A Sudanese Revolution? No thanks: Been there done that.

Goes without saying but just to make sure: Everything I write reflects my own personal viewpoint. Disagreement is not a problem, as long as it’s accompanied with respect.

Just like most countries in the Middle East, a revolution in Sudan is needed. But if by revolution we mean following the steps of Tunisia, Libya, Yemen, and Egypt, then a Sudanese revolution will never happen.

It is not as if Sudanese people haven’t revolted before. In fact, Sudan has the richest history of political unrest in the region. Back in 1985 a widespread popular unrest lead to the overthrow of President Jafaar Numayri, and a Transitional Military Council was set up to rule the country. Shortly afterwards, Al Sadiq al Mahadi was elected as prime minister, but he was overthrown by military coup in 1989  and Omar Al-Bashir was appointed  president in 1993 to this day. Evidently, Sudan has experienced constant political unrest since its independence in 1956.

Revolutions aiming at toppling political regimes have been done before, and many Sudanese think it should happen again now with the Bashir regime. In the twenty years Bashir has been ruling, the country has fallen into a draining unpopular and very expensive war in the Darfur, Blue Nile, Southern Kordofan, and the Nuba Mountains, which resulted in a warrant issued for his arrest by the International Criminal Court (ICC). As stated in the Hague Justice Portal, Bashir was charged for crimes against humanity, accounting for the genocide against the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa ethnic groups in the Western region of Sudan.

Undoubtedly, Sudan is a political mess, and economically it is not better off either. Recently, Bashir announced the gradual removal of fuel subsidies as part of the extreme austerity measures to be implemented throughout the country. Since the secession of South Sudan in July 2011, Sudan has suffered from a $2.4 billion budget deficit caused by the loss of oil revenue. As a result, prices of food, petrol and commodities have gone up, leaving most Sudanese people living in poor and frustrating conditions.

A spark of protests

It is apparent that Sudanese people do not lack incentive for a revolution; the majority is quite dissatisfied with their current status of living. Aided by social media and raising frustration, students and members of the government’s opposition organized small groups of protestors who gathered up in the streets and called for the fall of the regime. One article in The Guardian, reported that students gathered at the gates of Khartoum’s Sudan University chanting “No to price hikes”, before the police dispersed them using “excessive violence”. They also protested against the hike in public transportation fees and called for the “liberation” of the campus from the presence of the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS).  Slowly, Khartoum and other cities began to witness daily protests by different groups, who are driven by a various political agenda. In a similar move to the protests that fueled the uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, and Syria, the protesters chanted “the people want the fall of the regime,” and “we will not be ruled by a dictator,” and “revolution, revolution until victory.” But President Omar al-Bashir downplayed the increasing unrest, dismissing the protesters as a bunch of “aliens and bubbles”. The article published in Sudan Tribune website reports him threatening the protestors with deploying a group of “Muhajhdeen” to crackdown on them.

But dismissing protestors is not a unique strategy; it has also been used by the presidents of Yemen, Libya, Tunisia, and Egypt when their protestors first took to the street. Egyptians for one, continued to protest in 2011 even after Mubarak tried to make light of their revolution. But while their numbers continued to pile up at the Tahrir square, in Sudan, the number of protesters gradually died down, leading many to question the possibility of a Sudanese revolution to ever happen.

Girifna

Members of Girifna– a Sudanese nonviolent resistance movement- are still hopeful. They believe that the country’s current distressing economic conditions will be a breaking point for the majority of Sudanese, who “will not willingly continue subsidizing a regime that has plundered 60 billion US dollars in oil revenue during the current self-inflicted fiscal crisis”. Girifna group are right in one sense: Sudanese people indeed have a “strong social fabric” that equips them to absorb more than most countries, having suffered “continuous hardships and difficult experiences”. But perhaps that is exactly why a Sudanese revolution in the known sense cannot happen.

Lack of hope

Other than fearing for their lives, young Sudanese protestors suffer from the lack of encouragement by the rest of the population and the void of a well deserving and trustworthy political alternative to risk their lives for.

Indeed, Sudanese people are exhausted. Most of them feel helpless and hopeless.

With no proper oppositional leader to root for and thousands of protesters detained and tortured by the regime, it is hard to blame the public for the gradually decreasing number of protestors in the streets.

There is also a more subtle reason. Since the beginning of his rule twenty years ago, President Omar Al Bashir had promised to implement the Sharia law in Sudan; a country where the vast majority of the citizens are Muslims. Unsurprisingly, after twenty years of Islamic propaganda presented in the media and campaigned by the regime, the undereducated mass have been brainwashed and sensitized into associating the regime with Islam. Despite the obvious flawed implementation of Islamic teachings in Sudan, many Sudanese still feel that revolting against the regime would amount to an outright objection to an Islamic rule.

