North Africa, West Asia

#Strike4Sudan - its supporters and its critics debate the way forward


Activists criticizing the strike are searching for more radical revolutionary actions. The feeling of responsibility for change is the driving force both for supporters and opponents of #Strike4Sudan.

Yosra Akasha
31 October 2013

Almost a month has passed since the people of Sudan began to rebel. Violence ensued which led to the death of over 210 peaceful protestors, the arbitrary arrest and detention of over 700 people and the disappearance of a number of young men and women whose families don’t know if they are still alive or killed by government militias.

By the end of September the mass protests had dwindled in size, but the youth had not given up. Now they are in the process of developing resistance groups to challenge the National Congress Party (NCP). Young female activists and students have organized several silent sit-ins in front of the military headquarters and on Nile Street in Khartoum; where they posters bearing photos of the October martyrs are on display. Families of the detainees are also arranging regular sit-ins in front of National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) premises.

In Sudan when a family loses a loved one, they mourn him/her again during the first national holiday after their passing. The massacre took place two weeks prior to Eid El Adha and activists called on everyone to celebrate the feast with the families of the martyrs. After Eid prayers in the Shambat neighborhood, the residents marched to the houses of the martyrs “Hazzaa” and then to “Babiker’s” and gave their condolences to the mothers who were overwhelmed with grief. In the Shambat and Althawra neighborhoods the walls are covered with the names of martyrs as well as anti-regime slogans.

Last week, a group of Sudanese activists and bloggers launched a five-day hunger strike for Sudan (#Strike4Sudan). The demands of the hunger strike were justice for the martyrs; the release of all political detainees and the right to freedom of expression. They call for the government to be held accountable for the killing of peaceful protestors and for all censorship to be lifted from the media and demand that journalists should not be harassed. 

Soon after the announcement of the planned hunger strike, three members of the detainees' families joined in; namely Taghreed Awooda, Sandra Kadooda, the wives of Mohayad Siddig (detained since September 22) and Amjad Farid (detained since September 30) and Kawther, the mother of Mohamed Alim (detained since September 22) whose family wasn’t allowed to visit him.

Reem Shawkat, a journalist and blogger, declared she was on hunger strike for numerous reasons. One of them is her belief that there is a general deterioration in the quality of food in Sudan, as well as increasing poverty. “When the people took to the streets to demand their rights, they were shot dead while others were arrested. Now I feel ashamed for drinking juice on the street when so many people can’t even secure a meal a day. Allowing people to starve is no different from killing them. It’s just a method of oppression and forced insecurity.”

Eyad Suliman, a pharmacist, went on strike because of the deterioration of health facilities. He says many patients die before even receiving medical care in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum, not even mentioning what takes place in rural areas. He has some bitter stories to tell, “A man suffering from severe burns was transferred between six emergency rooms in different public hospitals because he couldn’t afford to buy the gauze and other medical supplies for his treatment. They weren’t available in the ER and they wouldn’t admit him without him supplying the materials. He was using a taxi to run between hospitals as an ambulance wasn’t even made available. Another case is of a female university lecturer who died in the process of negotiating a discount, in a public hospital, for her treatment. She was unaware she was pregnant and died because of a miscarriage. Her life could have been saved if she hadn’t been wasting her time knocking on the door of the hospital director."

Many activists have criticized the hunger strike as a form of resistance, and expressed their frustration on twitter about the decline in anti-regime protests. @walaasalah a Sudanese lawyer and human rights activist challenged the efficiency and the effectiveness of #Strike4Sudan by tweeting that people on this strike are not in the same place; all they were doing was announcing it on their social media networks and no real action was taking place on the ground. She argued that the strike was mainly targeting the international community rather than the Sudanese people, regarding this as a deterioration of anti-regime resistance. What is needed, she believes, is for activists to focus more on mobilizing the people. @blackboy, a Sudanese tweep, commented on the hunger strike, saying, “A regime that shoots its people would never care for people on hunger strike”.

Now most activists are trying to develop new forms of resistance; whether it is arranging a sit in, inviting people to mourn the martyrs with their respective families or joining in the five-day hunger strike. Activists criticizing the strike are searching for more radical revolutionary actions. What unites both supporters and opponents of #Strike4Sudan is the sense of responsibility for change which is the driving force for both.

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