There is a good reason for the “?” in the title.
If for more than 23 years barely any regime change chants broke out in Sudan – maybe some we haven’t heard off? Some that have been killed off and wiped off our history? If there were, why aren’t they mentioned when we reminisce? we go back to “Green October” yakhi!? So given that this was our last large feat against a dictatorship, there will always be a shred of doubt that maybe, just maybe we are not “ON” yet. Add to that the massive dose of discouragement/pessimism that is generously passed around the second you start talking about change. Even revolutionaries can have some doubt, not in the cause, but in the momentum/vigor.
I understand and acknowledge that Sudanese people/mentality/behavior has been systematically and rigorously changed/dismantled by the NCP, but how far can this argument help us in signing up more people for change?
That said, I want change and I want the streets to be the mechanism. With.Every.Cell.In.My.Body.
I’m personally in no position to rally/motivate/instigate those who are absolutely unmoved by the current situation, or those who just can’t see us better off. They lack vision and imagination, who am I to give them that?
Those who are on the fence about street protests are the ones I (should) talk to first- even those are sometimes annoying (mischievous smile). If I have to jog your brains about WHY we need change, you’ll exhaust me and I’ll get frustrated. However, if you’re just weary about arrests/tear gas/rabatta/police then there is hope to get you out – and fast. I’ll be tugging at every string I can and I assure you it goes a long way. Fence sitters are easy to convince given you reassure them and answer all their worries.
On to the actual account!
A few observations by my group.
The police numbers weren’t great, and they were often called to attend to this growing protest or that one scattered around al soug al arabi. We chased/saw/chanted with a few groups, non of which was bigger than 300 people and only ONE was standing still until one police truck came and attempted to disperse it with tear gas. Because the truck was stuck in traffic without back up, people chanted on, until more back up came and then they were suddenly trying on clothes from the boutique with the strange name!
H. noted the team was mostly Jalabba (Arabs?), unlike in June-July when most of the force was comprised of men from the West of Sudan. Is this a change of tactics? Their attempts at dispersal were futile, halfhearted even, one can even ponder that they relied on the fear factor dispersing people rather than arrests/tear gas/ batons or rabbatta’s covered faces.
When the protests moved to Huriya street near Jackson bus station, the police had already began shifting traffic to its advantage, and the area was less congested than in the middle of all the shops in al soug al arabi. More rabbatta and amn double cabin trucks were visible, but the number of people – who could all have been protesters – was enormous! Police knew they’d be outnumbered so instead of attacking people the opted for blocking roads and parking in strategic spots.
Police blocking roads near Jackson (picture from @Usiful_ME)
After a short break to recharge our batteries and our tummies, we headed out again. There were two black smoke clouds to the East and the West of Khartoum 2. We headed West, but failed to find the actual source; it faded as we got closer, but it was a factories area, so could have been an accident of sorts.
Turning East we went back to the Jackson stop and the security had become tight- few passers by, all being asked to leave the area and riot police in every corner. We were the last car that came down the bridge before they blocked it with a truck. The picture perfect sight was a lit up but completely vacant Jackson bus stop – unfortunately, we didn’t dare take a picture given the surroundings.
We went in the direction of Al Shamali police station and a few minutes after, we heard the sirens of the police cars, followed by Amn cars. One after the other they unloaded. We witnessed three cars dropping 7-10 people each, then we were shooed away. Their faces were covered – men with their t-shirts over their heads, and females with their scarves. It was a bizarre sight – the police/Amn were rejoicing.
We walked around the block, it was ghostly – completely deserted. Every now and then an emptied police truck would pass us by, they’d be banging on the sides – to scare us? These guys were pumped with energy, perhaps they were the second team for the day, or just happy with their bounty.
Half an hour later we were still in the area, the traffic was beginning to spurt again, few buses passed us by, half empty, but a sign that the police probably broke the siege on Jackson.
Did I mention the entire block was either Amn/police buildings or large vacant parking spots or 7aishan for their vehicles?
