October 4th, 2013
Violent treatment of protesters in central Sudan brings Bashir’s regime into the spotlight
Today HART joined with other organizations and members of the Sudanese Diaspora in a protest outside the Sudanese embassy in order to speak out against the recent treatment of protestors in Sudan.
The past ten days have been some of the most violent in Central Sudan’s recent history. On September 22nd, International Criminal Court (ICC) indicted Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir announced that the Government of Sudan would terminate the subsidies of fuel and other necessities, this resulted in prices for basic goods skyrocketing throughout the already financially insecure and unstable country. Protests against the lifting of subsidies began first in Wad Madan on September 23rd, followed quickly by thousands of Sudanese citizens from cities throughout the entire country, including Khartoum, Omdurman, Port Sudan, Atbara, Gedarif, Nyala, Kosti, and Sinnar, rioting. According to Human Rights Watch and other credible sources, the police and national security forces fired teargas, rubber bullets, and live ammunition into the crowds in response to these protests. Sudan has also deployed military forces to contain protesters in some locations.
The African Center for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS) has confirmed that at least 170 protesters have been killed by government forces over the past week, with other sources estimating that the death tolls are, in fact, much higher. In addition to the hundreds of deaths, more than 700 people have been arrested and detained indefinitely. The Government of Sudan has suspended the operations of Sky News Arabia, an offshoot of Sky News in Britain, and for most of the past ten days, there has been a complete blackout of information within the country, leading to more chaos.
Bashir denied all of these claims in a recent press event. He accused unnamed parties seeking to destabilize Sudan of exploiting the events for killings, looting and vandalism. Government authorities have refused to investigate the killings.
President al-Bashir and Sudan have been prominent in Western media lately. Several weeks ago, he announced that not only had he applied for a visa to the United States to attend the United Nations General Assembly, he had also booked a hotel in New York City. His announcement was met with outrage worldwide. Finally succumbing to international pressure, the president cancelled his trip. His decision to end fuel subsidies came immediately afterwards, trigging the recent protests and outbreak of violence.
Government violence, however, is commonplace in other parts of Sudan, such as the southern border regions of Blue Nile and South Kordofan. Civilians there are the targets of indiscriminate aerial bombing strikes by the Government of Sudan. President Bashir has denied humanitarian aid organizations access to more than 900,000 vulnerable Sudanese men, women, and children in this region, leaving them food and water insecure and without access to health care. Many of these civilians are living in caves to escape the bombings, and they have been unable to plant crops for two years because of the bombing attacks.
While it appears that the riots are subsiding for now in the central part of Sudan, it is unclear the effect that the recent outbreak of violence will have on the future of the politically and economically unstable country. President al-Bashir continues to grasp at straws for power, and it is likely that following the riots, he will seek to assert his power over the entire country and increase the violence against the most vulnerable of his citizens—those living in the Blue Nile and South Kordofan border states.
The international community must keep Sudan and President al-Bashir in the spotlight, highlighting not only the violence against protesters in the past week and a half, but also the violence against other populations throughout the country that has been occurring for years. The international community must demand humanitarian access to those living in the South Kordofan and Blue Nile, and most importantly, they must not turn a blind eye to the suffering of Sudanese civilians.
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