With #DarfurFriday Tomorrow, #SudanRevolts Shows No Sign of Letting Up

Although it hasn’t been getting a whole lot of mainstream media attention, #SudanRevolts has not appeared to lose momentum; at least, not on Twitter. What follows is a brief update for the first two weeks of July.

On July 4, the Sudan Tribune reported that the leaders of the main opposition political parties signed an agreement, the Democratic Alternative Charter, which commits to the use of peaceful protest and civil disobedience in order to oust the regime of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP). The Charter calls for “a civil democratic state,” respect for Sudan’s diversity, and the protection of rights and freedoms of all citizens. So far, though, it’s still unclear to what extent the protestors might be willing to get behind any of the opposition parties.

The Charter also calls for “safeguards against the use of religion in politics.” On July 7, President Al Bashir said Sudan’s next constitution would be “100 percent Islamic;” something many Sudanese feared would be pursued by the NCP after the secession of South Sudan last year.

In the meantime, protests have continued and security forces continue to crack down. The AFP reported police firing tear gas at students in Khartoum the weekend of July 8, and Al Jazeera reported that a prominent member of the opposition Popular Congress Party was arrested. Videos posted on YouTube show crowds of students at the University of Khartoum chanting, marching, and confronting police (here and here, for example). The hashtag #UofK is being used to cover developments at the University.

Sudan Change Now tweeted on July 8 that large numbers of injured students arrived at Khartoum Hospital, with doctors protecting them and refusing to hand them over to security forces. Earlier this month, as reported by @dalliasd (a great resource for following #SudanRevolts) the Sudanese Doctors’ Union came out in support of the protestors, a very significant development indicating #SudanRevolts has professional support. This week, some 200 lawyers and over 100 journalists also came out in support of the protestors.

Namaa Al-Mahdi (@Namaa0009, another great resource) reported on July 8 that police retreated from clashes with students at the University of Khartoum’s Shambat Complex. Citizen reporting by @FreeSudanNow indicates that security personnel have been sexually harassing female students.

The ruling NCP has got to be a bit worried. The protests began in mid-June, and at first the president simply dismissed the significance of the protestors as a handful of trouble makers that would easily be dealt with. Earlier this month the Sudanese Media Centre quoted presidential assistant Nafie Ali Nafie as saying the protests are part of a Zionist-American conspiracy. More recently, Al Bashir said “street children” are behind the demonstrations, and on Monday a senior NCP official described the protests as “ridiculous,” taking care to emphasize that #SudanRevolts is nothing like the Tunisia, Egypt, or Libya uprisings.

Security forces have arrested and detained some 2,000 people, and this week many of their relatives protested in Khartoum. Voice of America and Reuters reported that many of the demonstrating family members were beaten and dispersed by police and security agents. On Wednesday, protests turned violent as students clashed with police at the University of Khartoum and Sudan University.

Part of the appeal of the protests has been the themed Fridays; the demonstrators have come out every Friday, choosing a theme to focus on each time. This past Friday was Kandaka Friday, focusing on the importance of women in Sudan; Maha El-Sanosi at Global Voices notes that Kandaka is derived from the Kushitic word for strong women and the title the Kushites used for their queens. Indeed, one can’t help but notice the consistent emphasis on the role of Sudanese women throughout the demonstrations — on Twitter, on blogs, in the news, and finally this past Friday as the theme of the Friday protest.

This coming Friday is #DarfurFriday. This shows the extent to which #SudanRevolts is cognizant of the national context of their grievances. Indeed, throughout the protests, activists on Twitter have shown support for South Sudan, Darfur, and all those struggling in other parts of the country as a result of the NCP’s policies over the past two decades.

On Wednesday, Muftah hosted a Twitter chat about #SudanRevolts and its future. A lot was discussed in that half hour, but some of the issues raised were the lack of a single leader; the demands of the protestors; and where things are headed. The chat was hosted by @MuftahOrg and featured a public Q&A with citizen journalists @MimzicalMimz and @Usiful_ME. They indicated that the demonstrators’ demands are not just about the austerity measures that sparked the protests, but include the cessation of war, access to healthcare and education, women’s rights, and more. What’s next, says @MimzicalMimz, is a democratic government elected by the people.

They also said that despite the activists’ lack of leadership being levied as a criticism, this kind of decentralization actually works to their advantage against a security apparatus that can therefore not hone in on and attack any particular person or group of people. There are plans for the coming weeks in the works, they said, but it is still too risky to divulge them publicly. If the Muftah chat is any indication, momentum is likely to increase into Ramadan: one participant tweeted that every day in Ramadan is like Friday (i.e. a holy day), and so if organized properly protests should also be every day.

The chat was full of hope and determination, and will be published as a transcript on Muftah’s website in the next day or so. Thus far, the Twitter hashtag #SudanRevolts is probably the best way to stay on top of what is going on.