Harassment and detentions increase in Sudan: interview with Hassen Abdel Ati, National Civic Forum
Dr Hassan Abdel Ati, Secretary General of Sudan’s National Civic Forum, speaks to CIVICUS about the crackdown on civil society activism and independent journalists since student-led protests began in March 2011.
A student led protest movement has emerged in Sudan. What issues have protestors put forward and what has been the government’s reaction to the demonstrations?
The youth protests, which began in earnest in March 2011, were spearheaded by university students in Khartoum, Kassala and Port Sudan. The protests started as sit-ins, strikes and demonstrations. However, the recent wave of protests, which followed violent confrontations with South Sudan forces in Hejlieg, have received far greater media attention. The recent protests were organised simultaneously in universities and residential areas in major cities in 11 of 15 regional states across Sudan. The demands put forward by demonstrators have widened beyond initial concerns about price increases of basic commodities to include the severe deprivation of freedom, peace and justice.
Since the movement began, protesters have demonstrated peacefully and in line with the 2005 Sudan Interim Constitution and its adjoining bill of rights. But government reaction to the protests has been vicious and unprecedented, and has contravened Sudanese Law. Riot police, plain clothes security personal and student militias have raided university premises and female student hostels, beating students and causing serious bodily harm. In addition, government security forces have used tear gas in enclosed areas, including in the Wad Nobawi Mosque in Omdurman and at the University of Khartoum. Furthermore, security officials have unwarrantedly and indiscriminately used rubber bullets and live ammunition to disperse demonstrators. In early August, in reaction to demonstrations in Nyala, the capital of South Darfur State, 12 people, most of them under the age of 20, were killed. At present, over 2,000 people involved in the demonstrations across Sudan remain in detention, with several being held in undisclosed facilities.