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Sudan’s fight for freedom has entered a new stage following a brutal crackdown on protesters which has left more than 120 people dead. With human rights groups placing the death toll much higher, the testimony of survivors describe how bodies of victims were thrown into the Nile to hide the true scale of the massacre.
Despite growing concerns for the country’s democratic transition, the world turned its back on Sudan. There were attacks on media freedom; Al Jazeera’s bureau in Khartoum was forced to close and its journalists banned from reporting peaceful sit-ins. “The deterioration was sadly predictable – but so is the next one”, Kate Ferguson warns.
Beyond Khartoum, Omdurman and other cities, attacks against civilians continue. The UN has confirmed reports of killings in the Darfur region, where a government-sponsored campaign has resulted in the deaths of 300,000 people since 2003. Earlier this week, 17 people were gunned down and 100 houses burned in al-Dalij, Central Darfur. As the country edges towards crisis, violence against ethnic, religious, political and other at-risk populations calls for the UK’s engagement with Sudan and a need to prioritise an atrocity prevention strategy.
“The UK government must continue to issue clear public statements condemning the use of force against demonstrators – but these words also need to be backed up by comprehensive diplomatic efforts to support the safe transfer of power to a legitimate civilian-led authority” says Kate Ferguson, co-executive director at Protection Approaches.
Rebel leader Yasir Arman said that he and two others were forcibly deported from Khartoum, tied up and flown to South Sudan on the second day of a civil disobedience campaign that has since been called off in an effort to mediate between protest leaders and the Transitional Military Council.
The deteriorating situation is sparking fears that the country is sliding towards civil war and a ‘human rights abyss’.The scale of the violence is being hidden by a media blackout: dozens of survivors have reported incidents of rape, which is being used as a weapon of war to terrorise civilians – men, women and their children – to give up the fight for freedom and hope in the revolution.
With political and humanitarian support desperately needed for a democratic and peaceful transition in Sudan, people around the world are refusing to let the call for revolution slip under the wire. Across social media, thousands of Twitter and Instagram avatars are turning #blueforsudan in a show of solidarity with protesters.