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Your Take: Protesters in the #SudanRevolts demonstrations face major challenges

Categories: World

Students gather in the University of Khartoum's western field in preparation for a protest on July 11. (Submitted by our contact in Sudan)

Momentum is building behind a youth-led movement in Sudan that protesters hope will become a full-blown uprising against the African country's longtime president Omar al-Bashir.

Sudanese activists and their international supporters have been chronicling developments through the Twitter hashtag #SudanRevolts, which the CBC Community team has been monitoring.

We have also contacted a Canadian in Sudan who has given us a personal take on the events happening there. Due to safety concerns we have agreed to keep this person anonymous.

Our contact has written a series of three blog posts to shed light on the state of affairs in the country for a Canadian audience.

  • The first post introduces you to the movement and how it has spread across the country.
  • The second post, below, explains the dangers faced by activists, including torture in so-called 'ghost houses' and why some say protesting is for the privileged.
  • The third post, which will be published Wednesday, explains why this movement should not be lumped in with the Arab Spring uprisings.

Please note that this is not a traditional news story. It is one Canadian citizen's perspective from the ground level.


The challenge in creating social awareness is that many protesters are monitored and detained by Sudan's National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS).

NISS seems to be trying to prevent revolts before they happen and has been working tirelessly around the country to remove threats to the regime.

It is widely believed that agents employed by NISS cooperate with the Sudanese government to suppress dissent, by any means -- namely fear, force and intimidation.

I have read and heard accounts of their tactics: sending roving spies, tapping phones, conducting public and private searches, and arresting, deporting or interrogating/torturing protesters in ghost houses.

Ghost houses is a street term for secretly located informal prisons where detainees are allegedly abused and treated as if they were traitors, war criminals or worse. Survivors of interrogation and torture are often left traumatized.

Protesting for the privileged?

Among the protesters have been some members of women's groups who have stood their ground and defended themselves against police. Local activists have staged public hunger strikes.

Students from the University of Khartoum other schools have become notorious for championing the goals of the revolt.

Historically it has been the poorest of the poor who are the most vocal rebels and not surprisingly it is the poor who suffer the most.

In a country of over 30 million people, protests of 1,000 to 2,000 people are notable, but still small compared to Arab Spring uprisings.

And many protesters here seem to be from the middle and upper class. Most are educated and have jobs.

Others cannot afford to miss a day's work and may see protesting as a luxury. How can they participate if their livelihood is the cost?

But there are some people who can afford to be on the streets.

Sudan's enforcement agencies did not receive cutbacks, so keeping their jobs could be one reason they have taken the side of the ruling party.

It is rumoured that some police and security officials are actually on the side of the revolt - I was told as much by someone within their ranks - but having such an identifiable occupation makes it difficult to rebel against the government.

In Sudan, if military or enforcement personnel are found to be a part of the "fifth column", or traitors within national services, they could face the death penalty.

Some may be waiting until there is more momentum, greater numbers of people openly protesting, so that they can support the movement with less risk.

In fact, many people are waiting for momentum to build before they come out.

When and if this happens they can be comforted by strength in numbers, with less fear of being harassed, or taken into custody.

The challenge is getting more people to take part at this early stage, to really light the spark so that it stays lit.

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