Wave of arrests in Sudan targets nonviolent student activists

Sudan's National Intelligence and Security Services arrested at least nine peaceful student protesters in Khartoum last week, and the government has yet to acknowledge the arrests, reports guest blogger Tracy Fehr.

• A version of this post ran on the blog, www.enoughproject.org. The views expressed are the author's own.

Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party’s grip on power seems to be tightening to the point of suffocation. In the past week, Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services, or NISS, has targeted non-violent, pro-democratic student activists in a wave of arrests and harassment.

On January 25, following a forum on the human rights situation in eastern Sudan held in commemoration of the 2005 Port Sudan massacre of unarmed civilians by government forces, the NISS arrested five members of the non-violent, student-led, pro-democracy group Girifna.

The five students arrested—Girifna Co-founder Nagi Musa, Amar Dirar, Ghazi Eltayen, Mohammed Mahjoub, and Sharif Kamal—have since been moved to Kober prison, notorious for brutal NISS interrogation tactics. News of the arrests sparked an explosion in the Twitterverse, with Sudan influentials such as New York Times columnist Nick Kristof and author Rebecca Hamilton calling for attention to the NISS's actions, interspersed with real-time updates from Girifna members.

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But the January 25 arrests are just the tip of the iceberg. Four more student activists have been arrested in recent days—Mohamed Omer Al Amin, Girifna member Omar Ahmad Hamid, Youth for Change members Khalaf Saeed, and Taj Elsir Jafar. Girifna reports that a Youth for Change student leader, Gasm Allah, has been missing since Friday. And members of Girifna reported the NISS tapping their phones and staking out youth activists’ homes.

In a statement to the Enough Project, Girifna said that the detention and abuse at the hands of the NISS is widespread and targets not only students, but also journalists and other activists. Girifna asks the media to focus on the detainment of its own members but to also highlight the wider issue of the NISS’s detention and arrest policies.

Girifna told Enough that Sudan’s National Security Forces Act allows NISS officers to detain suspects for up to six months without taking them to court.

“Several aspects of this act are troubling when viewed from the perspective of human rights, in particular, the provisions that allow the NISS to hold individuals for extensive periods of time without charge or trial and without notifying their relatives,” said Enough Project Sudan Policy Analyst Jennifer Christian.

Girifna, which translates into Arabic as “We’ve Had Enough,” is one of several Sudanese student groups that have voiced public opposition against the Khartoum regime and been met with arrests, intimidation, and detainment.

So far, the government of Sudan has been silent on the issue, though that comes as little surprise. Violence and arrests of student protesters is becoming common practice in Khartoum, and this latest round of arrests demonstrates the standard protocol of the NISS.

A round of protests slated for January 30 was canceled. But Girifna has tweeted, “It is 31/Jan/2012 and the fight for freedom, democracy, equality and social justice for all Sudanese will be long and we are ready for it.” For updates on the whereabouts of detained student activists, follow Girifna on Twitter.

– Tracy Fehr blogs for the Enough Project at Enough Said.

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