Fear, guilt and hope in Sudan

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By Webdesk

As Muslims around the world celebrated Eid with their families, I struggled to get into a celebratory mood. I was thousands of miles from where I should have been: at our childhood home in Omdurman, the sister city of the Sudanese capital Khartoum.

Instead of celebrating Eid with my family, I – like millions of other Sudanese people inside and outside Sudan – spent the last few days of the holy month hunched over my phone, watching on social media how my people were killed and my hometown was destroyed by an army and a militia.

Instead of visiting family, dining out with friends, taking my kids to our extended family, enjoying the crowded streets, the smell of delicious food and the merry sounds of Sudanese music blaring from every passing tik-tok , I watched these places full of childhood memories turn into a war zone in real time.

I jumped from one video to another of Sudanese soldiers shouting Allahu Akbar as they celebrated the capture of other Sudanese soldiers wearing slightly different camouflage uniforms, all with the Sudanese flag on their chests.

When I wasn’t on social media, I would switch between news stations to see if they would say something new. I would see the same videos play again, but with the added commentary of foreign military analysts saying nothing of substance.

Other talking heads would affirm the need for negotiations and peace, but wouldn’t mention who or what could make the two warring sides talk. Meanwhile, army and militia spokesmen would trade blame for yet another broken truce.

No one could say when this nightmare would be over. All that was clear was that the Sudanese people, who have been protesting for four years now and demanding a democratic civilian government, were right all along and anyone who forced them to compromise with the military and militias was wrong. Now these same brave people are held hostage by the army and the militia and their brutal war.

And this wasn’t the first Eid in recent years where the Sudanese people mourned the dead instead of celebrating with the living. In 2019, the army and militia targeted a sit-in in front of the army headquarters in Khartoum, killing more than 120 people, raping dozens and injuring hundreds.

Justice has yet to be served for the crimes committed Eid. And perhaps to avoid being held accountable for these and other crimes, the leaders of the military and militia decided to derail Sudan’s democratic transition and seize power. Only they were so greedy that they couldn’t agree on how to share it.

As the fighting intensified, my family – scattered across Khartoum and Omdurman – decided to gather in our family home. In the midst of the horror and chaos, we received good news: they had all made it home safely, dodging rocket fire.

They found our 100 year old house scarred by the fighting. My cousin sent a video to the family’s WhatsApp group showing the exterior walls riddled with bullet holes and an unexploded missile landing in the backyard next to our lemon tree.

It was hard to believe that this was the same house where I spent all the Eids together with my large family; this was the same tree we would climb as children and pick lemons to make juice for our guests; this was the same backyard that most of our neighbors used as a venue for their weddings and funerals.

In that backyard, our elders had told us, a great-grandmother had buried her gold in 1897, when she and her family fled their hometown of El Matama for Omdurman. They escaped a massacre by the Mahdist forces, who ruled Sudan at the time, who had attacked the city, targeting a dissenting local emir and his supporters. My great-grandmother still felt insecure and decided to hide her valuables in case she had to flee again.

Ironically, more than 100 years later, my family decided to move back to El Matama, as Omdurman – once a refuge – has turned into a war zone.

We all contributed to the preparations for the trip. We all took to WhatsApp groups and social media and gathered information about road safety, the location of military and militia checkpoints, the best times to move to avoid shelling or crossfire, the number of microbus drivers and their increasing higher rates etc.

As we discussed the best way to carry out the evacuation, I suggested to my aunts that they bury their gold in the backyard, just like our great-grandmother. No one answered.

Although many of our acquaintances have come from Khartoum and Omdurman, my family is still trapped there. So far they have been unable to find a vehicle large enough to take them all and a route safe enough to take them to El Matama, about four hours north of Omdurman. The internet blackouts didn’t help.

As the days passed, I felt doubly guilty. On the one hand, I felt bad that I couldn’t bring myself to celebrate with my kids, who love Eid and its traditions. On the other hand, I felt guilty for sitting in the safety of my home in Norway, while my friends and family were trapped in their homes, offices, and even schools in Sudan, praying that they would survive this devastating war.

Yet I have also been proud of the way my people have remobilized in the face of disaster. As the Sudanese state disintegrated and international aid agencies ceased operations, the Sudanese resistance committees took over their vital functions. They maintained the delivery of medical aid, kept some hospitals and clinics open, rushed to deliver staff and medicines, coordinated food deliveries and evacuations, went above and beyond to find fuel for much-needed transport vehicles, and disseminated information about safe routes out of the thick of it. the battle. stains.

Before the conflict broke out, these loosely organized grassroots committees kept the pro-democracy movement going in Sudan. Despite the coup, despite the repression and the threats, they held weekly protests demanding a civilian government.

In this dark moment of fear and despair, these people give me hope that Sudan can and will have a better, brighter future. They give me hope that soon my family and I will celebrate Eid at our home in Omdurman, in the safety and security of a prosperous new Sudan, run by a democratically elected civilian government.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial view of Al Jazeera.

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