University Women Spark #SudanRevolts

Photo Courtesy: @Qnubian

"Women do not make sandwiches
Women make revolutions
Women make dreams come true"
-Fatma Emam, Nubian Egyptian Diaspora member in Cairo

This has certainly been the case since the beginning of the Sudan Revolts on June 16, when, in response to President Omar al Bashir’s austerity measures, female dormitory residents at the University of Khartoum began to protest. Since then, students have been joined by adults in protesting the lift on fuel subsidies and the increase of food prices.

Opposition forces say the government’s budget cuts did not affect the budget of the army, police, security apparatus, and sovereign sector, which makes up 56% of the country’s budget. The country has been facing mass inflation since South Sudan seceded from Sudan a year ago, taking with it three quarters of the country’s oil production. Riot police have used tear gas and rubber bullets to break up demonstrations and keep them from extending past the universities and into the streets.

The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) of the Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan, who have been fighting government forces in those areas, joined with the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and other Darfuri allies to form the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF). Their stated goal is to overthrow the central government and create a democratic state. Although the SRF is pursuing military strategy, they have asked protesters in Khartoum to remain peaceful. They have offered a ceasefire on all fronts, provided the government falls.

The recent demonstrations have differed from previous student-led protests in a few ways. For one, they have been strategically dispersed. Small crowds have spread throughout different locations in Khartoum to exhaust security forces’ resources. Additionally, they have been led not only by students, but also by older people, including Sudanese women.

However, as analyst Eric Reeves reminds us, this is the first serious domestic challenge in years, and the regime has demonstrated its willingness to use force to retain control over national wealth and power. Indeed, earlier today riot police in Khartoum and Omdurman used tear gas against protesters who had gathered outside mosques after Friday prayers. Reeves notes that it remains to be seen whether the Sudanese army will continue to support the government as the protests grow, and whether heretofore peaceful protests will escalate into armed insurrection as the government’s crackdown leads to greater civilian casualties.

Activists have called for further mass protests tomorrow, June 30, which marks the day that Bashir assumed power in 1989. You can follow #SudanRevolts on twitter for footage, pictures, and stories from protestors, as well as Alex Thurston’s Roundup of news sources and articles, international reactions, and commentary.

By Mac Hamilton (mhamilton@standnow.org)

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