Tag Archives: political violence

International women’s day 2011 and Sudan: women in the Sudanese media

Happy International Women’s Day!

Although I can’t find any events online being held in Sudan, I’m going to do a quick roundup of some thoughts I’ve had as a feminist student looking at Sudan.

After my post on reporting of women’s opinions in the press during the referendum, I’ve been keeping a mental tally of how women are represented in Sudanese news.  This isn’t a new thing, but I’ve been discussing the importance of integrating women fully into research lately with my housemate Zoe.

It’s too easy to find vast numbers of stories about women and rape in Sudan – and also some stories about abuses against women on the grounds of marriage issues, alleged adultery and Islamicist dress codes.  Several female human rights activists and student protesters have been sexually abused lately.  The coverage of violence against women during marriage negotiations and over extra-marital relationships in Lakes recently has been welcome; however, there’s very little analysis in this reporting, other than the welcome announcement that GoSS will look at a law against violence against women.

This isn’t surprising, or wrong – sexual abuse in conflicts and as political repression, as well as in everyday repression of women, is a vast and horrific issue which receives insufficient and often poor media coverage.  As Major-General Patrick Cammaert, the former UN peacekeeping commander in the Democratic Republic of Congo, said in 2008: “It is now more dangerous to be a woman than a soldier in modern conflict.”

However, women’s voices on anything other than the horror of their rape experiences are mostly lacking in these accounts.  This isn’t to underplay the centrality of the attack to these women’s lives, or to underestimate the problems women face in trying to speak out about their experiences directly: although recently Safiya Eshaq has done just this.  But often it leads to really frustrating reporting: this report on allegations of sexual abuse of female police trainees has no testimony from women, but quotes a male recruit’s frustration at being made to buy his own soap.

The discussion of women predominantly as rape and marital violence victims is overwhelming, compounding this separation of “women’s rights” from reports on political activism; women are only pictured in the reports on youth activism in Sudan, and the term “youth” perpetually refers exclusively to young men: a “political activist” in the media at the moment is assumed male until proven female, and if female, usually only appears in reports of her rape or abuse.

In conclusion, then, women are still being reported in terms of their physical victimhood.  There aren’t many reports that give time to women as active thinkers and doers as well as abused bodies; the reports that do still focus on women’s testimonies of their rape.  I think the situation is better in reporting on the Congo, but Sudanese media on women in the mainstream press has a long way to go.

In other news, one of the youth groups in Khartoum have called for renewed protests on 21 March – I will try to look out for updates on planning, but for now here are some facebook pages to watch for more information.

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Bashir is not running for re-election: let’s not get over-excited

OMG!!  Bashir won’t run for re-election!  In 2015 (which is a bit of a Yemeni-esque get-out clause.)  He also, more interestingly, has said he has offered to step down as head of the NCP, and has offered a package of reforms (optimistically called democratic by the Guardian, but then they’re probably all a bit sleep-deprived from the Tunisia-Egypt-Libya-Bahrain late-night live blogging).

This isn’t just about the fear of protests by youth in Sudan: the attempted protests in early February were comprehensively put down, with large-scale arrests, one death and a more general lack of will for the scale and type of protests seen in previous periods of economic crisis and political anger.  That isn’t to say there isn’t a need for this kind of announcement.  While I don’t think the various factions of the NCP are as nervous as the SPLM about their position, they also know they have real issues with their support base, particularly with the middle and upper classes that were their primary support base in the 1980s.

As Magdi says, the social and economic forces that brought the NCP to power have also restructured both urban and rural society.  There are significant frustrations in town and countryside with different aspects of the NCP rule, as well as the medium-term issues facing the economy – partly to do with how much the North can get out of GoSS for oil transit – and probably the changed international situation, particularly if Gaddafi goes.

There is an international trend towards younger leaders – whether or not they have the experience, or even the power.  There’s also more practical considerations: the NCP are handicapped by Bashir’s ICC status, regardless of the charge’s actual weight or implications.  The NCP are failing, and their elite sponsors and support base know that some changes are necessary, at least for appearances’ sake.  This also potentially would undermine the opposition parties’ refusal to enter talks with the NCP.  I don’t know – I’m just watching, and I would love to see a good analysis of this.  I’m still learning about northern politics.

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Alternative narratives of corruption and political pressure in the South Sudan referendum: a rebalancing

I’m quite frustrated with this piece by Jort Hemmer at the SSRC blog today.  The article is, to me, an oversimplification, when I think it could be trying to say something more balanced and really pertinent.

Hemmer contrasts the general success of the referendum with an ‘alternative narrative’ of rigging, intimidation and, in his quote from Mareike Schomerus, an “environment of fear” surrounding the mobilisation of the “yes” vote.

