Protesters in Sudan are shocked, angry, sad but unbowed as protests head for sixth month

On 3 June, the Sudanese people’s hopes for a peaceful transition to a government of their choice were crushed mercilessly 52 days after former president Bashir Al Omar was overthrown.

What should have been joyful Eid celebrations turned out to be a nightmare of unexplainable proportions.

For weeks, protesters - everyday people like healthcare professionals, lawyers and doctors - had been on the streets, peacefully calling for a transition of power to a civilian government. Young men and women were leading the chants. The sit-in had become a hub for hope and freedom after the deposition of Omar Al-Bashir.

As the Ramadhan month drew to a close, spirits were high. Food items were donated, people sang songs of hope and offered prayers. Homeless children found families who fed and cared for them and taught them to read and write.

Most people went to bed in their tents as usual on the evening of 2 June, unaware of the horrors that would awake them.  

In the early dawn, the peace was shattered by gunfire and burning. People found themselves hemmed in and under attack on all sides as more than 10,000 soldiers set on the protesters with live ammunition, teargas, whips and sticks. The attack lasted for five hours non-stop.

More than 100 people were killed, and many hundreds more were injured in the brutal violence.

A couple of days later, bodies began floating up the River Nile. Social media was awash with images of bodies with bricks tied to limbs. The security forces had hoped to conceal their acts – dumping and drowning dead bodies never to be seen again. This was a new level of cold-hearted brutality and callousness.

The feared Rapid Support Forces - a special military force allied to Sudan’s former government - are still roaming the streets of Khartoum and inflicting terror.

Hundreds of people have been arrested and detained, including recently-returned opposition leader Yassir Saeed Arman, who was one of the lead negotiators during the peace agreement that ended the war between the north and south of Sudan in 2005.

There have been horrific reports of rape and sexual violence by paramilitaries. The World Health Organisation confirmed five women and men raped during the 3 June attack, while other reports put the number at 70.

And meanwhile, Amnesty International has this week released disturbing new evidence - including satellite imagery - showing that Sudanese government forces have continued to commit war crimes and other serious human rights violations in Darfur.  

Satellite evidence and testimonies confirm that government forces and associated militias have damaged or destroyed at least 45 villages in Sudan’s Jebel Marra between July 2018 and February this year. Amnesty has also documented other abuses by security forces in Darfur, including unlawful killings, sexual violence, systematic looting and forced displacement.

Omar al Bashir and his shamelessly murderous cronies and security forces must be handed over to the International Criminal Court. These callous crimes are happening under their watch and on their command.

And Sudan’s Transitional Military Council must immediately withdraw the Rapid Support Forces from any policing and law-enforcement operations - especially in Khartoum and Darfur - and confine them to their barracks in the interests of public safety.

The Sudanese people are still reeling in shock at the savagery of the 3 June attack and the terror that has followed. There is a strong feeling of anger and sadness, but this underpins a determined bravery to not give up in their quest for change.

It’s important that people around the world take interest and show they care about what is happening to the citizens of Sudan who are caught up in this time of brutal unrest. We should all be outraged. The Sudanese people need to know they’re not alone – the international community must show its on their side.

This blog was first published by Metro UK.