For many in Sudan, its current situation is virtually unliveable, with cash and fuel shortages galore, astronomical and unpredictable inflation, and basic services that sometimes do more harm than good
What do we know about Noura Hussein? The 19-year-old Sudanese woman is currently on death row in Omdurman, Sudan, for killing a man in self-defense. She was convicted of murdering her husband, who raped her on their “honeymoon.”
Sometimes professional people in the community say some strange things. One such Professor in Sudan said on the national channel (Blue Nile) that "all Sudanese women were short and ugly". How charming.
This was the fantastic response...
(Partly in English, partly in Arabic - but the passion needs no language to be understood!)
Ah, it seems sometimes I avoid writing because I am a little afraid of what will come out when I start...
Oh Sudan, how you tear me in two.
I just got back from a whirlwind trip to Sudan, the land of my birth. I was there for a total of 4 full days; three days and two half days. If you consider all the flying, I was almost in the air as long as I was on the ground. I returned for the weddings of cousins and to see my Grandmother, a lady who I have lived with and who has taught me so much (the School of Life, as she refers to it).
As the plane came in to land (Alhamdulilah), I thought of the last time I was in Sudan. Coming out of university, going to study Arabic: it was a time of hope, of growth, of the Arab Spring, of something new and exciting. They were memories of rose tinted (or sand blasted) glasses, gleaming with the nostalgia of a time gone by, before #riglyf or the ruin of Syria...
It was not until my return to the hustle and bustle of the extended family home, the dramas surrounding preparations for the weddings or the two hours the hairdresser berated me for the state of my hair (HOW DARE YOU LEAVE IT CURLY?! Don't you know a woman's hair is the crown of her beauty? Don't you want to be beautiful?! How do you think you will find a man? Don't you want to feel attractive?) that the other memories of Sudan began to resurface.
(My favourite comment the hairdresser made: Oh look, I know you think you're an engineer and you're with all these men so you shouldn't take care of yourself, but girl, don't kid yourself. Men want a womanly woman. Just remember that. When I made noises about having a man not being the most important thing in my life, she fell quiet for a few minutes. A few blissful minutes of peace, before the barrage began again, with a different tact: Didn't I want to show everyone else in the house I could be beautiful? I could only muster and agreement-sounding moan).
Returning to the other memories of Sudan: although I'd forgotten, it was the only time in my life that my actions were constantly not enough, not right, not adequate - in a big way. Having not been brought up in Sudan but being of Sudanese origin, I was expected (by this age) to espouse the 'correct' and perfect Sudanese way of being a woman. This, as hard as I might, was not yet achieved. Sure, if I worked at it as hard as I did my engineering degree, I'd probably be a hell of a lady by Sudanese standards, but to be perfectly honest - it just didn't rate with the priorities. That doesn't stop the judgement though...
What were these 'correct' rules that were meant to be espoused? Some simple examples include:
- To make the perfect cup of tea (when to serve, how much sugar, how much to pour, the correct herbs to be added and to do it all with the utmost grace and such),
- To look like the perfect lady (preferably short, thin, not too thin as to look malnourished because that is undesired but not too large as to look like you weren't in control of your portion sizes (and definitely not muscled, lord, that was for men!), with neat manicured nails, smooth, moisturised skin - the whiter the better - with as few markings as possible, straight hair that would be coiffed into rolling curls and once whooshed out of the hijab it had been covered in under 40 degree heat all day, would gleam like the sun and smell like fairies; make up that looked good but not too fake, henna that was done well and not fading, clothing that was attractive but not too tight and shoes that were classy but would withstand the mud... you get the gist)
- To be able to cook, well (No elaboration necessary. Isn't this a prerequisite for every culturally diverse woman?)
- To be interested in womanly things, not politics and cars and football and engineering and the things that were reserved for men...
- To be the a witty conversationalist but also to talk about polite topics and not stray into overly satirical humour (not sure it translates...)
Alas, I may be being somewhat facetious.
However, the truth of the matter (as far as I can see) is this...
Sudan, north Sudan in particular, is a deeply traditional, communal society. Societies that are tribal and based on community in the way that the Sudanese are can often be deeply judgemental. In this world, a woman's reputation is her only weapon, her beauty of uptmost importance and her ability to hold a household and care for a family paramount.
Many of the things I have learned to value here in Australia - the community work, the breaking of the barriers in the industry I work in, the influence in public conversations - yes, that is of passing interest to the families in Sudan, but really, honestly?
It doesn't rate in comparison.
So I go from being someone who is confident in their ability and place in the world to someone who feels like they don't know the rules at all really, and the rules I do know, I don't adhere to very well at all.
