Middle East Research and Information Project: Critical Coverage of the Middle East Since 1971

While the attention of the Western and Arab media has focused on the historic victory of the Muslim Brotherhood’s presidential candidate in Egypt, street protests of a scale not witnessed for two decades continued into their second week in Khartoum and other major Sudanese cities. Anti-government protests, initially led by students from the University of Khartoum, have inspired similar nationwide demonstrations in al-Obeid, Kosti, al-Gadaref, Port Sudan, Wad Medani and Atbara. They began on June 16 with courageous female students at the University of Khartoum’s downtown campus taking to the streets chanting “No, no to higher prices” and “Freedom, freedom.” The students initially protested the announcement of a 35 percent hike in public transportation fees and called for the “liberation” of the campus from the presence of the ubiquitous National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS). Since then, Khartoum and other cities have been sites of daily protests driven by a widening political agenda. Echoing calls heard in the uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and Syria, protesters chanted “The people want the fall of the regime,” “We will not be ruled by a dictator” and “Revolution, revolution until victory.” Clearly mindful (and no doubt apprehensive) of the protesters’ slogans referencing the Arab uprisings as well as two previous popular intifadas that have removed military regimes, President Omar al-Bashir quickly insisted that this is “no Arab spring.”

However, since they began, the protests have expanded in both their geographic reach and their social profile. Moving beyond the middle-class campus of the University of Khartoum, protests now include more lower-class students from other universities, supporters and activists belonging to the major opposition parties, civil servants, the unemployed and workers in the informal sector. Moreover, despite the use of tear gas, batons and sweeping arrests on the part of the state security and intelligence services, the protests have expanded to include residents in the populous informal settlements and working-class neighborhoods of Buri, al-Ilafoon, al-Gereif, al-Sahafa, al-Abbassiya and Mayo south of the capital. As the protests continued with greater force into their tenth day, security forces, frustrated at not being able to stem the tide of the protests, entered the dormitories of the University of Khartoum’s Faculty of Education and set them ablaze. The students, responding to Bashir’s public statement on June 24 describing the demonstrators as “saboteurs”, foreign “aliens” and “rogues” chanted, “We are not rogues; you will end up dead in a sewage system,” referring to how former Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi was caught before he was killed.

Read on at Jadaliyya.

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