Friday, September 16, 2016

For the NISS in Sudan: the personal is political

A few days ago, the Lieutannt-Colonel, Taha Osman Al-Hussein, the director of the Sudanese President's Office, wrote his number on a piece of paper and pressed it into a woman's hand at a wedding event in Khartoum.

The woman told her husband who rushed to see Al-Hussein and engaged in a physical confrontation with him, but the attendees broke up the fight, Sudanese-style and such. A few hours later, the husband, Ahmed Abdul-Gasim, was kidnapped by National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) and after heavy beatings and torture, he was dumped on the outskirts of Khartoum and had to be hospitalized according to his brother.

Upon receiving this narrative as part of an advocacy google group I am in, I couldn't help but start thinking about how the NISS in Sudan has become personalized. Not that the apparatus has ever served the "national security " interests of the country , but it has become a tool used by individuals, in power or with relatives in power, to suppress, oppress and subjugate other citizens who get in their way. In fact, it seems that the NISS acts like a personal militia that is at your service if you have the right connections or right title.

Abdul-Gasim came forward with his story and pictures showing his wounded  body was released on Sudanese social media and email lists, however, many stories of how average citizens can use their positions and connections to enlist the services of the NISS to punish them or teach them a lesson they can never forget are left untold

Last April, a woman in her 30s from Eastern Sudan was gang-rapped by the NISS and her story never came out. 

The woman who is a mother of seven girls was arrested by two NISS agents  after her employer accused her of stealing a gold ring. When the woman denied this accusation, her employer took matters into her own hands, she called her relative who works for the NISS and two NISS agents arrested the poor lady as she attempted to make ends meet.

She was taken to one of the security offices and was whipped as she kept denying that she took the ring which was actually found by the owner. Apparently, it was misplaced….. but this did not spare the lady from their cruelty She was beaten and gang-rapped by two security agents, they removed her face veil and tied her hands with her toub (Sudanese traditional custom) and violated her in a governmental office. 

After this incident, the woman was forced out of the house of her husband's family with her daughters and was forced to live in a makeshift tent on the streets. The family and even her husband had serious problems trying to accept what had happened. A lawyer from the area agreed to provide her with legal aid, but since the NISS is involved , it is unlikely that the case will move forward and it is very likely that she will be persecuted once again for trying to stand up against NISS as they have extensive powers and immunities as stated in the National Security Act of 2010. 

Last month, three young women studying at a private university in Khartoum state were arrested by the police for allegedly having drugs on them. An acquaintance interviewed the woman who said that one of them was in a relationship with a man working for the NISS, after she left him due to a series of problems, he set them up. 

They were arrested by the police right in front of their university, in front of their colleagues in the most degrading way. Their families paid their bail, but upon their release, they were re-arrested as the NISS has more power than the police and judiciary system in Sudan. 

In their second arrest, they were sentenced to a month in prison at a time when they had to take their exams. They were not even allowed to leave prison to take their end of semester exams putting them at risk of having to repeat the year.

Abdul-Gasim's story is yet another reminder that in Sudan, the NISS can be used against you as a citizen for the most personal matters. You basically can not mess with anyone who is part of this apparatus or knows someone working for it. All citizens who are viewed as a nuisance are dealt with as a national security threat by an institution that views itself as only less powerful than God.

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