The kicker? This is supposed to be where I am from. This would be where I was from, if my parents hadn't decide to make that audacious journey to the other side of the globe in 1992.
So, Sudan is a place where I feel I have roots - deep roots - my only roots.
It is a place I feel I must
Yet although I know I must learn to love Sudan, because it is a place that keeps me grounded and connected, it is also a nation that makes me feel judged and inadequate. It is a place whose values and traditions I know I should espouse, and yet, I find myself disagreeing with. The issue then becomes that yet if I reject these based on the Australian values embedded within me, well it means I am then becoming 'westernised'.
'Westernised' being synonymous with losing my identity, not being 'true or genuine', or almost taking the side of the oppressors. It isn't a rational fear, as those aren't all rational reasons or statements, yet, somehow, it is there.
The implication is that somehow, by trying to be different, I am implicitly forsaking my Sudanese identity and redefining myself as a true coconut - black on the outside, white on the inside. The implication is that taking the identity of the 'white' and the associated individualistic, capitalist nature, is clearly the wrong thing to do.
It can't be.
I am Australian, Muslim, born in Sudan with mixed heritage. I get to pick and chose what I want to take on, right? Yet, every time I go back, I feel guilty about my choices.
Why? I don't know, but this cannot go on...Surely, something has to make it through this madness.
You see, even by calling it madness, I am wracked by guilt. Doesn't Sudan have enough haters, my conscious asks me. Do you really need to be like all the others and hate on it as well? What makes you any better than all of them... why aren't you backing Sudan?
My conscious can be a right burr sometimes.
A good friend of mine recommended this TEDx talk performed in Sudan and I simply love it. It talks about ambition, gumption, examples of Sudanese who have defeated the odds and 'made it'...and is a great grass roots video for young Sudanese to watch and be inspired by. Note that it is in Arabic, and pretty Sudanese Arabic at that!
Thanks to my father for the heads up on this initiative!
The British Council in Khartoum, in collaboration with a few local players in Sudan including Sudanese Young Businessmen Association and Sudani Telcom has launched a competition for budding Sudanese entrepreneurs.
Called "Mashrouy", which translates to "My Project" in Arabic, the aim is to select 12 people/teams from the pool of applications for a competition to be aired at Blue Nile Satellite Station.
It is open for Sudanese people - both in Sudan and overseas - aged 18 to 40 - who have a business (commercial) idea that needs funding. In addition to the cash prize (SDG200,000, 150,000 and 100,000 for the top three) there is also the opportunity to spend three weeks in the UK for coaching.
The 'Mashrouy' website (in Arabic) has the application form - closing date 20 May 2013.
[box type="info"] “The completion we are launching today is seeking ambitious bright young people in Sudan who have creative business proposals that needs support to be developed”, said the British Charge d’ Affaires Mr. David Belgrove in his address in the conference. Adding that the future and growth of the country require investment in youth and we hope that through this project young Sudanese will be able to kick-off the ground their innovative ideas and contribute to the growth and development of the economy of their country. He concluded by saying that all over the world with very few exceptions, all the largest companies in the world have started as a small business”.[/box]
This is an awesome opportunity for young Sudanese and those with ideas and the drive to push them to fruition.
There are numerous barriers to entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship in Sudan, but this may well be one of the avenues around those barriers. I encourage all young Sudanese reading this to consider putting in an application or forward it to someone who might find it of use!
Far from a moral and legal compass, Shari’a has been nothing but a political tool used by the NCP to consolidate their hold on power. While some naively believed the rhetoric and rallied around ‘the Islamic State’, the majority has known that the regime’s founding ideology has long been perverted by power and greed. In the past, the NCP made an effort, however minimal, to cover up their religious merchandizing, if only as a courtesy. However, when CS gas is fired into a house of worship on specific orders, it seems evident that we are no longer dealing with a regime that can be bothered with even insincere courtesies.
This has been a cause of personal frustration for some time now.
Another example can be found in Timbuktu (yeh, it’s a place), Mali, where a group called the "Ansar Dine", control part of the country and destroy the nation's heritage and history in the name of "Sharia Law".
This band of terrorists has recently turned their guns and fanaticism against the historical shrines that had made the city of Timbuktu a beacon of learning through so many centuries. They have used pick-axes, shovels, hammers and guns to destroy earthen tombs and shrines of local saints in the desert city of Timbuktu, claiming that they are doing so to defend the purity of their faith against idol worship. They are behind the destruction of at least eight Timbuktu mausoleums and several tombs, centuries-old shrines in what is known as the ‘City of 333 Saints’.
My frustration is twofold.
Firstly, even though the actions are not aligned with Islamic values and principles, these groups will often claim their actions are in the name of the religion and then rub salt into the wound by denouncing anything or anyone they believe isn’t following Islam.
