Everyday, a different one picks me"

Fathia* came to Sara a year ago. A 40 year old women who was working at one of the factories. She complained about "pain in her stomach". 

Sara: she told me , there is something moving inside my stomach. After a few questions, I transferred her to a specialist in the clinic . 

This is where Fathia's story began with Sara and Sara's stories began with women and men working in factories. She became curious about  them, asking around, what happens to them? is the sexual harassment really that bad there?

Fathia's father remains unknown, but we know for sure that he does not live in Khartoum state. Her mother died and Fathia now lives with her mother's husband who is referred to as "Uncle- AlKhal". She told the doctor that he is a "women thief" and he comes at night. She didn't speak clearly about him, but it is clear that she was the victim of abuses within the family, did the "Khal" sleep with her? Is it possible that Fathia, from a simple family and uneducated, is even aware and is able to comprehend what has happened to her.

Fathia works at a factory and factories are the site of grave cases of sexual harassment . 

Sara: I asked a young boy who just took his high school examination about the factories… he comes by every now and then. I asked him because during the summer breaks, he does menial jobs including working in factories. He told me, innocently "ya Dr. don't remind me if I remember, I will not feel well…these people live together like they are married, they don't even shower after that, she told me…laughing at his sheer innocence.

Sara wondered what could have happened to this young man. young boys are usually at risk of sexual harassment just like women, especially in poverty and oppressive situations and the lack of awareness that plagues our society

When the doctor examined Fathia he found her 10 weeks pregnant. 

He asked: are you married? Who does the baby belong to?

Even Sara spoke to her, and she told her I don't know who the father is..they are a lot.

"Everyday, a different one picks me," said Fathia, putting it simply.

Working in factories happens in shifts, there is the scary shift which is 8 pm to 8 am. It remains unclear whether all factories offer a private place for women workers to rest …and if there is supervision especially at night when the shift has less people and generally, more men than women.

Fathia wanted an abortion, in her lack of awareness, it was clear that the harassment she was subjected to from "Al-Khal" made her confused and a target for further exploitation.

Fathia vanished and didn't come back to Sara…

Sara: did she abort the baby? What did "the khal" do? Did she leave to a faraway place to raise the baby somewhere where none knows her?

Sara continues to wonder and so did I.

Story Two: "this factory is suspicious"

When the doctor began investigation the kind of sexual harassment happening to women at factories, she discovered dark some, factories are like "houses for prostitutes"

Sara: there was a lady I spoke to, she said that biscuit and sweets factories are the worst with high rates of sexual harassment and sexual exploitation….but one factory (hint: it does not make biscuits or sweets) is looked at as :suspicious". 

This factory hires girls according to "physical traits" other words..they want pretty girls with nice bodies…the girl who works there is considered "a slut"…and in the society of factories and factory-workers, this is a known fact.

In Sudan, people gossip about such issues, but are silent about taking action, but then again, the society will blame girls working there….

"Why are they working there if they don't accept what happens to them," they will say…

So many girls working in the factories are "day-by-day workers", in other words, they earn money on a  daily basis and many are living in crippling poverty even to the standards of a third world country.

The need to make a living makes a woman go everyday and work long hours and shut her mouth when she is subjected to sexual harassment….

On the public transportation on the way back to her house, she is thinking about what to do to stop this exploitation without getting fired…there are so many unemployed people, if they fire a woman, they won't have a hard time finding another woman…it is a vicious cycle of never-ending abuse…

Economic and social conditions force women to tolerate a lot, they always say that poverty knows no dignity. They ask why the girls are silent, do they accept it? 
I assure you, silence is not "a sign of acceptance"…in this case, it is a sign of the quiet daily struggle to eat.

Story Three: My daughter is fine, she has no problem

Dr.Sara told me a rape story…as usual in Sudan, the victim of rape is a little girl. Rapping children has become nothing short of an epidemic, fast-spreading and as a society, with our lack of awareness and our fear of "the scandal and the fact that your girl will be shamed into spinsterhood", we find ourselves implicated in this crime.

Because ya 3mo, your daughter is not fine and she does have a problem..

