After the Sudanese army overthrew the civil government in late October, academics are again at the forefront of protests demanding democratic rule in Sudan.
The military action came just weeks before the presidency of the Sovereignty Council, a transitional governing body established in 2019 after the overthrow of former president Omar al-Bashir, was supposed to rotate from the military to civilians.
However, on October 25, Lieutenant-General Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, the Sudanese army commander-in-chief, pre-emptively dissolved the government of Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and the Sovereignty Council.
Al-Burhan has promised to form a new civilian government, but has not yet announced any steps to do so, despite increasing local and international pressure on army leaders to back down, re-engage civilians in power, and release detainees.
Meanwhile, security forces and anti-coup protesters have clashed in the streets of several Sudanese cities.
“We will continue our strike until the restoration of democracy and civilian rule. Our demands are clear and we will never back down. We consider what happened a military coup until things return to normal.Manal Amer
Head of the faculty union council at the University of Khartoum
In one clash on October 30, three people were killed and nearly 200 were injured, according to a statement published by the Sudan Doctors Syndicate on Facebook.
Al Jazeera reported this week that security forces had fired live bullets and tear gas on protesters in Khartoum and the nearby cities of Bahri and Omdurman. At least 10 people have died in protests since October 25, the news agency said.
Following these demonstrations, universities and colleges across the country have suspended studies.
Academics at the Forefront
Sudanese students and academics played a prominent role in the civil protests that led to the ouster of al-Bashir’s regime in 2019. They have been at the forefront again in the demonstrations against the military’s latest actions.
The Sudanese Professionals Association, an organization umbrella of all Sudanese unions, recently renewed its call for civil disobedience.
The union representing faculty members across Sudan has also called on its affiliates to carry out strikes and other forms of civil disobedience until democracy is restored.
“When the target is a homeland, it is our professional, moral and revolutionary duty to take to the streets,” the Association of Sudanese Professors at Universities, Faculties and Higher Institutes wrote on Facebook in late October.
The statement continued: “Experience taught us: the streets never betray. We invite you to line up in the revolutionary line and take part in a universal political strike against the ominous coup against the popular will. To those who cannot see well, we say we will not go back, and your place will be in the dustbin of history.”
‘We Will Never Back Down
Other academic groups also protested the military takeover. In a Facebook statement, the University of Khartoum’s faculty union announced its participation in civil disobedience.
A number of the university’s faculty members organised a sit-in demanding a return to civilian rule.
“There is a general strike and civil disobedience carried out by everyone, including faculty members. Cutting off the Internet and communications, and turning the country into a large prison, will not deter us from participating in the revolution.”Anwar Dafa-Alla
Head of the Sudanese Researchers Initiative
“We have taken a decision to participate in civil disobedience and a comprehensive strike, … along with unions and federations across the country,” Manal Amer, head of the faculty union council at the University of Khartoum, told Al-Fanar Media.
“We will continue our strike until the restoration of democracy and civilian rule. Our demands are clear and we will never back down. We consider what happened a military coup until things return to normal.”
For its part, the Sudanese Researchers Initiative also supports a civil democratic transformation.
“There is a general strike and civil disobedience carried out by everyone, including faculty members,” said Anwar Dafa-Alla, head of the researchers’ association. “Cutting off the Internet and communications, and turning the country into a large prison, will not deter us from participating in the revolution.”
Dafa-Alla’s group is currently circulating a petition calling on “Sudanese experts, scholars and researchers at home and abroad” not to cooperate with the military regime in any way.
The petition supports the right of the Sudanese people “to build a democratic, civil system of government based on equal rights, justice and freedom.” Nearly 800 academics had signed it as of November 17.
“Many students and professors are taking part in the civil disobedience, All government activities are suspended, including universities and schools.”Nashwa Issa
An assistant professor at Al-Neelain University in Khartoum
Years of School Interruption
Over the past three years, students at Sudanese universities and higher institutes have experienced repeated interruptions of their studies. Political upheaval, Covid-19 precautions, and climate disasters have all caused university closures.
The political situation today again is disrupting studies.
“Many students and professors are taking part in the civil disobedience,” Nashwa Issa, an assistant professor at Al-Neelain University in Khartoum, told Al-Fanar Media. “All government activities are suspended, including universities and schools.”
The situation hurts students the most.
“I lost an entire academic year because of the events that took place in the country. I am not entirely sure when I will graduate,” said Zainab Al-Hawari, a third-year pharmacy student at Al-Neelain University.
However, Al-Hawari believes that restoring the civil rule in Sudan is more important now. “Our future does not matter at the present time as much, as we care about the future of our homeland, Sudan,” she said.
Attacks on Students
Students said government forces had attacked some dormitories to force students to leave, for fear of their participation in the demonstrations.
“My colleagues at the University of Khartoum were subjected to numerous violations at the hands of the government forces,” said Bader Ali, an engineering student at Sudan University of Science and Technology. “The university dormitories were evacuated by force. Some of them were looted. Some students had their heads shaved.”
“My colleagues at the University of Khartoum were subjected to numerous violations at the hands of the government forces. The university dormitories were evacuated by force. Some of them were looted.”Bader Ali
An engineering student at Sudan University of Science and Technology
In a Facebook statement, by the University of Khartoum condemned such acts. In addition to theft and looting, it said, students were “subjected to the most heinous insults, abuse, and beatings.”
The current conditions have raised concerns about the risks faced by foreign students in Sudan.
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On October 26, the General Union of Somali Students, which has the largest body of foreign students in Sudan (7,000 students), urged its students to avoid dangerous areas. Foreign educational organizations also called on their students at Sudanese universities to stay away from conflict areas or gatherings.
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