The youth volunteers unrolled long green carpets on Monday before distributing loaves of bread and bowls of stew to the seated faithful. Nearby, dozens of others cheered and waved Sudanese flags.
It is Ramadan in Sudan, and at a sit-in in Khartoum, where thousands of people have camped out since April demanding an end to military rule, no one seems ready to go home — and few seem to have lost their energy for protest.
Instead, the protesters have organized an iftar to break their fast, with food for more than 2,000 people, according to volunteers.
Despite the heat during the day, student protester Khalid Sharif Ibrahim Abdallah says they will keep demonstrating until they see real change in government. Muslim faithful do not eat or drink from sunrise to sunset.
“There’s thirst. There’s hunger. There’s tiredness,” he told VOA. “But you are aiming for a goal, and you must get to it. All these things, if they don’t make you weaker, they will only make you stronger.”
He said rather than slowing them down, Ramadan will give them motivation to keep going to reach their goals, which he described as “a civilian government, a democratic government, and a country for citizens with equal rights.”
The previous government, led by former President Omar al-Bashir and dominated by the military, ruled for 30 years and is accused of corruption, atrocities and curbing basic freedoms.
While youth have led the revolution, people of all ages joined the Ramadan celebration in a show of solidarity. Abdalshafer Ahmed Ibrahim, in his 70s, holding a Quran and wearing a white jalibiya, sat on a carpet waiting for sundown.
“We want the freedom to change the situation,” he told VOA. “The pressure has become too much. We want freedom. That’s all.” When at last the call to prayer echoed across the sit-in at dusk, the protesters quietly took their first sips of water and bites of food since dawn.
Volunteers also brought food and drink to share with the protesters. They welcomed anyone to eat from their plastic tubs of rice, and poured cold hibiscus juice into waiting cups. One volunteer, named Khalda Kamil Abuker, and her friends are part of a group that works to support cancer patients.
“Every Ramadan, we feed the cancer patients in the hospital,” she said. “This year we thought we would start here as we wanted to share with our brothers and sisters in the sit-in.” With darkness enveloping the sit-in site, Abuker explained that cancer treatment in Sudan is subpar, and said the previous government didn’t do enough to support health care.
“Cancer patients in Sudan suffer quite a lot, especially if they need surgery,” she said.She said she hopes the new government will be more responsive. “We hope the military council will fulfill the demands of the people and of the nation for the sake of stability and peace of mind,” she said. “The civilian government must be put together as soon as possible.”
She added: “We hope this sit-in can bring an honorable result, not just for Sudan but for the whole world. If the demands of the youth are met, Sudan is going to have civility, safety, and the country will be moving forward.”
When the last bits of food were eaten, the youth rolled up the green carpets. Then, the music started again, and the youth began waving their flags once more. The Sudanese at the sit-in continued celebrating Ramadan, and the revolution. (VOA)
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has condemned a Monday attack by Sudanese security forces that broke up a protest site in Khartoum and killed or wounded dozens of people.
“He condemns the use of force to disperse the protesters at the sit-in site, and he is alarmed by reports that security forces have opened fire inside medical facilities,” said a spokesman for Guterres at the United Nations in New York. “The Secretary-General reminds [Sudan’s] Transitional Military Council of its responsibility for the safety and security of the citizens of Sudan. He urges all parties to act with utmost restraint.”
Explosions and heavy machine gunfire were heard as security forces stormed a site outside the Defense Ministry where demonstrators had maintained a protest for the past eight weeks, demanding the military hand power over to a civilian authority.
Witnesses say that by mid-afternoon, the area had been cleared.
The Central Committee of Sudan Doctors, which is close to Sudan’s protest movement, now says the death toll stands at 30 with many more injured.
In remarks from the spokesman, Guterres also called for unimpeded access for first responders at the sit-in site and in hospitals where the wounded are treated, and called on Sudanese authorities to conduct an independent investigation and hold people accountable for the deaths.
U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet also condemned the attack and urged the security forces to stop immediately.
“Those exercising their rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and expression must be protected, not targeted or detained,” Bachelet said in a statement. “This is a fundamental tenet of international human rights law.”
The U.S. embassy in Khartoum tweeted that the attacks on protesters “must stop.”
The British embassy condemned the attack and called it an “outrageous step that will only lead to more polarization and violence.”
Details of the raid
The sit-in began in April as civilians and military officials argued over the makeup of a transitional government, following the military overthrow of Omar al-Bashir in April, after mass protests against his 30-year rule.
With batons in hand, Sudanese forces dressed in police and military uniforms surrounded protesters near the military headquarters and began forcing the demonstrators to leave. Video on several media outlets shows Sudanese forces beating protesters lying face down on the ground.
Protesters say rapid response forces and paramilitary units surrounded two Khartoum hospitals.
The Declaration of Freedom and Change Forces — a coalition of political parties leading the protest — issued a statement calling on all demonstrators to continue with”the revolution.”Protesters later blocked roads leading into and out of Khartoum.
Protest organizers have suspended further talks with the Transitional Military Council and called for civil disobedience across the country until the military hands over power to civilians.
The organizers also say in the statement that security forces who killed protesters must be brought to justice.
Media reports quote Transitional Military Council spokesman Shams El din Al Kabashi as saying the forces only targeted what he called “dangerous groups” that infiltrated the protesters in the sit-in area.
Kabashi says he believes that a return to negotiations is the quickest way to resolve the problem. (VOA)