Lets take our heads out of the sand and listen…

Sara: I saw the girl as she was crying and screaming, her mother was trying to force her out of the raksha and into the  clinic (which the pharmacy is part of)

The mother in all honesty told the doctor, my daughter has vaginal secretions

The doctor was astonished…"your daughter is 6 years old, this can not happen..I will examine here."

The girl was made to lie down and the doctor began examining her, it was not even a thorough examination because it was clear, the crime scene was evident. She was "open" and there were signs that she had been engaged in sexual intercourse for over a year.

The mother didn't know what happened to her daughter and the doctor could not tell her so she does not panic and leave.

"Madam does your girl play in the streets a lot," asked the doctor

"No, she doesn't leave the house," said the mother.

"Do you have youth in the house, who else is staying besides you and her father," asked the doctor, attempting to reveal the criminal, the rapist.

"Her uncles, my husband's two brothers are here with us, they are studying at the university," answered the mother, in all innocence.


At that moment, I remembered the statistics that reveal that 80% of sexual harassment and rape cases happen within someone's house..I've heard about the woman who killed her brother for rapping her baby…and the girl who did …everything…with her uncle who lives with them.

The problem is not the fact that Sudanese people are kind and they open their houses to their families. The problem is that "family are supposed to be good", they are not supposed to subject you to this harassment…Don't they said that " العز اهل"

The problem is we don't supervise our youth and understand the problems that result from the oppression they live in…

The problem is that the mother of the child after she was taken to another doctor...switched off her phone and when the doctor called on the cellphone of the girl's father, he told her "my daughter is fine and she has no problem" and hung up.

The problem is..the girl will grow up and understand what has happened to her and will hate her family who failed to change her reality even when they knew.

Are her uncles still staying with them? Was she physically

I wonder

Story Four: My friend did not die from a scorpion, she died from a doctor

When I was sitting with Dr. Sara, a doctor from the clinic passed by and listened to our conversation….. She then said that the ladies inside the clinic's lab are discussing similar stories. She asked us to come and went with her to listen.

We listened.

A young doctor who works at one of Omdurman's hospitals said that:

"We had an Ethiopian domestic worker for three years, all of a sudden, her health deteriorated and she became very tired, I took her to the clinic for some tests, there was nothing strange. Then one day, she came up to me and said: I want to test my urine". I was trying to understand so I kept asking her questions."

She said "I stopped getting my period and I wanted to know if I am pregnant

I got her the pregnancy test and we did it at home. It was positive, she was pregnant.

I told her, "your husband and children are in Ethiopia and you need a man…how did this happen, you are only here or at the other house with your friends."

She found out that the lady got to know the mechanic whose shop is a few steps away from their house and instead of going to the Ethiopian house to see her friends, she went to Thawra - Hara 29 and she stayed with him on weekends.

The doctor remembered: she came to me after that and asked to borrow money, 300 pounds to be exact , when I asked why, she said she wants an abortion.

I told her: where will u have it?

"There is an Ethiopian doctor with a Sudanese lady assistant in Om-bada," she told her.

"How did you find him?" I asked

"He did the surgery for "-----"," She answered

"Isn't she your friend who was stung by a scorpio and died"

"She was not stung by a scorpio, she died at his clinic" she answered.

The woman came to Sudan to work and send her family back a decent amount of money, this pregnancy simply ruins her plan…

1) she has no family to baby-sit this baby

2) how will she take back the baby to Ethiopia? 

She was ready to try her luck with the doctor in Ombada, women go to him for a way out of their problems, he lets them out of their misery once and for all…She could die..

The woman disappeared. 

The doctor spoke to her a few months ago and she told her  that she is now a tea-lady.

Is the baby with her? Is she raising him? Did she tell his father?

The doctor wanted to confront he "father".

"He could easily…deny it…deny her and deny everything, it will be his word against hers"

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Sudan's shift from print to online newspapers

Bringing together journalists banned from writing in newspapers, Al-Taghyeer offers a chance for greater freedom online