Secondly, by using Islam as a political tool, these groups taint the name of the religion itself.
Take the example of the the Muslim Brotherhood, or Al-Akhwan al-Muslimeen, the current Egyptian President’s party. The organisation started as a religious social organisation, with stated aims to preach Islam. With power usually comes political agendas however, and the Brotherhood is now one of the largest political movements in the Arab world. The organisation (the political wing) operates under the banner of Islam, however throughout its history, its actions haven’t always been aligned with Islamic values.
Yet, because the Brotherhood as an organisation has an Islamic mandate, Muslim members and calls itself the “Muslim” Brotherhood, it’s actions are seen as representative of 'what is right under Islam'.
This is unfortunate as there is a difference between Islam and self proclaimed ‘Islamists’, or those who use religion as a mean to a political end. This is not to say that all political Islamists are bad as such, things are much more nuanced than that. There is simply a difference between Islam and Islamists, and this should be recognised.
It is not the religion that should be judged by the people but the people whom should be judged by the religion. After all, we are only human, and humans are fallible. Such is the nature of our humanity.
This isn’t Islam’s problem alone, it has happened with Christians, Jews and numerous other religious groups. Religion is an extremely effective and persuasive political tool, and unfortunately is often used to justify evil and undeniable atrocities.
However, when you look at it…
“Do you love your Creator? Then love your fellow beings first.” – The Prophet Mohammed (SAW) [Muslims]
“Love thy neighbor as thyself” – Jesus, quoting the Torah (New Testament) [Christians and Jews]
“Hatred does not cease by hatred, but only by love; this is the eternal rule.” – Buddha [Buddhists]
It would seems to me that mercy and love are what all religions preach and what we should focus on, regardless of denomination.
In all of this, it should be noted that Muslims have been not given a mandate on how to rule a nation.
There are detailed descriptions for many things in Islam, down to the very details of how to wash before you pray, but there is no description for the best “model of government”.
Yes, there is the concept of ‘Sharia’, however Sharia is not a book of law as Western civilisation would have it, rather it is the ‘path’ or the Islamic ‘way of life’ (read further here).
What there isn’t is a ruling on whether Muslims should be right wing, left wing, realist, socialist, communist (though that wouldn’t really work anyway), democratic, authoritarian, dictatorial…
Politics is one of the areas that Islam hasn’t mandated. What does that tell you?
So, what are your thoughts? For me personally, I think religion and politics are different realms and should be kept separate. That is how I will keep it at any rate.
An interesting job that was forwarded to me for the Human Rights Watch…I encourage you to apply! Find out more:
FULL-TIME JOB VACANCY RESEARCHER ON SUDAN/SOUTH SUDAN Africa Division (Juba or Nairobi preferred) Application Deadline: September 12, 2012
Human Rights Watch (“HRW”) is seeking a Researcher to monitor the human rights situation in Sudan and South Sudan. This position will report to a Senior Researcher in the Africa Division.
Hello all. In the essence of laying low...here is some information other people wrote =) Also posted on the SudanRevolts blog, of which I am current Media Monitor. For any suggestions for articles etc, please let me know.
Now that the international media is picking the story up a little more, there is plenty of analysis to get your teeth into.
Here is a tip: If you are on twitter and want to follow people clued into the movement, check out this list.
June 27th, 2012
Christian Caryl asks the media to cover the story of #SudanRevolts in the piece: The Sudanese Stand up
Jadaliyya provides a great analysis on understanding the prospects and challenges for another popular intifada in Sudan.
Economic hardship is joining corruption, war and crackdowns among the grievances of Sudan's citizens against the ruling regime as political forces unite for change, writes Asmaa El-Husseini in this peace in Al Ahram
Armin rosen from World Affairs asks the question, is this a Khartoum Spring?
Of all the Arab Spring processes, the violent and nonviolent opposition to the NCP could turn out to be the least predictable—and the most destabilizing—in the region. But it could also offer Sudan something it hasn’t had since the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005, the treaty with the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement that ended decades of civil war, and a pact that Khartoum has been sabotaging and violating in various ways for the past seven years. It could offer a chance for the egalitarian and democratic future that Bashir and the NCP have so violently denied their country.
So on the eve of the Lick Your Elbows Friday...what can we offer in terms of reading fodder?
June 28th, 2012
Round up of great links by Foreign Policy for some background information.
We Egyptians have learned over the past year and a half that people all over the world can make a difference, and so solidarity and support are essential for the success of any legitimate call for justice and human rights. When the international media was reluctant to upset our dictator, the words of the people all over the world on social media and their protests in front of Egyptian embassies made a difference. We are all in the same trench, so regardless of nationality, we must seek freedom for others, just as we do for ourselves.