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Quick update on Sudan protests

Analyses of the protests in Khartoum are focusing on analogies with Egypt.  This article focuses on Bouazizi’s story as a comparison to the other individual deaths in Tunisia and Egypt that helped to focus the protest movements there (it also helpfully summarises various Arabic newspaper editors’ lines on the protests); in contrast, there’s another vein of articles that reject the comparison with Egypt, or focus on NCP justifications of why Sudan is different.  The continued detention of some of the protesters is picked up on by Amnesty, Human Rights Watch and some newspapers.  Putting aside Khalid Mubarak, whose SSRC article is a true classic of the Sudan Embassy information office genre, Magdi has written the only comment I think makes some headway into talking about why the Khartoum protests don’t have wider visible support.  An English-language page for Sudanese Youth for Change (SPARK) has been set up on Facebook here.

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Mohammed Abdulrahman and the Sudanese protests

Mohammed Abdulrahman died from injuries sustained from police beating during the protests on Sunday in Khartoum.  Abdulrahman, a student at Ahlia University, has been called a martyr and compared to al-Gorashy, the student that died in the October 1964 uprising.  My thoughts are with his family and friends; both Ahlia and Omdurman Universities have been closed today.

Laura Mann has made an ushahidi SMS protest map here; an update on what digital organisation is happening can be found here.   So far this is probably the best and shortest summary of events yesterday, although the figures for arrests vary.

The police seem to have been particularly proactive, as they basically stormed six universities and didn’t let 300 students out of Khartoum University.  This tallies with some personal reports on Facebook saying that there were very few people on the streets, and most of the YouTube videos show people in front of university gates.  People on Facebook are complaining about the lack of organisation, but in the face of a media blackout and suspension of internet access over the weekend, as well as a huge preemptive police operation, it looked pretty frightening to start with.  There are various numbers going around about how many people are still in detention, including two sons of al-Fadil, an opposition politician, and the government has been blocking the independent radio and newspapers in the North today.

So far Yassir Arman has been the only major politician to speak about Abdulrahman’s death, and against police brutality.  Taha has said that the demonstrations were allowed, while this has been contradicted by other unnamed NCP officials, but the only major NCP comment is from Obeid here, who says that the Sudanese protests won’t amount to anything as Bashir is democratically elected and there is popular involvement in Sudanese politics.

The site for the next protests (1 February?) is here.

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Roundup on student protests in Khartoum

The news reports on the protests in and around Khartoum today started to come out a few hours ago.  Here are a selection.  The main facebook group organising the protests today is here.

The tragic death of Mohammed Bouazizi was credited with sparking the protests in Tunisia; however, the death of al-Amin Musa in Omdurman’s marketplace on Friday 21 January has had far less international recognition as a political suicide and, as far as I can see at the moment, far less emotional and political impact on the protesters in Sudan today.  Magdi el Gizouli has written an excellent post on the reactions of the Muslim clerical association and Sudanese government press here.

I’m very poorly informed about Egyptian politics, but my concern is that the protests in Egypt have precedent – 2002, 2005, 2006, 2008 and 2010, from a quick look – and the Tunisian protests have come at the end of two years of political reshuffling and attempts to mitigate unrest.  It’s not that north Sudan hasn’t had its share of constant protest, or that it’s not in the grip of a serious foreign exchange crisis and economic failure, but I’m concerned that these protests are inspired by the real hopes of change in Tunisia and (cross fingers) Egypt, and the idea of a political domino effect, among a few educated young Sudanese who are able to be socially active, in that they are willing and able to take the risks of protesting.

Regardless, I hope the people arrested today (and there are conflicting figures, up to several hundreds) are released quickly without harm.

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Political change in Sudan: not just the South

Most of the talk of political instability, economic insecurity and potential for future violence is about the South at the moment.  In international news, the situation in Khartoum is mostly only picked up on from the perspective of US policy and the ‘rehabilitation’ or not of Bashir’s regime on the international stage.  This doesn’t make sense to me: in the middle of huge price rises and economic problems, Bashir’s government is in real trouble, trying to deal a complicated political balancing act between appeasing moderates and knocking back more violent opponents.

There are three days left on Al-Mahdi’s December ultimatum to the NCP to make a national government, redraw the constitution, call new general elections, resolve the Darfur conflict and the economic crisis, deal with the ICC, and make a sensible agreement with the South: whether or not Bashir properly responds to what sounds more like a rhetorical challenge than a real ultimatum, it’s a good summary of the problem the north faces at the moment.  There is potential for serious political change, or at the very least a change in how the game is played, in the north this year.

So while a lot of the commentary revolves around the future of the South, I think it’sprobably a good idea to keep an eye on the opposition in Khartoum, who are becoming increasingly militant, and some voicing frustration with the quieter negotiations of al-Mahdi and Turabi.  Magdi el Gizouli at StillSudan runs a fabulous commentary on the intricacies of the northern opposition versus the NCP and Bashir, and it’s worth a read.

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