The New Arab Logo

Breaking News
Sudan uprising: Echoing the voices of the youth Open in fullscreen

Afnan Hassab Jaffar

Sudan uprising: Echoing the voices of the youth

The uprising began with and is still being led by the youth of Sudan [Getty]

Date of publication: 29 May, 2019

Share this page:
  • 0

  • twitter
Feature: Why did these youngsters take to the streets and what is driving them to put their lives at risk? The New Arab speaks to the youth of Sudan.
The people of Sudan may have managed to topple Omar al-Bashir and end his long rule of 30 years, more than half the age of Independent Sudan, but despite having removed a dictator from his chair, the battle to emancipate themselves from the ghost of the former leader and the remnants of his regime – which remain persistent trying to rebrand and reshuffle itself – is one the people of Sudan are yet to win.

The demonstrators, who have now been protesting for over five months, with the first protest breaking out in December last year in Atbara, remain standing both figuratively and literally dodging bullets and fighting a one-sided war with the remnants of the al-Bashir rule.

The uprising began with and is still being led by the youth of Sudan. Despite the resistance they faced from their parents, who feared their safety and thus did not want them out on the streets, from elders who merely thought of them as ill-mannered kids who didn't know what they were doing and whose actions are threatening the so-called stability of the country, from companies and universities who threatened to end their careers and the violence they faced from the regime, they still marched on in the streets. 

They slept on pavements for months, risking both their careers and lives in a country where freedom in all its shapes and forms has been nothing but a myth. Children as young as 10 were also seen marching in the streets and chanting, "Freedom, Peace Justice" and "This Revolution is the People's Choice."

While we all know the reason behind the uprising the question to be asked is, what are the demands of these young people and what is driving them to put their lives on hold and at risk?

"The people are demanding to have the right to demand," begins Mohammed Elnaiem, a 26-year-old Sociology PhD student who has recently travelled to Sudan from the UK to join the protests.

I believe that all the people in Sudan, no matter their ideology, want a more tolerant community towards different religions, ethnicities, backgrounds, as well as a stronger economy, a more transparent government and peace within the borders

Suffering from oppression and having their voices taken away from them, for the people of Sudan even the simplest form of freedom, such as freedom of speech, was a myth under Bashir's rule. The former leader was notoriously known for suppressing and silencing voices that tried to speak against him, using violence and targeting them in such way that instilled fear in anyone who tried to do the same.

This was just one of the many tactics this regime used to stay in power for three decades and this same violent approach was seen during the peaceful protests, where demonstrators were met with live ammo and tear gas, ultimately leading to the fall of many.

 Demonstrators have now been protesting for over five months [Getty]

It was not just civilians who were denied freedom of expression, but also the media, who were not allowed to televise the protests. Journalists were brutalised by the National Intelligence and Security Service [NISS], had their gadgets confiscated and newspapers were banned from publishing anything related to the revolution. A group of journalists recently staged a protest demanding the freedom of the press without the fear of facing consequences for saying the truth. 

"People went out demanding a dignified life and a country where citizens can express themselves freely without restriction, a country that offers them what they need so they don't have to emigrate abroad to collect money," Said Hiba Mohammed E. Alamin, a dentist who has been taking part in running some of the main social media accounts concerned with covering what's happening in Sudan.

'A portal into tomorrow's Sudan': Inside the sit-in that brought down Sudan's dictator Bashir
Read also: 'A portal into tomorrow's Sudan':
Inside the sit-in that brought down
Sudan's dictator Bashir

For the youth of Sudan, the uprising carries hope that they will get the country they have always dreamed of – one that is both welcoming and accepting of all, one that respects and appreciates each individual and offers them equal opportunities unbiased towards religion, gender, tribe or social status.

Yasser Awad, a 24-year-old, is among the first to speak against this regime. He also staged a one man protest a few years back and ended up in jail several times for it.

Speaking to The New Arab, he says, "I believe that all the people in Sudan, no matter their ideology, want a more tolerant community towards different religions, ethnicities, backgrounds, as well as a stronger economy, a more transparent government and peace within the borders."

The people of Sudan have suffered for decades under the previous rule having Islamist beliefs and principles forced on them, which had nothing in relation to the true Islam beliefs or Sharia law.

Crimes against humanity were committed based on biases and Sharia law was wrongfully used to rob people of their basic rights. All of that mounted to the demand for a secular country and the absolute separation of religion from politics being one of the most popular demands among the youth of Sudan.

The people are demanding to have the right to demand

"One of the most important steps for me is that Sudan becomes a secular state. I believe the so-called Sharia law has led to the division of this country, because it was only applied on the poor and middle classes, and not on the rich. If they applied the laws that they use to terrorise the citizens of this country on themselves, none of them would have any hands left! Only with civic state will democracy be realised," said Mohammed Elnaiem

Civilians know that their current Sudan is in shambles and that a new Sudan needs to be built, hence all the demands are focused on allowing and providing the people with the right environment to rebuild their country.