In July 2011, while South Sudan was celebrating its independence, National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) officers walked into Ahjras Al-Hurriya, a daily newspaper, in Khartoum, and closed it down. They told the staff that since the newspaper has foreign, in this case South Sudanese, investors, it is prohibited from publishing. The newspaper’s license was taken away a month later, not giving it space to challenge the decision of closure.
Rasha Awad was the head of the political section at the newspaper at the time. A month later, she became a columnist in Al-Jareeda, an independent daily newspaper.  But that did not last long.
Awad was stopped from writing in early 2012.  While the NISS does not legally stop journalists from publishing, it issues directives to newspapers asking them to stop a certain journalist writing if they want to avoid confiscations of newspaper issues or even closure.
By the end of 2012, the list of journalists not allowed to write in Sudanese newspapers grew to at least fifteen.
Some of them found other professions, or took on editing roles in newspapers, some decided to take matters into their own hands and start their own newspaper, an electronic newspaper.
On World Press Freedom Day, Al-Taghyeer, an electronic newspaper, was launched. The newspaper’s name, which means “Change,” is enough to make the government uneasy, its byline reads “Our Bet is on the People,” and the newspaper’s writers, although known for their excellent reporting, are names that have been stopped from writing, detained and even tortured, or had lost their jobs due to newspapers closing down or cutting back on staff.
“Journalism should seek to create positive change in the society,” said Awad who is an editor at Al-Taghyeeradding that “the newspaper seeks to be professional in its reporting, but biased in shedding light on topics that are not covered in mainstream media.”
Awad said that in covering wars, corruption or human rights, they have to cover all sides in their reports, and this is where their professional abilities play a role; it is not about the topics they cover, it is about how they cover them.
The newspaper has attracted journalists such as Abu-Zar Al-Ameen who was detained and tortured for over a year, Khalid Fadul, who was banned from writing last year, veteran journalist and columnist, Faisal Mohamed Salih and Stella Getiano, a South Sudanese journalist and writer who was a staple in Sudanese newspapers before moving to Juba in 2012.
Now in its second week, the newspaper has covered the conflicts and political developments in Sudan, the displacement that will be caused by the dams in East and Central Sudan. It also distinguished itself by having a profile, a gender and a youth section, which are the kind of sections disappearing from other newspapers.
Salah Ammar who is in charge of the newspaper’s youth section said that it seeks to publish stories that touch on their readers’ concerns.
“85% of our readers so far are from Khartoum, although we think that the parameter of Khartoum could include the states that are bordering Khartoum. We also have an 80% readership in the 23-34 age-group on Facebook,” he told Doha Centre for Media Freedom.
Ammar added that although stories that are focused on one region or a state outside Khartoum are very difficult to research and write, they usually have low readership.
“In all cases, we are focused on bringing in the stories of Sudan’s periphery because they are important although the readers want national stories not local stories,” added Ammar who wrote an exclusive investigate piece citing that 150,000 face displacement in the states of Kassala and Gedarif in East Sudan due to dams.
Al-Taghyeer took six months to get up and running; the website was designed, the authors were attracted and many meetings took place to discuss the editorial line of the newspaper as well as to discuss the myriad of security problems that the newspaper could face.
“From the beginning, we decided that our articles will be professional and accurate to avoid any legal hurdles, but, if we face any other troubles, we will pursue peaceful advocacy like we always do,” said Awad.
Discouraging Experiences
The early 2000s saw an increase in online Sudanese newspapers. The website Sudanese-Online was already popular when two new online newspapers, Sudanile and Al-Nilin came into the picture in 2000 and 2001 respectively.
In 2003, a non-profit English-language newspaper called Sudan Tribune was launched from France. Then came Hurriyat and Al-Rakoba which were quickly branded as “opposition” newspapers.
Although they were already familiar with the problems faced by online newspapers from financial hurdles to harassment to blocking by the National Telecommunications Corporation (NTC), the staff of Al-Taghyeer held discussions with other electronic newspapers.
“We found the experience of Sudanile the most relevant to us because it is based in Sudan while the other websites are based abroad,” said Awad.
In a cafe in Khartoum, Tariq Al-Gizouli, the founder and editor-in-chief of Sudanile spoke about his frustrating experience in running one of Sudan’s top online newspapers, solely due to financial pressures and lack of advertisements.
“We started with a staff of 15, but slowly, people left due to lack of revenue. People think Sudanile is an institution, in fact Sudanile has one employee - myself,” said Al-Gizouli adding that every time he pursues an advertiser and manages to get advertisement, they pull out due to pressure from authorities.
Sudanile is the embodiment of challenge; Al-Gizouli uses personal resources to keep it moving and the end result is a balanced newspaper that attracts some of the biggest names in Sudanese journalism.
“Because I live in Sudan, I have a specific legal position, so I go through all articles for accuracy because I am directly responsible for the content. Sometimes I feel that if I leave, I will have more freedom to runSudanile, in a less stressful environment,” said Al-Gizouli who still gets summoned by NISS and receives messages to remove content.
Sudanile along with Hurriyat and Al-Rakoba have been subjected to hacking and even blocking. Sudanile has been hacked nine times, and on certain occasions, the hackers managed to close the website down for a number of days.
In October 2011, hackers entered Sudanile’s website through Al-Gizouli’s Facebook account. Calling themselves the “Sudan Cyber Army,” the hackers put the logo of the Republic of Sudan on the website and damaged many files, targeting the articles of specific authors.
When Al-Gizouli went to the electronic crimes unit in Khartoum North and to the NTC, he was told the website is a “.com” and not “.sd”, in other words, the NTC could only track hackers if the website was locally-hosted.
“Things escalated when the hacker hacked the server of my host in the US and my host sent me the address and phone number of the building where the hacking took place,” recalled Al-Gizouli.
His case came to a dead-end and he was told to stop pursuing it, but the hackers learned their lesson. Next time, in 2012, the website was hacked from India and Ukraine making Al-Gizouli even more confused about pursuing legal procedures.
Why the online crackdown?
The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) estimates that 10% of the population in Sudan had internet access by December 2011. However, this statistics does not take into account the 26.3 million cell-phone subscriptions out of a population of 34 million.
Daily internet rates are as low as 1 SDG ($0.17) a day, enabling students and youth to access the internet from their phone.
Following the closures of newspapers such as Al-Midan, the Communist Party’s Mouthpiece, Rai Al-Shab, the mouthpiece of the Popular Congress Party as well as the independent Ahjras Al-Hurriya, and Al-Tayar and the long-term suspension of Alwan and Al-Jareeda, journalists had no choice but to enter the digital age quickly, hoping that their traditional readers would cyber-locate them and that they would be able to attract youth readers.
In 2012, the editor-in-chief and managing editor of Hurriyat, El-Hag Warrag and Abdel-Moniem Suleiman were awarded the Oxfam Nobin/PEN award for persecuted writers who continue working.
“Our plan of action is if we face security issues, we will not compromise on our editorial line,” Awad told DCMF.
Al-Gizouli also said that he is not planning to compromise, even when different bodies tempt him with steady advertisements if he censors the published articles.

