As It Happens

Sudan's president 'cannot beat a nation,' says anti-government protester

The people of Sudan are "fed up" and "not afraid anymore," says a 22-year-old woman who is part of the country's growing anti-government protests.

At least 22 killed since demonstrations broke out in Sudan over the weekend

Alaa Salah, another Sudanese demonstrator, was propelled to internet fame earlier this week after clips went viral of her leading powerful protest chants against President Omar al-Bashir. She flashes the victory gesture in front of the military headquarters in the capital Khartoum on Wednesday. (AFP/Getty Images)
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Story transcript

The people of Sudan are "fed up" and "not afraid anymore," says a 22-year-old woman who is part of the country's growing anti-government protests.

Protesters have been camped outside the military's headquarters in the capital Khartoum since Saturday, demanding an end to President Omar al-Bashir's 30-year rule.

Attempts by Bashir's National Intelligence and Security Service to break up the sit-in have killed at least 22 since Saturday, including five soldiers who protest organizers said were defending the demonstration.

Fadia spoke to As It Happens host Carol Off about the scene on the streets of Khartoum. CBC is withholding her last name for her protection.

Here is part of their conversation. 

How dangerous has it been for you to be there?

It's quite dangerous. I just can't describe it. But I have to be brave and just go through that. It's my duty towards the country.

Is this the first time you have taken part in a protest in Sudan?

No, I've been protesting for very long. In every huge or big protest, I go out — every one, every year, everywhere. In my school, we used to have protests, and recently we do almost on a daily basis. 

Sudanese demonstrators chant slogans and wave their national flag on Monday. (Reuters)

But have you seen protests like the ones we have been seeing recently?

No, I think this is the biggest so far. The biggest, the most dangerous, the most exciting for us. More than ever.

Why is that?

The crowd is bigger than any time before. Very big. And it's very mixed.

You'll find old people over there, old men, old women ... grandmothers, grandfathers. Everyone is outside. It's different.

And you will find a lot of people from all the states of Sudan, from all the races, from all the colours, and a lot of Christians and Muslims joining together. So it's great.

I understand that most of the protesters are women.

Yes, exactly. A big majority of the protesters now are women. That's true.

A Sudanese woman holds a national flag during a demonstration in front of the military headquarters in the capital Khartoum on Monday. (AFP/Getty Images)

What's it been like for you to be out there in the streets of Khartoum in protest with all these women who are joining you?

It's great, and I think for us, it's an opportunity to let them hear our voices finally, that we're here. We're here to get our rights as students and women at the same time, because we've been always suppressed by the Sudanese regime for very long.

I guess that's why this is so unusual in Sudan, because we know that Omar al-Bashir, the president, is brutal, isn't he? He's a dictator accused of war crimes. It's been a very oppressive society for so long. So what has allowed people to do this? Why do they feel now that they are free to actually go out into the streets?

People used to be afraid because the government used to kill people since forever. They arrest them, they kill, they suppress anyone who tries to speak something different, anyone who's trying to be against the government.

I think that they are not afraid anymore, and they're fed up, basically. They're just fed up.

People cannot afford their daily needs. ... They can't afford anything. They can't afford medical treatment. A lot of life-saving medicines are not available right now in Sudan.

So, so many reasons let them do this and just go out and protest.

Demonstrators salute soldiers during a protest in Khartoum on Wednesday. (@THAWRAGYSD/Twitter via Reuters)

It does sound, though, as though the national security forces are still doing what you described. They're still arresting people. They're still shooting at them. They're using tear gas. So how can you be protected from that?

In the military headquarters, this is the only safe zone we can say, because it's being protected by the army. But if you're not there, if you're moving around in any other place or street, you're a target of getting arrested or beaten or any other thing.

Why do you think that the military is protecting you? 

They're putting their hands together with us because they are from us, and they're going through the same thing we are.

And I guess because this is what they have been taught ... this is their duty to protect the civilians with their lives.

We can also say that they're trying to protect the property of the military.

And we've heard that the younger military officers are also sympathizing with the protesters. Is that your understanding?

Yes, that's very true and very obvious. And they even spoke to the protesters [Tuesday] and in the past days saying that: we are being with you, we are by your side. Don't worry.

Is that making the people like yourself — the young people, the women — is that making them feel more bold, more brave to be out in the streets?

To an extent, yes. But all the women were already motivated before all this happened. All the women were in the streets since Day 1.

Do you think this will lead to the end of Omar al-Bashir?

I can simply say: Omar al-Bashir cannot beat a nation.

Written by Sheena Goodyear with files from The Associated Press. Interview produced by Jeanne Armstrong. 

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