One man’s agony is just as important today as Jamal Khashoggi’s was in October last year. The world in 2019 is already proving to be just as barbarous in some dark corners of the globe. The ongoing persecution of one man at the hands of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir’s regime is worth shining a spotlight on as it is a glimpse into the suffering of more than a thousand others who have been detained since the uprising against the government began three weeks ago.
The Sudanese man in question may not have been dismembered, but by exposing his trauma at the hands of the Sudanese security forces, it is not so easy to shrug off the statistic and look the other way. Sudan may be as foreign to most of us on the Southernmost tip of Africa as Yemen is, but it is our responsibility to know what is happening there and fight for the rights of the voiceless, just as so many others fought for the masses of South Africans under apartheid.
Yasir Elsir Ali is a Sudanese blogger and human rights defender who lives in Dubai, who traveled to Khartoum on December 20th to visit his dying father. He arrived just in time as his father passed away two days later. On Christmas day Ali decided to join the hundreds of Sudanese who had spontaneously begun mass protests across the country a week before, calling for an end to the 30 year rule of President Omar al-Bashir. Bashir has presided over state corruption, gross abuses of human rights, and an economy which is in free-fall. Sudanese are lining up for city blocks to buy petrol, and can’t even get the most basic necessities such as bread. The situation is so dire it has brought Sudanese from every sector out onto the streets to call for a change in government.
As Ali joined ordinary Sudanese citizens on the streets on December 25th, he was shot by a state sponsored sniper on a rooftop, the bullet fracturing his rib, puncturing his right lung, and eventually settling in his spinal chord. Still in mourning for his father and just three days after burying him, Ali ended up in the ICU for 9 days. Upon being discharged, he was scheduled to leave Sudan two days later on January 5th, but the state rushed to issue him with a travel ban. On the day he was due to travel back to Dubai, twelve men from the National Intelligence Service wearing civilian clothes, balaclavas and carrying Kalashnikovs stormed his family home in Khartoum, and took him into custody in an unmarked truck.
Ali was being kept in an undisclosed location and is now being held incommunicado at the Al Amal Security hospital. He may have been tortured while his lungs were still bleeding from the gunshot wound, and his ribs broken. The ripple effects of the family’s trauma are being felt as far away as South Africa, as the Sudanese community has begun to protest outside the Embassy of Sudan in Pretoria against Ali’s detention, as well as that of over 1000 others, and calling for Bashir to step aside. This week was just the first in a series of rolling protests in Pretoria alone, with others planned outside the embassy and the UN offices later this week. The Sudan Professionals Association is mobilising across Sudan, as are unions, students and civil society groups.
At the forefront of the demonstrations are doctors – the first line of defence on the ground, and the state is targeting them in order to weaken the protests. Live footage of doctors in white coats being rounded up by the military and herded onto the back of trucks has now been seen around the world, many of them have been shot with live ammunition. Even hospitals are being targeted as punishment for treating the wounded protesters, with live ammunition and teargas having been shot at Omdurman hospital in Khartoum this week, which is a violation of international law.
Once a regime starts to imprison and persecute its medical professionals for marching in peaceful protests, and it starts shooting inside civilian hospitals, it has become utterly inhumane. It no longer cares for its people, if it ever did to begin with. Quite arguably that government no longer has any place in the leadership of this continent.
Shannon Ebrahim is the Foreign Editor for Voices360.