First Published-

Sudan Nile Dam Threatens To Drown Nubian Villages

KHARTOUM, Sudan — On the morning of June 13, 2007, Mohamed Fageer Sid-Ahmed spent one hour convincing his mother that he needed to participate in a protest taking place later that day to protect his land.

Osman Ibrahim Holding Booklet on Massacre

His mother was adamantly against the idea — he was her only child after all — but he won the argument and joined the protest. Thousands of Nubian women and men protested that day from different towns and villages that would be affected by the Kajbar Dam, a dam project proposed by the Sudanese government in the mid-1990s.

The protesters marched to the dam site to protest; after being hit by heavy tear gas, all of a sudden, live bullets were fired and Sid-Ahmed was the first victim to fall to the ground.
“He was shot in the back. At the time, he was giving water to the protesters, but police forces shot at the protesters from up the mountains,” said Osman Ibrahim, the secretary-general of the Higher National Committee to Resist the Kajbar Dam, in an interview with Al-Monitor.
With tears in his eyes, Ibrahim told the story of Sid-Ahmed and the story of his activism against the Kajbar Dam since 1995.
Ibrahim hails from Nubia, an area that stretches from northern Sudan to southern Egypt and dates back thousands of years.

When Egypt built the High Dam in the 1960s, tens of thousands of Nubians in Egypt and Sudan were displaced. In Sudan, they were resettled in an area far away from the Nile, the bloodline of their community.

“I feel that there is a conspiracy against Nubians, the government wants to get rid of us, they think we are all Communists,” said Ibrahim.

The government of Sudan stated through Yousef Tahir Qureshi, an adviser to the governor of Northern state, that the dam will generate 360 megawatts of electricity.

