North Africa, West Asia

The clampdown on universities in Sudan

Sudanese universities are growing extremely hostile towards students and the violence is only escalating. If no agreement is reached, it is very likely that there will be much more bloodshed. 

Reem Abbas
2 April 2014

It has been two months and two weeks since Professor Siddiq Nurein was arrested. On the 16 January 2014, Dr Nurein, a 42 year-old associate professor at the University of West Kordofan and married father of four, was arrested from a hospital in En Nahud city, the capital of West Kordofan state. Dr Nurein was there nursing his sick son when security officers carried out the arrest. He was imprisoned in Al-Foula prison for two days then taken to El-Obeid prison in North Kordofan state. His wife said that the family had to commute to El-Obeid to visit him and deliver clothes and other items. 

Almost three weeks prior to his arrest, police and security forces barged into campus using live ammunition and tear gas. This followed protests by students from Darfur who were objecting to the imposition of tuition fees from which they are supposedly exempt. The Darfuri student union at West Kordofan university protested in September and October and organized sit-ins when the university refused to exempt them from tuition fees which they say is their right as stipulated in the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD), signed in 2011. The same problem had already occurred in other universities. In fact, in December 2012 four students at Al-Jazeera University were tortured to death after protesting against the payment of tuition fees, although they were also exempt as per the peace agreement. Not far from the University of West Kordofan, a Darfuri student group also protested at having to pay tuition and against the banning by the universioty of 30 students for two years after a sit-in the previous September, which caused a public outcry.

Dr Nurein is an activist on campus and stood by the students when they clashed with the university's administration. Moreover, as a supervisor to the Darfur Student's Association, Dr Nurein was supposed to attend a meeting between them and the university's chancellor the same day of his arrest. Dr Nurein was arrested under the emergency law which was imposed on the state by its military governor in October 2013. In Sudan, the emergency law is imposed whenever there is conflict. In fact, his family was told that his arrest warrant came from the governor of the state in person, which doesn't come as a surprise seeing that he is also a member of the Sudanese Congress Party, an opposition party.

The students continue to resist. After Dr Nurein's arrest, the Darfuri student union called for his releasee and said that its members will resign if he is not released. Furthermore, 450 students refused to sit their examinations in protest.

In recent weeks, students from the University of Khartoum have protested at the deteriorating situation in Darfur. The security forces cracked down killing one student, injuring many and arresting at least a dozen others. This protest led to the closure of the University of Khartoum. A few days after that, Abdelmoniem Adam Mohamed, a human rights activist trying to provide legal aid to the arrested students was arrested from his office in downtown Khartoum.

The authorities are very sensitive to any mobilization at universities as Sudan's two revolutions, in 1964 and in 1985, were sparked by student movements and came from the heart of Sudan's universities.

Both sides are not backing down. Sudanese universities are growing extremely hostile towards students and the violence is only escalating. The student body is the most active politically and most of the recent protest movements in Sudan were inspired by students or centred around universities. Many university professors have kept a distance in an attempt to keep their jobs and the ones who do speak up are very likely to be arrested, as was the case in October 2013, when nine professors were arrested for meeting to discuss the deteriorating university environment for both professors and students.

If no agreement is reached, it is very likely that the situation will continue to escalate and that there will be a lot more bloodshed. 

Can there be a green populist project on the Left?

Many on the Left want to return to a politics based on class, not populism. They point to Left populist parties not reaching their goals. But Chantal Mouffe argues that as the COVID-19 pandemic has put the need for protection from harm at the top of the agenda, a Left populist strategy is now more relevant than ever.

Is this an opportunity for a realignment around a green democratic transformation?

Join us for a free live discussion on Thursday 22 October, 5pm UK time/12pm EDT.

Hear from:

Paolo Gerbaudo Sociologist and political theorist, director of the Centre for Digital Culture at King’s College London and author of ‘The Mask and the Flag: Populism and Global Protest’ and ‘The Digital Party: Political Organisation and Online Democracy’, and of the forthcoming ‘The Great Recoil: Politics After Populism and Pandemic’.

Chantal Mouffe Emeritus Professor of Political Theory at the University of Westminster in London. Her most recent books are ‘Agonistics. Thinking the World Politically’, ‘Podemos. In the Name of the People’ and ‘For a Left Populism’.

Spyros A. Sofos Researcher and research coordinator at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Lund University and author of ‘Nation and Identity in Contemporary Europe’, ‘Tormented by History’ and ‘Islam in Europe: Public Spaces and Civic Networks'.

Chair: Walid el Houri Researcher, journalist and filmmaker based between Berlin and Beirut. He is partnerships editor at openDemocracy and lead editor of its North Africa, West Asia project.

Had enough of ‘alternative facts’? openDemocracy is different Join the conversation: get our weekly email

Comments

We encourage anyone to comment, please consult the oD commenting guidelines if you have any questions.
Audio available Bookmark Check Language Close Comments Download Facebook Link Email Newsletter Newsletter Play Print Share Twitter Youtube Search Instagram WhatsApp yourData