Friday, July 6, 2012

Sudan Protests - A Ghost House Victim Tells His Story

This is the witness account of Ahmed (a pseudonym) who has had several run-ins with the Sudanese police and NISS, one of which could have ended very badly. This story is a reason as good as any to support #SudanRevolts. Nobody should have to live in a country where things like this can happen. Nobody should accept a regime that uses torture as a way of moulding its people.

I was born and grew up in al-Shajara, Khartoum in the late seventies and went to an Egyptian school. My first problem with the government was in 1993 when i was in my late teens. The government fought with Egypt and kicked out the Egyptian educational mission which meant that our school closed down. We demonstrated, me and my classmates (both girls and boys), and the government sent the police to stop us. After police they sent NISS. They warned and threatened us with jail, that we weren't going to finish our education and such. Nothing physical happened to us at that time.

After the demos in 1993 the NISS had a file on me saying that I wasn't cooperative. They had asked me to join them, in the al-Rey al-Masri mosque where they had an office used for meetings, punishment and torture. By the name of Islam I had to join them, they said, to help the country. They wanted me to spy on my neighborhood and friends in the name of Islam and to help the country. I didn't refuse but disagreed in silence. I didn't report anything to them or do anything to help them.
So we started in a Sudanese school. I was in last year of high school then. Most of the teachers were government people and treated us very bad. Nobody succeeded with their studies that year, everyone in class failed and it wasnt because we were bad but ”because we were Egyptian” and had an Egyptian education ”like girls”. In Egypt they don't hit the students as punishment and our Sudanese teachers thought that was silly. The exams they brought were not from the books that we read. I repeated that last year in another school.

I started college and went for three months but quit my studies because I didn't like the environment. It was so diffrent from the school I was used to. Instead I started my own business in 1996 and lived a normal life. In 2000 I had finished my university studies and worked in different places. In 2003 I started to work for an international NGO in Nuba Mountains that removes landmines.

Kadugli - Questioning and Threats
In 2004 I got problems with NISS again, this time in Kadugli. They stopped my car and asked about the papers for the car and said ”this car is not registered in our papers as an organization car so you're not allowed to drive across the country.” They detained me for 3 days until I had recieved all the necessary papers from the office in Khartoum. During the detention they questioned me about my work, about other (rebel controlled) areas, where the mines were taken from etc. They weren't physical at that time. After they released me they told me to visit their office every time I came to Kadugli and sign ”attendence”. If I wouldn't do that they would put me on trial. I did that once, but gave it up after that.

I quit work because I didn't feel secure due to the NISS threats and left Sudan for Egypt where I stayed for almost a year. I got back to Khartoum in 2005 and resumed to work for the same organization as before, but this time in the Khartoum office.

Kidnapped by SLA - Darfur
I was on a mission in el-Fasher in Darfur with another colleague. It was a land trip and we crossed all the way in peace without any problems with military or SLA. On our way back, on March 6th 2006, we were stopped by the SLA checkpoint. We went through a normal procedure where they asked us for ID and such. When they realized that we were on our way back to khartoum they told us to get out of the car. Another driver got it, they put us in the back of the pickup and drove us to a house with an office. 

They started an investigation with questioning why we were crossing without permission since we had taken a shortcut to Khartoum. They suspected us of being government spies and started to scare and terrorize us. They were shooting in the air and on the ground, let us stand in the scorching sun for hours. This continued for three days. Then they said that if we were telling the truth about not being spies, our organization would ask for us and they would let us go. On March 27th we were released after negotiations with the UN and brought to Khartoum with a UN flight.

Accused of Being SLA - Beaten and Humiliated
10 days later the police came to my home and took me to al-Shajara police station where NISS were waiting. They took me in another car to some new place. The car had no windows in the back were I was sitting so I don't know where I was being taken but I think it was in Omdurman because there were sand all over the place. When we arrived they took me inside.

They immediately started to question me by a table with three chairs. I was sitting in one chair on one side of the table. On the other side were four men that questioned me, humiliated me and laughed at me. They were asking me about the trip to Darfur and accused me of helping the SLA. They started to slap me around hard and ask why I helped the rebels. When I said I wasn't helping the SLA they got more violent. They seemed to believe what they thought about me; that I was a rebel and a spy.