Rumors and Disclaimers
Throughout the entire day, we regularly checked Twitter, only to find exaggeration ran wild, wilder and absolutely nuts-wild. There are a few networks from which the concerned get their information, thus these networks shoulder an immense responsibility to report accurately and from legitimate sources. The protests in al soug al arabi were highly mobile, making it difficult for anyone to keep up, even if you’re in the area. However, the statement “protesters took over Huriya bridge” might have been momentarily true, but it’s nothing like the famous Asr El Eini bridge take over during the (first?) Egyptian revolution! This distorted reporting was upsetting to say the least.
There are two sides to this; you can over-estimate the number, and (online?) people will likely say “oh, they’re fine, they don’t need me now, let me sit it out and see which other protest might need me“. Or, they can end up going, finding the protest already dismantled and on the go again and YOU KNOW they’ll make sure to tell the whole world “mashait wu ma ligeet shi” (I was there and there was no protest). Then there is everything in between; violent clashes and arrests en masse, “ishta3alat” (!) (Fired up), 7oshoud (masses).
Misleading and destructive.
There is little media coverage and yes, we should demand their attention, but we could also collect material for them and then be available to interact when we have the time. If you’re in Sudan, you need to come out, if you’re outside, then please handle the publicity and such – while maintaining a tight grip on accuracy – exaggeration is the media’s job!
What SHOULD you do?!
There are plenty of lessons that can be drawn from the June-July episode, the main ones are:
- numbers, numbers, numbers: without a large crowd we are not physically resilient not able to exercise emotional intelligence (more on that some other time, but please do try to figure it out/research the basics from the Tunisian/Egyptian experience). We can easily make the forces question themselves if we are many.
- data: you MUST delete/shut down most of your personal accounts, chat history, etc. This protects your privacy and others’ in case of arrest/loss/damage to phones/cameras/recorders.
- Communication network: don’t go alone, find a group of at least 2 people and decide on how you will regroup if you’re dispersed. Always let someone outside the mayhem know your location (vaguely, not specifically – phones might be tapped, eavesdroppers etc)
For more security tips check this post (English/Arabic).
There is only one direction we should aim for – up! The momentum must increase! I’ve already been contacted by friends and family who want to join me today. This is great, we should all be leaning towards coming out. Don’t be discouraged that we can’t be the trigger, feel the empowerment in knowing you CAN be part of this if you come out AFTER the trigger is sparked.
The soug experiment was brilliant! The police/amn hesitation was..delicious!
We should definitely maximize on the large swarms of people populating the markets, neighborhood squares and main streets. Blocking roads is not a very quick process- unlike stationing trucks around university campuses, trapping everyone and brutally practicing the inhumane amount of sickness trapped inside the police/Amn person.
Interviewer: can you maim/hurt/rape/kill without swatting an eyelash?
Interviewer: hired. Proceed to pick up your face mask and weapons.
Courtesy of the on duty spy fly on the wall at Jihaz al Amn – June 2012.
You’re allowed to be scared – matter of fact I couldn’t TYPE when we were in the soug, all my senses were in tune with the police dispatching from their trucks to the tarmac in loud booted thuds.
On the bright side, remember that this unnerving hormone speeding through your veins is adrenaline – the fight or flight response you’re being pumped with is your weapon and strength. If you’re confronted, fight, you’ve got physical power just like they do. If you’re friend is being arrested, fight for him and pray to the God above that others will join you and free him/her. I would rather not fight, I’d rather chant loudly shaking police/Amn to their core – we’re not against you, we’re against the system that enslaves/ed you. Emotional intelligence.
I also hope we’re so large by tonight, tomorrow, the day after? that we storm police stations at night and free all the detainees! That’ll give these guys a jolt no?
Empower yourself before you come out, embrace your strengths, know your weaknesses and remember we are doing this for all of us police/amn included and it’s a matter of time before they join us or at least stand on the sidelines while we retrieve our rights to be respected citizens of the Sudan.