A few months after the protests in Sudan first hit the streets, foreign media persons on social media started commenting about the Arab Spring arriving late in the country. Protestors angrily shot back saying “this is NOT an Arab spring, it’s a Sudanese sandstorm”.
Unlike uprisings that have taken place in recent years within the region, the current coup in Sudan is not the first, the second or third of its kind. The nation has a great history with fighting dictatorship and colonialism that dates back before the Turks ruled the country. Sudan had its first experience with fighting military rule in 1964 and it was overthrown, not only then but the following one also fell in 1985.
Starting in early 2018, Sudan’s economy went into freefall and the inflation rate peaked at 64%. In summer, people stood in the blazing sun in long queues for bread and those with cars had to wait for hours to fill up their tanks. All the while, Omar Al Bashir takes a trip to attend the World Cup in Russia. At this point, people boiled up with rage and couldn’t keep silent anymore. The first protests broke out in Atbara, a city 287 kilometers north of Khartoum, on the 19th of December 2018 by a group of high school students who were having trouble getting sandwiches for breakfast because of the increasing prices of bread. After other states started to join the protests, people started facing extreme violence and inhumane attacks from the National Intelligence and Security Services who were arresting young men and women as well as firing tear gas and live ammunition on peaceful protestors on the streets.
At first, everyone suspected that these protests would be in vain as they had been in previous years and that the people would give up, but these riots continued for the next three months. Dozens were killed and thousands more detained and tortured, including students, teachers, doctors and even young children. By the end of March, the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA) started calling people around the country to join the million march on the 6th of April. That is a special date in the history of Sudan; when the previous military government led by Nimeiri was overthrown. To everyone’s surprise, including my own, people responded and it is estimated there were half a million protestors on the streets that day in Khartoum alone, all marching towards the Military Headquarters.
The kind of unity Sudan has seen in the past few months is incredible and heartwarming, it is something that the nation has never experienced before. Everyone is participating at the sit-ins in different states around the country whether they’re ethnically Arab or Nubian, from Western or Southern Sudan, Muslim or Christian.
What sets this revolution apart is the sheer organization. The SPA managed the protests in an organized manner, setting specific dates, objectives, and agendas for each march. At the same time, the youth of Sudan weren’t always waiting for guidance. They built a clinic within the sit-in to aid those affected by the attacks of the NISS. They had their own pharmacies, providing free medicine for anyone in need. Some would clean the streets, others would be stationed at checkpoints to make sure that no-one coming in was part of the government or their supporters. Artists were painting on walls and creating murals for the martyrs of the revolution. There were book corners and a stage where musical and theatrical performances took place. Some led panel discussions and talks to enlighten more people about the situation and Sudan’s political history. Protestors stood on cars to chant powerful poetry, like Alaa Salah, the young woman whose photo spread around the world wide web, giving her the title of ‘Icon of the Revolution’. Half of the protestors would stay the night to protect the arena while the rest go home to sleep, to come in the early morning and take the shift from there and vice-versa.
In recent days, some people have started to consider the sit-in their home, including street kids. The protestors started a wonderful initiative called the Open School for Street Heroes, designating one corner of the sit-in as a school where children living on the street can learn. In normal circumstances, these children can’t go to school. In another setting, a few boys started chanting a catchy song inviting people to come and drink tea, accidentally advertising a well-known tea company which invited them for an appreciation ceremony and granted them financial aid for their education. Several other companies were also supporting the sit-in by providing food, water, medicine and other amenities that the protestors needed to survive on the street.
As someone who grew up in Dubai and away from my homeland, I never related to my country much. I had a kind of identity crisis because I did not feel like I belonged to a specific place. Recently, with the ongoing protests in Sudan and the rapid changes that are happening, I have managed to find a connection with my land and with my people. I have great hopes for a future that I never could have imagined in Sudan, certainly not this soon. After the collaboration and support that I saw my people give to each other, especially without the aid of external forces, I believe that we are one of the most incredible nations the world has known and our generation has a great potential to rebuild the country we’ve all dreamed of.
Sudanese youth have proved to be much more aware than the older generations expected. They will not repeat the same mistakes or compromise any of their demands. The revolution continues to flourish, and the streets are still filled with those waiting for the entire regime to be wiped out.