Refugee Sudanese teens find their voice

On 11 March 2019, the Sudanese military forced long-time autocratic President Omar al-Bashir to step down after 30 years in power. At the time of writing this article, the fight for civilian rule continued in Sudan as the Transitional Military Council (TMC) refused to give in to protesters’ demand to cede power.
The population of Sudan have engaged in massive protests against Bashir since December 2018, when people became angry over the rising cost of bread and other basic items. Those Sudanese citizens who fled their country and now live in the US have also lent their support to the struggle.
Among their numbers are Sudanese American teenagers like 17-year-old Maazin Ahmed and 16-year-old Haifaa Abushaiba, who are encouraging other Sudanese teens to speak out against
oppression in the motherland. They have unquestionably contributed to the ousting of Bashir, who has dodged standing trial for war crimes in the International Criminal Court in the Hague. Teens – and their parents – accuse Bashir of corruption and a brutal denial of human rights. Thousands of protesters in Khartoum and other parts of Sudan have been arrested during a state of emergency called by a desperate Bashir.
Teens like Ahmed and Abushaiba have been organising Sudanese solidarity protests across the US, from Washington DC to San Francisco. They use “Arabeezy”, a form of Sudanese teen- speak, on their protest flags and posters and in their slogans that have ignited a fire in both first-generation Sudanese immigrants and their refugee relatives. Teens have also started fires online, via Instagram and Twitter hashtags like #SudanRevolts and #SudanUprising.
Abushaiba says that the ousting of Bashir has awakened in teen diaspora protesters a new kind of attitude to Sudan.
In an interview with Public Radio International, she said: “I feel like my generation is bringing attention [sic] that you can be Sudanese, and you can be proud of that”.
Some university students in Khartoum hurriedly abandoned their studies to join their families in the US when Sudan-based protests became violent. Now they’re able to support the struggle for a democratic government in their home country from a place of relative safety.
Peace is still a long way off, though, say young activists. Protestors in Sudan and elsewhere say that they’ll continue their campaign against an army- imposed curfew and the threats of a two-year period of military rule, a three-month state of emergency, a suspended constitution and a closure of Sudan’s borders and airspace.

Category: Winter 2019

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