A true change

Toppling regimes is something the Sudanese have done before, but had never worked out to their benefit simply because changing regimes is not the answer. Revolutions can easily be hijacked from the people and eventually end up replacing one failed political party with another. If the current conditions remain the same, it is hard to see a revolution sparking, and any protests on the streets would not be able to change Sudan fundamentally.

Say however, efforts were made to spread awareness among the public about the how a true implementation of Islam would look like, in contrast to how it had been exploited and misrepresented by the regime. And say that, an organized, educated and politically able opposition group emerged, giving Sudanese an alternative they are willing to trust and fight for. When and if that happens, the Sudanese spring would finally have the right ground to grow on, and only then would a true revolution take place.

 

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Being Black is Bad..Even in a Black Country

When I was in fifth grade, our Jordanian professor asked all students to search for the origins of their home countries’ names. The assignment was interesting; it had never occurred to me before that, that the word “Sudan” could have an inherent meaning other than referring to Sudan, my North African homeland. Intrigued and excited, I went back home and told my mother about our teacher’s request, but she was not nearly as excited about the question as I was. In fact, for some reason, my mom was offended. “Is your teacher trying to say that Sudan is from “Soud” meaning black? Is she trying to tell you that your country is named after your color?” She asked defensively. I hurriedly assured her that the question was not personal at all, and everyone in the class had to answer it too.

No matter how my mother felt about that assignment, the fact is the word Sudan indeed comes from “Soud” the Arabic word for black. Years later when we returned to Sudan, I realized that my mother’s defensiveness is a common reaction. The mere hint of any topic including skin color would bring out the defensive side of most Sudanese people, no matter what the context is.

Sudan literally means “the land of the Soud”, so for Sudanese people, skin color is both an identity and a nationality.  Sadly, though, somewhere along the lines of slavery, racism, and imperialism, the color black has become a stigma.

As in any African country, the “blackness” of Sudanese people’s skin color varies; and it is so highly emphasized that each tone has its own description. Starting from the darkest skin color to the lightest, people are labeled in colors: Bluish, greenish, dark brownish, brownish, yellowish, and then, the purest of all- whitish. Statistically speaking, light skinned Sudanese are a minority in quantity, but far from being a minority in quality. Quite the opposite, the lighter the skin the more prestigious and beautiful the person is considered to be.

But how is it that in a black country, being black is a shame? Why are girls constantly looking for the new hit product, the one that promises a cleaner, “whiter” skin tone? Why are comments such as “your skin color is lighter now!” or “You’re face is cleaner!” considered the highest form of compliments?

Unintentionally, society has decided that clean and white are synonyms. And while using products in attempts to have a lighter skin is a widespread trend amongst females generally, it is frightening to note that in a country where the majority has dark skin color, black is considered ugly and dirty.

Naturally, these beliefs about skin color and self-worth did not stem from nowhere; they all date back to the time of colonialism. Ever since the British, “the white people” colonized Sudan, feelings of inferiority were successfully passed down one generation after another. In the eyes of the powerless, dominated black man, the white man had privilege, status, and power. Those few Sudanese who were lucky enough to work with the British were considered powerful too, just by associating with the white man, because the British would often put them in positions of authority. Now, more than half a century later, the British are gone, but these beliefs remained. Dark skinned people are still unfairly denied well deserved job offers, and mothers continue to urge their sons to choose a light skinned bride so the grandchildren will turn out “beautiful”.

Why is this still happening? It’s simple: ignorance. Society is so unaware of how powerful these beliefs have nested in the minds of individuals, from the simple and uneducated to the high profile and sophisticated. Unconsciously, through our everyday language, we are breeding racism among our generation and the ones to come.

Blaming imperialism and Western media gets us nowhere. We need to make a conscious group effort to slowly eliminate these concepts from our society. Some Sudanese would say it is impossible; that these beliefs have hung around for far too long that they have come to define us. That’s not true, it is possible. However difficult it may be, if we improve our language we can improve our culture. The future generations shape their perceptions on what they grow up observing and absorbing, and that’s why we have to at least try.

Start. Tell your dark skinned daughter that she and her light skinned cousin are both beautiful, because beauty is not confined to a color. Explain to your son that girls with all skin colors are worthy of love. And most importantly, make a conscious decision to stop using derogatory racial judgments yourself. This way, slowly but surely, all Sudanese people will start to see themselves as they truly are: Beautiful.