They wanted me to tell them more about SLA and my work place, what kind of bad things they [the organization] were doing to the country. I said it wasnt like they thought but they didn't believe me. They asked me the same questions repeatedly, then left me alone and came back with the same questions over and over again. That night I got little food and water and I slept on the floor.

On the 2nd day they left me alone in a room. They didn't come to me at all. In the evening I got some food and water again.

On the 3d day they came and asked the same questions again but had changed tactics a little bit. Their focus was still about SLA and my organization. They tied my hands behind my back and put me on a chair. When I didn't or couldn't answer a question they hit me. Later they took me back to Khartoum where I signed some papers and was released after 2 hours. They said I was free to go.

Far From Safe - Ghosthouse and torture
Two weeks later NISS came as civilians to my home and asked me to come with them. They said I had to fill in some papers and then be released again. But they took me to another place and started with the questioning again. I knew it was a "ghost house" because of the equipment in the room. There was a big steel chair with chains, iron bars and people had been writing things like ”freedom” and different dates on the walls.

In the beginning they were just asking me questions and asked me to join them if I wasn't working with the SLA like I said. I refused and was angry because their way of ”helping my country” wasn't my way. I already helped my country throught the organization. They offered a good salary and said I would help the country as a ”mujahid." I continued to refuse and asked them to just let me go. Then they begun to get angry and said I didn't do the military service, that I wasnt a good muslim and punished me because ”now we know you work with the SLA somehow and work for an organization that spies on the country.” They hit me, slapped me and left me alone. They later came back in the same mood. 

They put me on the floor, with my face down and tied my hands and feet together behind my back. Then they tied a rope to my wrists and feet and hung me in the roof.

I fainted and they woke me up with water in my face and I was on the floor again. They hit me with their hands and iron bars. They took my clothes off and left me alone and naked and came back with the same questions and treatment, calling me an enemy of the country. This was one or two days after they brought me in, I cant recall exactily.

They asked how I had been spying, laughed at me and humiliated me and continued to hit me. They brought me shitty food once in a while but I have no clue how long it was in between.

On the 3rd day, I think, they gave me a lot of water and Fanta, which I drank eagerly because I was really thirsty. But a couple of hours later they tied my penis with a rope so I couldn't urinate. My hands and legs were tied. Some other people came that treated me a bit differently, kinder. They told me to listen to NISS and do what they say and nothing will happen to me, that I would be released and brought back to my family. I said I couldn't do that because I don't belive in it and I didn't do what they think I did, that it's a misunderstanding. Some said that things would be ok and others said that I would be killed if I didn't ”confess” and agree to their demands.

Some time on the 3rd or 4th day, when it hurt so much because I couldn't urinate that I screamed, they came and untied my penis. I still couldnt pee.

On the 5th day they just left me tied in the same room.

On the 6th day they asked me if I had changed my mind or not. They weren't physical but treating me bad, humiliating me. They untied me completely for a few hours. Then someone came and took me with him in his car and left the place. I was free.

I stayed at home for two days and told work that I was sick. When I got back to work, NISS had sent a letter to the organization saying that I had to quit work because I hadn't applied for the postion through official authorities. The organization instead sent me to Nuba mountains, an SPLA area where NISS doesnt have any control, where i could work without being harassed. I never told work what had happened to me. I stayed in Nuba mountains for about three months before I dared to go back to Khartoum.

A month later I had managed to bribe the customs at the airport and was on a plane out of Sudan.

Cause and effect
I still have scars on my arms after the beating and my right wrist is still painful. When I hear a waterpump, I get scared and am mentally brought back to the ghosthouse, because when it was silent in the room where I was being held, I could hear one from far away. I don't have the same self confidence as before, so when I drive a car for example, I get nervous. And sometimes when I try to sleep, my whole body jerks me awake violently, I guess because that's how I got woken up by NISS in the ghosthouse when I fell asleep or fainted.

NISS = National Intelligence and Security Service
NGO = Non Governmental Organization
SLA = Sudan Liberation Army
SPLA = Sudan People's Liberation Army
Nuba Mountains = Area in South Kordufan State, Sudan
Kadugli = Capital city of South Kordufan State, Sudan
Darfur = Region in West Sudan
El-Fasher = Capital city of North Darfur
Mujahid = Person who struggles for for the sake of Allah and Islam
Ghost house = Refers to a torture chamber, place of torture

Sudan Protests XVII

By the Wad Nubawi Mosque today

Post will be updated during the evening.

