Why we should give an eff about the protests in Sudan

As I’ve mentioned before, my sister recently got married–once in Sudan and once in San Francisco. She likes to really go for the gusto. A and I went to Sudan for wedding number one and met our new brother-in-law’s family and their 2,000 closest friends. I must say, after over a week of Sudanese wedding festivities, (these people reeeeeealllly like their weddings) I was walking on air. The singing, the dancing, the hugging and kissing. I could not say more than 3 words to the vast majority of the people I met and yet the outpouring of love and acceptance and humor and ease that I felt left me feeling like this was my family too.

Recently, as I was perusing El Face, (how my new Sudanese family refers to Facebook) I saw this from S, my new sister-in-law-in-law (what do you call the sister of your brother-in-law??!):

Hey, Facebook. Did you know that Sudan is still fighting for its freedom?

Well, I don’t know about you, El Face, but I sure didn’t. You see, I’m not really a international news person. Or a person who really knows much about the news in general. I figure that if it’s important enough to know, it will trickle down.

And then a couple days later, S posted this:

And so it seemed that this news was officially “trickling down.”

Thanks to a good old fashioned online chat with S tonight, I’ve got the lowdown.

Protesters of the totalitarian Sudanese government have been active since the beginning of the Arab Spring–you know, the whole wave of mass protests in late 2010/early 2011 forcing rulers from power in places like Egypt and Libya. The Sudanese government has been brutal in its crackdown–mass arrests, beatings and torture. After demonstrations on January 30, 2011, they arrested a bunch of people, including some close friends and family of my new Sudanese family, and they were kept in detention with no charges for around 20 days. Detainees were beaten, and tortured with “humiliation tactics” and electrocution.

Despite all that, protests have continued, and most recently, student protests that just started on June 16 have been gaining momentum. You can read this article if you want a good overview of what’s going on right now. And if you just want the essentials:

Locals have now joined the revolt, spurred by the student uprising, fueled by economic hardship, and provoked by the government’s ‘fiscal austerity’ program. The program, which was announced on Monday June 18, 2012 by President Omar al Bashir, includes a 60 percent and 40 percent increase in the respective prices of fuel and sugar and yet another tax hike.

So sounds to me like the 99% are trying to organize in opposition to a totalitarian government. And to be honest, if my wicked-smart sister-in-law-in-law and brother-in-law in solidarity with the protesters, then so am I.

This whole thing is reminding me of my student activism days. And how I learned that non-violent protest doesn’t effectively create social change unless a whole bunch of powerful people witness it. Well, turns out that this is not happening for #SudanRevolts yet:

It is uplifting to note that the momentum gained so far has continued despite the media blackout on Sudan’s revolt. The government has censored local coverage of protests and has detained all journalists attempting to report on the demonstrations, including AFP’s resident correspondent, Simon Martelli, who was arrested outside the University of Khartoum on Tuesday. The international media has also been slow to cover the recent wave of protests.

If there had been a media blackout during the Montgomery Bus Boycott, methinks civil rights might have gone down quite differently.

And while I may not be international media, BOOM, I’m covering it.

Wanna let the protesters in Sudan know that there are actually some folks in the outside world paying attention and supporting their struggle? Join these fine people:

Take a picture of yourself with the phrase “I live in ____ and I support #SudanRevolts.” Then post it to FB, Twitter, your blog, instagram, and the like. And if you want more news about what’s going on, check #SudanRevolts on Twitter.

In the mean time, I’m gonna get some sleep before J wakes up with the sun.

Until tomorrow, Sudan. I’m thinking about you.

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