"The former regime destroyed all aspects of life. It destroyed the health sector, the educational facilities, the judiciary system, the service sector and the public service; it just simply destroyed it. The next government will have to start from scratch to rebuild the state again," explained Hatim Elmadani.

"The previous regime was able to stop the wheel of development of this country for a period of 30 years and ignited wars that are still ongoing. The butterfly effect of it all is still affecting Sudan on all aspects, including the humanitarian aspect – especially with what is happening in the refugees camps and war areas. Poverty, hunger and diseases are spreading," says Waleed, the co-founder of a digital marketing company and a member of the Sudanese Bloggers Network.

"Our suffering in the main cities in Sudan does not compare to what those have suffered in the remote marginalised  areas all over the country," he adds. 

The Sudanese uprising is not quite finished
Read also: The Sudanese uprising is not quite finished

Omer Yusuf, another young Sudanese adds, "There are people in this country who are more than qualified to run this country and make the best of its resources. They have been marginalised and not given the opportunity to work and do their best. Work opportunities were given to unqualified individuals based solely on nepotism and partisanship. In the new Sudan only those qualified will be given the job." 

But while the people of Sudan want to reclaim their country and rebuild it, they also have not forgotten, nor are willing to forgive those who have robbed them of decades of a dignified life. They are equally focused on holding those who committed crimes accountable for their actions and serving justice for those who suffered from injustice.

"This revolution is not over until reparations are made for crimes in various regions in Sudan that Bashir's regime committed," says Dinana Alasad.

"These include Darfur, the Nuba Mountains and the former south of Sudan. My people demand accountability, reparations and to have leaders in place who will commit to healing and rebuilding our Sudan." 

Read also: Sudan: This time it's different

The list of demands of the people who have been famished of their basic rights for decades is endless and as Assil Diab, a Sudanese female graffiti artist and graphic designer, says it is a personalised revolution.

The people may share one battlefield, but they are fighting for different reasons against the same enemy

"It is a different fight for everyone," she tells The New Arab. "The people may share one battlefield, but they are fighting for different reasons against the same enemy. I met people who created a small library at the demonstration where they were reading books. These people were fighting for a Sudan where books from all around the world are available. They believe that the restriction and shortage of reading material due to sanctions and other agendas is limiting their ability to be cultured and well-educated. They are fighting for the simplest forms of freedom and freedom of knowledge."

Rayan Khalil, an international business manager, added, "Like the chants, it is all about freedom, peace and justice. But each activist has a different perception of what each one of these terms means to us. We agree on the concept, but dispute the terms." 

Sudanese women detained and sexually harassed while protesting for change
Read also: Sudanese women detained and
sexually harassed while protesting for change

Assil also spoke about the women she met who were there fighting for their rights. Rights such as the right to dress how they want and to live their lives freely without facing backlash. This should come as no surprise as Sudan is known for running laws that discriminate against women. On several occasions, the streets of Sudan have witnessed public flogging of women as a punishment for wearing what was perceived as "inappropriate attire," such as trousers.

"For me personally it's a fight against tradition and culture and laws. We live in a society where if a woman does something that's a little bit outside the norm, she's looked down upon. I've been fighting against these standards inside and outside Sudan," Assil said.

For me personally it's a fight against tradition and culture and laws. We live in a society where if a woman does something that's a little bit outside the norm, she's looked down upon

Unfortunately, this is the case for many Sudanese women.

"As a woman foremost and a lawyer in the new Sudan I really hope to see full implication of the principle of rule of law, independent judiciary and to see more representation of women in all law enforcement mechanisms," said Afnan Khalid, a lawyer whose focus is directed towards women and children cases. "Women should be given 50 percent of the seats in the legislative power, parliament or the legislation committee." 

Many crimes against women and children are integrated in the Sudanese culture and with the help of the former regime remained active. This affected many lives and no real action towards removing them was taken.

"FGM is a crime, child marriage is a crime, and all are tolerated in our society," Afnan continued. "There should be an end to all of these crimes. Finally, there should be no more authority over women in the name of law or traditions." 

Since its independence, Sudan has not been free from the rule of the military. The people want a change and a chance to have the power to choose their fate. However, the the Transitional Military Council [TMC] refuses to see eye to eye with the demonstrators and continues to try to forcefully stay in power.

The question now is, will the will of the people outpower the autocratic rule still digging its claws in Sudan?

The question now is, will the will of the people outpower the autocratic rule still digging its claws in Sudan?

"We want a beginning that constitutes sequencing referendums that can impose human rights, equal opportunity, free education and medical care," says Rayan Khalil.

"We want a new age for a promising future where we ensure the young can acquire the right tools to lead. A future that can obtain not just security but light," Rayan concludes. 


Afnan Hassab Jaffar is a 22-year-old surgeon-in-the-making and blogger based in Sudan who is a dedicated humanitarian, social activist and unwavering feminist. She is interested in African and women studies. 

Follow her on Twitter: @errfnern

The New ArabComments

Most Popular

Most Popular

    Read More