Qureshi told the Sudan News Agency (SUNA) earlier this month that two large-scale agricultural projects will be established and services will be offered to those resettled.
The head of the anti-dam committee, Ezzeldeen Idris, told Al-Monitor that it is unclear how many villages will drown.

“The dam implementation unit failed to provide us with a feasibility study that tells us how high the dam will be, so we can't clearly say how many villages will be submerged,” said Idris, who lives in Fareeg, one of the villages threatened.
Sometimes government officials make revealing statements about the dam, helping Nubians to estimate the extent of the damage.

“Qureshi said that the drowned area is 180 kilometers (112 miles), which means from Kajbar to Al-Guld, which is 25-30 kilometers from Dongola, the capital of Northern state,” Ibrahim said.
Arif Gamal, a Nubian scholar now teaching at the University of California at Berkeley, wrote on that in 1964, as Nubians were being transported by train from their soon-to-be submerged villages, one woman left the train and ran back to the village. There was confusion on board for some time, and then as people were preparing to follow her, they saw her coming back. She went to lock her house, she told everyone.

The woman's house was locked, but soon submerged in water. Half a century later, Nubians refuse to go through the same ordeal.

“What is happening is seriously making us think about secession, why would we want to be in a state that wants to drown our villages along with our culture and history?” Ibrahim asked, bitterly.
Ibrahim was detained for a month in a wave of arrests of Nubian activists following the 2007 protest. He spent a year in detention in the 1970s for political activism when he was a student.
Now in his late 60s, he walks around with a file full of statements by the committee, pictures of the protests and what the committee calls the “Kajbar massacre.”

The police center in Kajbar refused to open the complaint into the 2007 killings, so activists took the struggle to the international community through Rescue Nubia, a Washington-based organization led by Nubians in diaspora.

After the 2007 incident, the government grew silent about the dam project, before speaking again about the ambitious $1.5 billion project financed by China.

Even with the attractive development projects proposed by the authorities, the Nubians oppose the dam because it will drown their history and disperse a group of people whose identity is tied to this land.

“If they want to give us services in exchange for the dam, they are too late, we already built a hospital and are building a secondary school for girls now in Fereeg,” Idris said, adding that the residents have also sustained a collective agriculture project since the 1950s through donations.
For the Nubians, the experience of the Manasir, an ethnic group displaced by the Merowe Dam — a multibillion dollar project completed in 2010 — makes them hesitant to even consider the Kajbar Dam.

After waiting for compensation for years, 1,500 men from the Manasir took matters into their own hands and went to El-Damer, the capital of River Nile state, 300 kilometers (190 miles) from Khartoum, and organized a sit-in that lasted three months.
Although other groups were also affected, the Manasir were the most affected and were kept waiting for government compensation.

The protesters demanded to be compensated; finally, a delegation from the government signed a memorandum of understanding with the Manasir in March 2012. 
“The agreement is on paper, but the reality is we have not been compensated for our land. We want to be resettled around the lake, but the government wants to resettle us far away,” said Al-Rashid Al-Affendi, of the Executive Committee of the Manasir People Affected by the Merowe Dam, in an interview with Al-Monitor.

Affendi added that the only compensation received was for the lost palm trees since they represented a large resource for the Manasir.

Peter Bosshard, the policy director at International Rivers, a US-based environmental and human rights organization that published reports on Kajbar Dam, said that this is an international test case.
“The Kajbar Dam is an international project, and international actors — particularly from China — share a responsibility for it. The human rights violations caused by the Merowe Dam have tarnished the reputation of the Chinese companies and financiers involved in the project,” Bosshard said in an email interview with Al-Monitor.

The European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights filed a complaint against two executives at Lahmeyer International GmbH, a German engineering company that was a consultant in the Merowe Dam project.

In the villages of Nubia that will be affected by the dam, electricity is not available the whole day, but the citizens there confirm that there are many other ways to generate electricity other than the dam.
“Our area is very hot, they could try providing us with solar energy,” said Idris.
Bosshard agreed.

“Sudan has a solar energy potential and a big wind energy potential that is much less damaging than the Kajbar Dam and other projects on the Nile.”

First Published:

Saturday, May 4, 2013

The new press law: violations and restrictions or transformation and freedom?

