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July 13, 2012

Protests Grow in Khartoum

By Alsanosi Ahmed

KHARTOUM — Large protests erupted Friday in Khartoum and other parts of the country, marking a month since student-led demonstrations began in the Sudanese capital.
 
After a fiery sermon delivered by the preacher of Sayyed Abdurrahman mosque in Omdurman, about half of the worshipers took to the street chanting “the people want the downfall of the government,” and “we will not be ruled by thugs.”
 
But their march did not last long. The hundreds of men and women had barely reached the main playground outside the mosque when security forces in gas masks began firing tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse protestors.
 
Protest organizers dedicated Friday's protests to Sudanese women. Umeima was one of them.
 
“I’m here today at the mosque to express myself over the hike of the food prices, and this regime is not showing any care for the people,  I am sure these protests will succeed because people are angry,” said Umeima.
 
Umeima said they are especially angry at President Bashir who claims the people are incited by outsiders, something she denies.
 
The Sayyed Abdurrahman mosque acts as the informal headquarters for Sudan’s biggest opposition group, Umma National Party. Most of the major protests over the last four weeks have started there following Friday prayers.
 
South Sudan’s decision to shut down oil production with Sudan has devastated the economies of both countries. South Sudan stopped pumping oil in a dispute with Sudan over transit fees charged for using Sudan’s pipelines.
 
The economic downturn has forced Sudan to end fuel subsidies, sending prices skyrocketing and prompting many Sudanese people to take part in the rallies.
 
Mohammed, a member of the Umma party youth wing, was detained during the initial protests but was recently released. As soon as he was freed, he rejoined the protests.
 
On Friday, Mohammed was wearing a thick glove on his right hand, which he used to pick up cans of teargas fired at protesters. He threw them back at police.
 
“The harsh economic situation made people to come to the mosque and express themselves in these protests. We are suffering from dictatorship rules, tyranny, and hypocrisy,” he said.
 
Every Friday activists say half of the youth who come to the mosque do not return home. Activists estimate more than 2,000 people have been detained over the past month.
 
And yet, people keep coming to the protests.  Mona is an unemployed youth who uses Facebook and Twitter to learn where the protests are being held.
 
 “We are desperately in need of freedom. The people are hungry; they don’t have jobs," said Mona. "I finished my university [studies] in 2008 but I didn’t get any job because I have to bribe someone in the government to secure a job.”
 
Opposition parties have vowed to stage sit-ins at mosques and carry out more civil disobedience until President Bashir is no longer in power.
 
The government closed Khartoum University on Thursday after a surge of protests by students, and professors, but activists say they will likely fuel even more resentment.
 
Things are still tense at the Sayyed Abdurraham mosque, where more than 20 people were detained and at least 100 were being held inside. Police surrounded the grounds carrying sticks, handcuffs and AK-47s.

Listen to report on Khartoum protests