Homesick, but fine thank you.

If you ask me “how are you” whether it’s out of common courtesy and politeness or on the rare occasion that you actually want to know, I’d probably answer with a “fine alhamdulilah” or maybe drop a few complaints about something insignificant like exams or the weather. But if I were to be honest, I’d answer every how are you question I get daily with one word every time- homesick.
Now, whenever I tweet or post a status about being homesick, most of my Sudanese friends readily jump to reply with the same answer I’ve been getting since I came to the UAE: “You miss Sudanese people, not Sudan.”
False.
People are often surprised when they know I plan to go back to Sudan after graduating. They tell me that I’m just being sentimental, that it is not realistic or smart. They remind me of how lucky I am to have gotten out in the first place.
I don’t understand that. Am I only to love my country from afar, until it somehow decides to become “developed”? Is it so farfetched and unlikely that I love my country right now, just as it is?
Well, I do.
I love my country with its uncountable downs and few ups. I love it with –not despite- the unconstructed streets, the electricity cuts, the water running out, the people’s bluntness, the rakshas noise, and the crowded buses…till the end of the very long list. I love it with all that, and if I don’t love it, I can’t help change it.
I love the people, yes, but I also love the land, the air, and the Nile, and I would never trade any of it to live anywhere else in the future.
So yes, I live in a constant homesickness because I am here in the UAE studying for my Bachelor’s degree. The UAE is definitely a “step up” from Sudan, and it’s a comfortable, entertaining and beautiful place to be. But for me, it is no home.
When things get tough, I remind myself that I am here because I’m trying to become a better person through education and solitude. I try to remember that by endurance and hard work, I can become someone who would eventually do something for their country instead of just tweeting about it. And that gets me by for the next day, to when someone asks my how are you, and I say great, alhamdulilah.

What Should the UAE Do for the Rajaa Children?

Fifteen young Sudanese children were raped by their school driver at the Rajaa rehabilitation center in Khartoum where they live.

Now, why should we care? It’s Sudan after all. Raped women, assaulted villages, and destroyed homes are simply natural occurrences in the war ridden country that have been undergoing bombarding and shelling for as long as anyone can remember.

Yes, Sudan is a political and social mess, but does that give us the excuse to disregard the Rajaa children case? Absolutely not.

Ten years ago, there would have been no chance for the world of knowing that Motaz, a driver at the Rajaa center sexually assaulted and raped not one, or two, or three, but fifteen street kids hailing from Northern, Southern and Western Sudan. These kids, who regarded their stay at the center as their last hope to stay off of the streets, would have had to endure this inhumane abuse helplessly simply because no one would have known about it to help them.

But now, thanks to Twitter and BlogSpot, knowing is not the issue. Wherever we are we can know, but it is not enough to just know, we must act.

UAE has the means and the opportunity to help Sudan. Not through official donations though, since it became apparent that sending charitable funds to the Sudanese government have done nothing to prevent civil wars, let alone the Rajaa Children case.

What should be done however is sending financial support to non-governmental organizations that organize charity projects independent of the government.

Organizations such as “To Sudan with Love” and “Sudanese Red Crescent Society” aim to support homeless children, widows, orphans and other misfortunate minorities. They also encourage the society to become an active part of the social change, by urging the people –especially the youth- to volunteer with their time, effort, or money to help out their follow citizens.

These organizations put considerable effort into making Sudan a better place. They do not lack enthusiasm, motive, or good intention. They only lack the proper funding, and that’s where the UAE can lend hand.   

 

Football Players as Government Officials? God I Hope Not.

I recently read an article written by my colleague and friend Reem called Football Players, Why Not Government Officials?. I loved her writing, but it was not specifically the talk about football that got me intrigued, since I don’t care for sports.

It was her apparent and overflowing sense of love and patriotism for a country that cannot provide as much as security for its citizens, that truly captivated me.

Me on the other hand, I wish sports would be banished from my country. Our two most famous football teams, instead of uniting the people in the street who love the game, further separate them in the name of sheer and biased loyalty.

In my case however, the government is a big supporter of sports. Why wouldn’t it be? When the people rage the streets for a lost game instead of when Jalila Khamis -a human rights activist- is imprisoned without trial. And why wouldn’t it be? When people get into fights after arguing which coach is worth of bringing to which team instead of arguing whether the government could have prevented cutting off Sudan into two.

Sports in my country is the government’s way of drugging souls. But to be fair, when one is living in a country that can hardly be called a proper one, it is easy to get seduced by the distractions laying around, and our self serving government cannot be blamed for encouraging that.

Zainab A