For the past few weeks, Sudan has been wracked by a wave of anti-government protests. What began as a student protest in the capital of Khartoum against spending cuts, has since transformed into a nationwide movement – one that President Omar al-Bashir is keen to stamp out. Our Observers, who were both detained during demonstrations, describe their treatment at the hands of Sudanese security forces.
Arrests and intimidation have played a key role in the government’s crackdown on demonstrations. Police first clashed with students after the protests began in mid-June at Khartoum University. Since then, security forces have regularly used clubs, tear gas and rubber bullets to break up crowds of demonstrators.
Many journalists, bloggers and opposition politicians have been detained over the past few weeks and interrogated by the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS). Some have been sentenced to beatings while others have been sent to unofficial prisons known as “ghost houses”.
This video was filmed on June 22 in the Al Elafoon neighbourhood in Khartoum. It shows protesters who have been convicted of taking part in demonstration being flogged by police. People in the crowd voice their support for the protesters.
The anti-government demonstrations have since spread from the street to the Internet. Activists have been describing their experiences and coming out against the crackdown on various
websites and social media.
Sudan hasn’t seen protests of this magnitude in decades. The demonstrations began on June 16 after students in Khartoum complained about rising food and transport costs. They quickly spread to the general population, after Bashir announced a raft of austerity measures on June 18 aimed at addressing the country’s nose-diving economy, including reducing fuel subsidies, slashing public jobs and tax hikes.
The movement quickly became political, with protesters calling for Bashir to step down. However, after 23 years in power, the president is unlikely to go willingly.
Bashir is already wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide over his role in the Darfur conflict, which left thousands dead.
"We don’t know where these ‘ghost houses’ are, but they are torturing prisoners there."
Farah (not her real name) is a protester. She lives in Khartoum and was arrested twice last week. She wishes to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals.
I was arrested twice last week for taking part in demonstrations in front of Khartoum University. I was taken to a NISS centre, where I was interrogated for several hours. The security agents accused me of treason. They threatened and insulted me because I’m an activist.NISS is trying to spread fear among the people. They’re accusing people of espionage or treason. They’re blackmailing people, threatening to hurt their families or see to it that they lose their jobs. Those who are detained are taken to ‘ghost houses’. Nobody knows the exact location of these buildings but there are a lot of them. Inmates are tortured there, both physically and psychologically. [The accounts of several other Sudanese demonstrators, cited by AFP, corroborate the existence of ghost houses. Amnesty International was made aware of these unofficial detention centres during a violent government crackdown on student demonstrations in 2006.]Being arrested was very traumatic. I don’t feel safe. I believe that my phone is being tapped and that my movements are being monitored. I’ve stopped going to demonstrations. But I hope the Sudanese revolution continues and succeeds in bringing down the current regime.Crowds gather outside of Khartoum University on June 17. Video posted on YouTube by nero sudan.
"They were taken to another NISS centre and I didn’t see them again"
Ahmed is a telecommunication student and an activist. He is one of around 1000 demonstrators who were arrested on Friday, June 29.
My friends and I were driving to Omdourman to take part in a demonstration there. The road we were on had been blocked off by NISS agents who told us to find an alternative route. I wanted to take photos with my mobile phone but the NISS agents spotted me and snatched the phone out of my hands. They dragged me out of the car and started hitting me. I still have the bruises on my back. They put me in one of their vans and drove me to the NISS premises. But I don’t know where I was taken because I was blindfolded during the journey.It was around 3.30pm and I was with about fifty other people who had also been arrested. They took my camera, my phone, and my money and the interrogation began at 7pm. They wanted the passwords to my email and Facebook accounts. They asked me what I had been doing that day, and whether I was a photographer or one of the demonstration’s organisers. I replied that I was neither. I wasn’t hurt or threatened, and they let me go at around midnight.Some of the people I was with were taken to another location. I don’t know where they went and I didn’t see them again.Nobody has threatened me since but I think that my phone calls are being monitored. A friend of mine told me that when he calls me the dial tone is different than before. But I’m not going to stop taking part in demonstrations because I believe that Sudan deserves a better government than the current regime.