How a digital movement is fuelling the Sudan uprising

How a digital movement is fuelling the Sudan uprising
Aerial view of Juba, South Sudan's capital. Photo: IStock

Mohamed Mattar, a 26-year-old engineer, was shot dead while trying to shield two women during an attack unleashed by government forces on its own people. He was among the thousands of young Sudanese men and women who took to the streets demanding an end to torment by their own military apparatus.

His death has lead to a worldwide digital movement where users have changed their social media avatars resembling his favourite colour; a distinct shade of indigo, in honour of his memory.

Sudan is in the midst of one of the biggest revolution the country has witnessed in ages. It has been a state defined by poverty and inequality since its Independence in 1956, and an incumbent leader who had captured power by force in 1989 further pillaged it into deeper distress. A stagnant economy and an inflation tipping 70 percent denied the population access to basic necessities for survival.

Omar al-Bashir, a dictator known infamously for his genocide of 2003 that left thousands dead in Dharfur, was toppled by his own military in a dramatic coup last April. Initial protests that began in December 2018, had resulted in violence that had killed dozens, when he had ordered a nationwide state of emergency in order to quell the unrest seeping through his country.

Though his ouster was cause for joy, it was short lived and proved only to be a brief respite.

Once in power, the newly formed transition government run by the military announced that it would take over reign for the next two years.

It closed the country’s internet, its borders and airspace and further declared another nationwide emergency for three months in a bid to consolidate total authority.

The people, who knew fairly well that the military was responsible for the violence and massacre through the years demanded a civilian government at the helm. Protests broke out in Khartoum, the country’s capital, the military headquarters now stormed in by protestors. They weren't ready to step back.

The Sudanese Professionals Association, a group that consists of doctors, working professionals and local unions have been spearheading the revolution, calling for 'total civil disobedience and nationwide strike' to paralyse public life across the country. Their three basic demands consists of putting an end to the rule of the militia, rope in a stable civilian government, and most importantly, provide women rights.

Sudan has had a notorious reputation for repeatedly denying women a space for peaceful coexistence within its borders. A 'Sharia Law', enacted in the country had several bizarre regulations that allowed a girl at 10 years of age to be married off by a guardian with the permission of a judge, and specific dressing codes for women. Marital rape and child marriage are still not considered crimes. Teenager Noura Houssein gained global spotlight when sentenced to death for killing her husband, though being a child bride and acting in self defence. There are restrictions in place to freedom of movement, right to education and workplace association.

The revolt that is now taking place is radical, in terms of the overall participation of women both young and old. Alaa Salah, 22, is among the many, leading the anti- government protests. Standing over a sedan car, clad in a white garb, she is now the new face of the revolution.

But fortune hasn’t particularly favoured the brave. Men and women are being detained, harassed and raped. Bodies have been reportedly thrown into the Nile in an attempt to lower the death toll. Unofficial reports suggest a death toll of more than 500, with about 723 injured, 650 arrested, 54 raped and another 1,000 missing.

(Opinions expressed are personal)