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Updated: Oct 23, 2023

A Testimonial

The impact of Sudan’s Militarisation on my hopes of freedom, peace and justice


MAHASIN DAHAB


For the sake of this written piece, I will designate 25 October 2021 as day 1 - when the militarisation of the state prevailed against the people’s will to save the Sudan from complete collapse.


Day one:

A military coup happened in coordination between Sudan’s militant groups against the second Sudanese Transitional Government appointed after the Juba Peace Agreement.


Three days prior, two of my friends and I marched in Support of transitioning the power to the civilian government in hopes of achieving Sudan’s transition of power after the long reign of the Albasheer regime. All political parties and resistance committees nationwide called for this Earthquake— For us, the 25th of October should have been a historic day. However, the December Revolutionaries endured another day of traumatic, disappointing events since the popular uprising in December 2018.

During the time of the coup, I was working at the Ministry of Social Development, combating violence against women and children unit as a programs manager; the unit is placed in a unique position as the highest body concerned with the protection of women and children in the country. At the Unit, we worked on a comprehensive consultation for Sudan’s first Gender Based Violence law. We engaged grassroots women-led groups in building community-based mechanisms to respond to sexual and gender-based violence - under what we named the community referral pathways. This level of coordination introduces a new possibility to engage the Sudanese community with the security sector and foster awareness of the importance of civilian protection and engagement.


I awoke on October 25th to the jarring echoes of gunfire, the acrid scent of tear gas, and a complete absence of internet and cellular connections. The anguish gripping my chest at that moment remains etched in my memory. This morning bore a haunting resemblance to June 3rd, 2019, when many of us experienced an assault, witnessing the forceful dismantling of a peaceful sit-in and the perpetration of numerous crimes against fellow protesters in Khartoum. The Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces were the culprits responsible for both instances.


The 58 days of the sit-in were far from ideal. However, they held the dreams of many; for me, it was the dream of claiming spaces in public spheres which began with the founding of Midanik, a revolutionary independent feminist movement. For the majority at the sit-in, the contemporary Sudanese quest was a civilian government, a new social contract preserved by a new constitution, and the biggest dream of all: elections. Similar to the atrocities committed against civilians across Sudan on June 3rd, militarist violence manifested in violence against women, with no political will or action to prevent it, only a few efforts to respond to the aftermath of the brutal crimes of sexual gender-based violence, myself and the fellows at Midanik claimed that we are neither victims nor survivors, but dedicated actors in a genuine quest for freedom. Being an activist in the feminist movement in Sudan taught me acceptance, resilience and the notions of everyday resistance against all types of oppression.


From October 25 2021, until April 15, there are 537 days; these days have witnessed the love and dedication of all those who held their ground towards Sudan. The women and girls of the feminist movement had carried the weight of nonviolent resistance upon their shoulders.

Claiming public spaces while resisting shame, blame, patriarchal pedagogies and challenging Sudans' cultural hegemonies to push for changes in the status quo. The Sudan militarist ideology isn’t mutually exclusive to the current warring parties; the political violence was practised every day on every woman in the public sphere, and it was met with more resistance and more solidarity from within the feminist movement.


Day 134 of the military coup:

The International Day of Women, another million march heading towards the presidential palace. Join committee campaign members decided to build upon their quest for representation among the resistance committees and initiated a march to celebrate women in the grassroots movement. In Khartoum, the call was to push for justice on the case of Awadia Ajbna, a tea vendor murdered by the Sudanese police forces on March 6 2012. The demonstration was to continue to the women's streets vendors union at Alsoug Alshaabi Khartoum in solidarity with the union's struggles against all governments and continuous resilience in the face of political grievances and constant hunger for recognition by political parties.


The March was met with a majority of refusal by the resistance committees; a minority of people went to the designated destination, and the rest went straight to the presidential palace, with another demand for civilian rule. Neglecting the larger quest of the feminist organisers to end militant dominance and impunity of perpetrators.


On this day, there was a clear difference between the stance of the feminist movement and feminist activists and those who use days such as March eighth for tokenisation politics. This dynamic has been dominating all acts of feminist resistance since late 2018.


Day 254 of the military coup:

At Al Jouda Sit-In, a group of friends were harassed by fellow protesters and threatened with rape and violence. On day 254, or the 6th of July 2022, in solidarity, the feminist movement called for a protest to assert the positionality we have against the violence we face using Mufraka, a traditional cooking tool used in Sudanese kitchen by our mothers and grandmothers in making food and also asserting power within the household.

Going out on these protests, there was a level of collective awareness of a great deal of physical and psychological harm to all these protesters combined with a more significant political theft and debates regarding our movement; across all ages and all agendas, the women, queers, and those who believed in quests of post-2018 feminist movement agreed upon the minimum. Attending these protests, I was amazed by how we all could exist between the fine lines of victimisation and resilience. Living in Sudan constituted a constant struggle to understand ethno-economic privilege while knowing that the dominating state of otherness inherently limited our rights of freedom from violence, education and movement.


Day 537 of the military coup:

On a typical Saturday, April 15th, I was abruptly awakened by an urgent call from a friend who inquired about the status of our planned work. The reason for their concern was the heavy gunfire echoing in Khartoum South. In response to this alarming situation, I swiftly contacted all my colleagues and devised a plan.


Despite all the events that had transpired since the outbreak of the current war, I can unequivocally declare that the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) had effectively taken over my home, and I had never known any other reality. My birthplace was Khartoum, and it was not my fault that the Sudanese state and its politicians had failed in their mission to establish social justice and cohesion. The pervasive militarisation of the state had unjustly denied me the fundamental right to live in a just and equitable society. It denied me the right to right.

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