Khartoum is braced for a "make or break" day of demonstrations tomorrow, as anger at the rising cost of living spills over into Arab Spring-style protests on the streets of Sudan's capital.
If you read one piece today, make it Amir Ahmad Nasir's article on Foreign Policy: "Sudan Needs a Revolution". Actually make that two articles for the day: Brilliant analysis on why the regime will fall.
Apparently there are "foreign elements" aiding the protests, according to the official line. (Could it be, Oh, the diaspora perhaps?)
Shadi Bushra talks about #SudanRevolts raging underneath Tahrir's shadow
The fuel subsidies will not be reinstated says the finance minister
At the same time, bombing occurs in Darfur...
Blogs and what not.
Sudan: Shaken and Stirred
Doing a little Media Monitoring gig so will be collecting articles and analysis that comes out on the current #SudanRevolts. Please let me know if you would like to be featured or if I have missed anything significant. This can also be found on the #SudanRevolts blog.
It seems all my recent posts are published at 4am, with very little proofreading and more of an emotional outpouring in response to the situations I find myself in. Maybe I should invest in a diary instead... ***
So, you might find my tone in this post a little different. I have decided to jump feet first into the fray, helping out where I can and doing what I think is right. Taking the moral road, if you will.
You know what I've learnt? It is actually scary as hell.
I don't know if I am supposed to say that. I really don't. Perhaps I should be strong and courageous in the face of adversity and not be admit apprehension...but experiencing things first hand is different indeed to hearing stories. It makes you truly appreciate what *ahem* actual freedom fighters go through. It makes you ask the question, is it really worth it?
I think it is. I really do. The sad thing is though, I am not sure everyone else shares that opinion, and that is what truly scares me. For if your everyday Sudanese doesn't care for their country... why will anything change?
I like to make a habit of talking to the raksha (tuk-tuk) drivers and the shop keepers and what not to get a feeling for what the average citizen is feeling.
Let me tell you this: the average citizen is weary.
Khalas, they tell me: enough.
'Life is hard, tough, ridiculous... how can we keep living? Where is this country going??' They ask me.
I don't have an answer, because I wonder the same thing.
'Why don't you try to change things?' I ask them.
"Why should we?"
Why should we?
This is the question that makes Sudan different from the case of say, Egypt.
People are not overwhelmingly proud to be Sudanese! They don't want to do things for their country.
Oh, they will be proud of their tribe, that is for sure. They will tell you yes! I am Shaygi, Ma7as, Ja3fari... and they will defend their tribal name to the death! But defend their country? No...
I was given the example once that if you walked into a restaurant and started loudly bad mouthing Sudan, you wouldn't elicit a response. If you walked in and slandered a tribe though, oh, lord forbid! You would have to be brought out in a stretcher.
To be honest, as someone brought up in Australia I had never considered the tribal aspect of being Sudanese until I returned and Sudanese people would ask me: "So, where are you from?"
"No, who are your people??"
*cue awkward conversation endings that included answers like: uh..engineers? ..lovers of rnb?*
Odd, I thought. (They all thought I was odd too, trust me).
Why is it, that people have such strong tribal affiliations but no connection to their national identity?
Perhaps it is because, as my cousin so aptly put it, Sudan has given them nothing.
Sudan, as a nation, doesn't support its citizens.
There is poor education,
A health system that kills more than it cures,
An economy that is strangling its people,
...and even if you make it through all that, there is no opportunity for progress.
Everywhere you turn, people tell me, things are made difficult for you. My own experience backs this up completely: to register at a university or even change a tire takes an entire day, because you have to chase every.single.thing.up.yourself.
I have been told by numerous Sudanese people not to bother trying to change anything. Just get out!
Because apparently, Sudan isn't worth the hassle.
It isn't worth getting caught or arrested for, it isn't worth being afraid or losing opportunity for... Sudan, they tell me, is getting worse and there is no uphill from here.
I don't think it is going to be easy.
I don't think it is one person's fight -- or even just one generation's fight.
I don't think it will happen quickly, or painlessly.
But you know what? I think it has to happen.
I think the people have to believe that Sudan is worth fighting for. Because it is!
It is the land of the Nile, a land of culture, family, food, hospitality and tradition.
A land with promise!
A land that needs its people to believe in it.
Oh yes, the idealism of the youth, my older, more jaded family members tell me.
You will learn that this system strangles the hope from you they say.
Well, let it try.
I have learnt a lot over the past few days...
Learnt how difficult it is to control something like a "movement"; sometimes you just have to go with the flow,
How to speak as a "we" rather than an "I",
What people will give up for the cause,
What lengths people will go to in protection of the status quo...
To think, I only came to the country to learn Arabic!