A non-violent 24-year old gets Sudanese intelligence mobilising

They pressured his father into revealing his whereabouts, warning that otherwise they would also arrest his younger brother M.

As a member of the non-violent resistance movement in Sudan, “Girifna” (We Are Fed Up), S.O. is considered a vital and effective activist, who was responsible for the mobilization of many students during anti-government protests which broke out in mid-June. Being a student at the University of Khartoum and an amateur musician, S.O. had a wide network of connections and friends from the activist community. 

When the Sudanese National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) launched a heavy-handed campaign arresting protesters from the streets and from their homes, S.O. was at the top of their hit list.

“On the 1st of July, a squad of around 20 NISS officers raided my house in Ab Roaf, Omdurman while I was at the grocery shop, just a few steps from my house. I managed to enter the house while they were arresting my brother W., whom they had mistaken for me,” S.O. narrated. “They also arrested two of my uncles along with him. They then came back looking for me but I had managed to escape through climbing walls to my neighbors’ houses and finally getting into my friend’s car.” 

As S.O. and his friend fled the scene, they noticed a dozen police cars surrounding the neighbourhood. After a short pursuit by the NISS police, they were able to escape to somewhere safe.

For the next 52 days, NISS was still looking for S.O. He moved between 15 houses, 3 of which were raided shortly after he left. He later on found out that he was being tracked through his internet IP address. “I stopped accessing the internet,” he said.

S.O.’s house was raided more than once, his personal belongings were confiscated, such as college textbooks, old travel tickets, souvenirs, birthday gifts and items that belonged to the “Girifna” movement.

They pressured his father into revealing his whereabouts, warning that otherwise they would also arrest his younger brother M., who was preparing for his final exams at the university. NISS added that they would not release his brother W. unless S.O. turns himself in. “My brother W. does not engage in any political activity. The NISS officers told my father that I am the president of Girifna and that I am the ringleader of all the protests. My father challenged them by saying that he will not turn me in and that they could arrest whomever they want from our family,” remarked S.O. 

Both the activist’s uncles were released within 2 days, however his brother W. remaining in custody for 45 days as a hostage to the state. “They only released him after they had given up all hope that I would turn myself in,” he commented.

“Many of my friends were arrested and coerced into providing information about my whereabouts, and many who visited my home while I was in hiding got arrested as well.

“I made various attempts to leave Sudan temporarily until things calm down, but I learned from an undisclosed source that my name was blacklisted at the airport. I had to resort to really odd means to flee the country.

“I am now out of the country, but my family tells me that our house is still being monitored and the NISS is still pursuing me. They even visit my parents posing as friends of mine, but fortunately my parents are familiar with all my friends. Some of my friends have been receiving threatening phone calls from NISS who are still inquiring about my whereabouts until this day.

I missed my third year final exams at the University of Khartoum. As of this moment, my future is still uncertain.”

About the author

Maha Elsanosi is a blogger and freelance writer based in Khartoum, Sudan. She is a correspondent for Global Voices and an editor and columnist for 500 Words Magazine.

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