Recently, Rishan Oshi, received a job offer from a newspaper in Khartoum.  The young journalist, whose last job was working as an editor for Al-Tayar before it was closed down by the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) for unknown reasons last summer, was very excited about getting back to work.
The negotiations with the newspaper were underway when the newspaper backtracked, one of the editors working there objected to hiring her claiming that Rishan is a NISS target.  He called her “trouble”.
“Last June, we received a phone-call from the NISS, telling us that Al-Tayar is suspended, we were told that they still don’t know the reasons,” Oshi told DCMF.
Al-Tayar’s staff still doesn’t know the reasons. After months of protesting and campaigning for their newspaper, they began looking for other job opportunities during the worst period for journalism in Sudan and for job opportunities in the journalism field.
Last year, the crackdown on the press in Sudan resulted in financial losses for newspapers in Sudan due to low advertisements and confiscations of entire issues of newspapers at printing houses, as well as an unstable work environment for journalists who are left unpaid for months.
Over fifteen journalists were stopped from writing directly by the NISS, while others such as Oshi are isolated until “readers forget their names and they are out of the market,” as she puts it.
A new press law – the worst in years?
Last December, the press woke up for another day of fighting to survive, to find the parliament debating a new press law.
“The press laws were proposed at a time when the country is going through a constitution-making process.  It makes sense to finalise the constitution before focusing on press laws,” said Faisal Al-Bagir, a journalist and a press freedom activist.
Al-Bagir, who coordinates the Sudanese Journalists for Human Rights network, believes that this press law is the worst since Sudan’s first press laws in 1930.
To be exact, this is the fifth press law in the last two decades.  However, from the outset, the 2013 press law had unknown parents, each side was claiming that it was not their baby.
Idris Al-Douma, the editor-in-chief of one of the best-selling independent newspapers in Sudan, Al-Jareedasaid that “the new regrettable laws are meant to shut down the mouths of journalists.”
Al-Douma knows about restrictions, his newspaper has been confiscated many times since it opened in 2010, and was suspended for more than 3 months in 2011 leading to heavy financial losses.
In the language of the NISS, confiscation means that an entire issue is seized from the printing house during the night, after it has been printed. Although the NISS calls a number of chief editors in the evening to revise the material published in the newspaper, and assists them in editing the newspaper, they sometimes confiscate the newspaper if the newspaper insists on publishing a specific article, or as retribution for publishing an article.
Even when there is freedom of expression, there is no freedom after expression.
“I was taken to court many times for my writings, my last trial was two months ago and I was declared innocent,” said Oshi.
New forms of censorship
If the NISS acts as a censor, the press laws will compete with the intelligence agency as a strong censor.
The new press laws, if passed, will legalise the closure of newspapers, the cancellation of the registration of a newspaper or a publishing house. They will impose financial penalties on the newspapers as well as the printing houses and also stop journalists and editors working for periods of time.
In the 2009 laws, a newspaper could be suspended legally for three days.  The new law stipulates that the period can last up to ten days, which will cause heavy financial losses for the newspapers.
“The 2009 laws were worst when they were first proposed,” recalls Abdel-Rahman Al-Amin, the editor-in-chief of the newly-founded Al-Qarar newspaper, adding “the government at the time was a national unity government and the opposition was better represented which helped the laws get reformed.”
Al-Qarar newspaper is an independent newspaper created by journalists who wanted to see a newspaper that is not controlled by businessmen.
“A big factor in the 2013 laws is that the printing house which was previously just a venue for printing the newspaper, becomes a target for closure or financial penalties, which could easily turn the printing house into another censor,” said Al-Amin.
Violations of press freedom?
Some articles from the 2013 press laws, explained Al-Bagir in a phone interview, were taken from the Ethiopian press laws, which are among the worst in the world.
Commenting on the new press laws, Mohy Al-Deen Titawy, the president of the Sudanese Journalist’s Union (SJU) told members of the press that the laws violate press freedom, expressing his union’s opposition to them.
Surprisingly, the new press laws sets to take journalists’ licenses from the SJU and pass them to the National Council for Press and Publications (NCPP), a council that monitors the press in the country and gives newspapers or magazines the license to print.
The NCPP, with its well-respected leadership, is seen by journalists as a governmental body as it is under the supervision of the presidency and the presidency appoints its secretary-general.
However, Al-Amin views this move as a positive one as it “controls the distribution of the press license which many journalists have, yet small number practice journalism.” This perspective is understandable as even the police officers at the press prosecutor’s office can get a press license after a number of years of working there.
Journalists in Sudan hope to see the judiciary play the sole role in persecuting journalists and newspaper.
“The Council, which is the body responsible for protecting journalists and newspaper is failing in this regard, it is failing press freedoms,” said Al-Amin whose newspaper staff work as volunteers, six months after the newspaper was launched.
The NISS, although it takes journalists and newspapers to court, does not always win the case.
The Sudanese Communist Party’s Mouthpiece, Al-Midan, for instance, won its case against NISS after a court battle.  However, it remains suspended for unknown reasons.
Hopes for political transformation
In the last week, the President of Sudan, Omar Al-Bashir called for the release of political detainees and for a more open dialogue with the opposition in an attempt to foster an inclusive political process.
With the elections coming up in less than two years and the president stating that he will not run for another term, there are good reasons for optimism in Sudan, and there are hopes that this political transformation will materialise into more freedoms, especially press freedoms.
However there are still fears. Ironically the political openness which experts think was triggered by a small-scale but nonetheless, sustained protest movement, bred dissent not only towards the government, but towards the NISS, an apparatus known for being ruthless.
“With calls to limit the powers and functions of NISS especially on the press, the state has to find another way to control the press,” said Al-Amin in an attempt to understand the timing of the press laws.
Releasing political detainees, advocating for a more comprehensive political and constitution-making process are seen in a positive light by journalists, but there are sincere hopes to free the press and free journalists from censorship in the near future.