Friday again. That means prayers and in this case, more protests.

Directly after Friday prayers in Khartoum, people started to gather. Some imams even encouraged people to protest. In Wad Nubawi, NISS surrounded the mosque and shot teargas and rubber bullets. People were trapped inside the mosque for a couple of hours. Doctors on spot set up temporary work stations to treat the wounded and residents in the area brought food. Some reports claim that live ammunition has been used and that a protester called Otaiba was wounded in the leg after he was hit by live ammunition. 

Burning tear gas and rubber bullets in Wad Nubawi

This week's gas fashion within NISS includes a type of burning gas which was frequently used around Wad Nubawi mosque. Many were hurt but the doctors' committe released a statement saying that they've been ordered not to help injured protesters.

The crew of AlArabiya was arrested by NISS and later released.

Update: It now seems confirmed that NISS detained the Aljazeera reporter and camera man. The reporter was released after an hour but the camera man (Yassir Suliman) was brought to an unknown location and is currently still held. Both their phones were taken.

More here:
For updated info on Twitter, follow:
@girifna @superMojok @BSonblast @TheDooda @HamidMurtada

Monday, July 2, 2012

Sudan Protests XVI or what?

With my last post in mind, I'll try to be reserved in this one.

I'm safe. I'm not Sudanese and I don't live in Sudan. But I have a right to be concerned as a world citizen, as a mother of a half-Sudanese and as one who loves the country and it's people.

When the protests started, more than two weeks ago, I was thrilled and anxious to see this through as best as I could. I've stayed online almost 24/7 and have tweeted and blogged, encouraged and informed between diaper changes and the planning of our son's name ceremony. I've cursed myself for not being able to participate in the protests, in Sudan or by the embassy. I've contacted media and spoken in national radio. I've gotten people involved and have been very passionate about it all. "This is it," I've said, "now the Sudanese have finally woken up!"

But something happened. Or rather, things that happened started to unhappen. Like a building wave that strangely faltered, the protests in Sudan seem to have gotten weaker and weaker.

The world have shown it's support to #SudanRevolts. People have literally put their lives at stake for this revolution to happen. Some 1000 people have gotten arrested and a countless heap have been abused, threatened and mistreated in 1000 different ways. A man died. People got hurt. And while some stubborn activists continue their struggle; online and on ground, the rest seem to have slowly walked back to their houses, closed the curtains and hope that "nothing bad" will happen to them due to their moment of anger.

But bad things will continue to happen to them, no matter if they protest or not. The economy will continue to hit them hard, their lack of freedom will eventually remove their sense of personality and individualism and their ideas and opinions will be unspoken. Their kids; those innocent adorable little persons, will learn to grow up in a prison worse than any "Ghosthouse" or federal prison. Because in this one, the one without bars and walls, you can actually taste the freedom. You have it, right there, but you're either too scared or to indoctrinated and brainwashed that you don't even recognize freedom when you see it.

I think, and I'm going to be totally honest here no matter what kind of possible reactions I might get, that the world (all those people outside of Sudan) that have protested and shown their support for #SudanRevolts feels a bit let down. Disappointed if you choose.

People have travelled far to get to a Sudanese embassy and have been supporting and encouraging in many ways so that the Sudanese won't loose their spirits. And now? What you hear on internet is things like "let's make it happen on Friday!" or "Free this-and-that-person!" But what about the real issue? Why wait for a Friday to bring everyone you know that has something about their government to complain about and hit the streets? Why not now? What better time will there ever be than now?

Everyone in Sudan are unhappy with their government, wether they know it or not. Those who don't know it have simply not been in a situation where they've met the "authorities" because they have privilages of some sort.

I don't know... I'm a bit confused here. Where is this #SudanRevolts that started out so well? What happened to people's courage and "stick to it no matter what"?

I understand fright, I really do. I've been followed and monitored by the Sudanese authorities. Several (in plural!) of my close ones have been questioned, held and tortured by NISS, so believe me when I say I know what they're capable of. But what won't they be capable of if they can beat you down this easily? They will laugh at you, humiliate you, punish you for a number of things that you either did or didn't do.