Published @-

The soul of Khartoum

Published @-

The Governor of Khartoum, Abdel-Rahman Al-Khider has been determined to “civilize” Khartoum in the past few months. The idea seemed well-intentioned in the beginning .

Tea ladies are women who sell flavoured tea and coffee on the pavements. Their customers sit around them on stools usually under the shade of a tree in any street in Khartoum.
It is a breezy morning and being the Sudanese person you are, you crave a cup of tea. You turn to your right hand-side, you see a tea-lady and you begin walking her way. You take one Sudanese pound worth of Legimat (Zalabaya) and a cup of tea ‘with medicine’, the Sudanese word for tea spices such as cinnamon, ginger, cardamom. You are enjoying the delicious snack and you get up from the short stool and head to the tea-lady to pay her for the delicious snack. She is no longer there.
You stand there in utter shock: but she was just there. Your curiosity drives you to take a right into a side-street and you find her sitting at the end of the street, with stools around her and customers sitting there enjoying their cup of tea. You pay her only after asking, what happened?
“There was a police sweep coming our away, we are not allowed to be on main streets anymore,” she tells you. The Governor of Khartoum, Abdel-Rahman Al-Khider has been determined to “civilize” Khartoum in the past few months. The idea seemed well-intentioned in the beginning, a wider four-laned Nile street, a beautiful corniche for walking, cleaner streets and more greenery.
The state government saw the need to civilize Khartoum by civilizing its people. The police raids on men who wash cars on main streets began: they would get picked up or prevented from doing their work by the police. The governor said they are making the streets dirty and it looks uncivilized. In all honesty, they could be given serious tips on how to keep the surroundings clean when washing a car, but most importantly, you are denying a large number of youth the only income between them and living a life of crime. After all, we could all think of million things to do other than standing in the sun the whole day.
Then, we all turned to another job that is bringing an income to many families, especially families headed up by women. Tea ladies have become a part of our community, a “marginal” job at the centre of Sudanese life, whether for the civil servants or the unemployed youth and the underemployed journalists who keep a tab at their favorite tea ladies’ berth.
There is Sara*, a young tea-lady in West Omdurman who worked at some company, but left after being subjected to sexual harassment by her supervisor and now works as a tea lady. Or Helewa, who fought with the rebels, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) during the civil war and now makes a living making the best Zalabeya in Khartoum.
Last week, Helewa wasn’t there, she was harassed out of that spot she favoured for years, by the police.
I like the new greenery and the colorful benches on the side of Nile Street, but I also like Khartoum state with tea ladies on main streets and men selling peanuts and cold hibiscous juice by the side of the street.
After all, they are the soul of the city.