February 4, 2012

Beja activists arrested

 Port Sudan Beja demonstrate on February 2 against the arrests of human rights activists a week earlier in Kassala. Shortly after this photo was taken,  some Beja in Port Sudan were arrested. [sakanab.com]

A conference entitled "The Massacre in Port Sudan and the Crisis in East Sudan" was held in Kassala on January 25. The conference was organized by Nagi Musa. He has been arrested.

Conference participants discussed human rights and the political situation in Sudan. The primary focus of the group centered on the Massacre in Port Sudan on January 29, 2005. Twenty two Beja people were killed by Sudanese National Forces while demonstrating in the streets of the city. In the melee, 400 other Beja people were severely injured.

After domestic and international pressure from human rights organizations, the government set up a commission to investigate the Port Sudan event, with a view to determining how unarmed civilians were killed, and who was responsible for police decisions  to use deadly force. However, the final report has never been published. Every year, many Beja activists create events to remind the government that no real effort has been made to bring justice to the Beja people and to remember those who were killed. Activists now see them as martyrs, and view some government officials as perpetrators of crimes against humanity, etc.

In Kassala, last week, Nagi Musa and four others were arrested. Those arrested along with Nagi Musa include: Amar Dirar, Gazi Altayeb, Mohamad Mahjoub and Shareef Kamal. All are members of Girifna, the organizing group. Two youth leaders also disappeared on Wednesday, January 25: Omar Ahmad Hamid, a senior student at Khartoum University and Mohamed Omer Al Amin, a recent graduate of the College of Law at Nillen University. Apparently, several other Sudanese citizens engaged in the human rights conference and Girifna group have complained of intrusive police surveillance. Fearing arrest, torture or worse, several people have gone into hiding.

In a separate event, on the 28th of January, Sudanese National Security Forces arrested four leaders of the non-violent pro-democracy movement organization, Sharara: Youth for Change. At a regular meeting of Sharara, Sudanese police took four human rights activists into custody. Khalef Saeed, a human rights campaigner based in the United Arab Emirates who was visiting Sudan to consult with Sharara was arrested along with three more organizers of the nonviolent Sharara movement: Magdi Akasa; Hatim Shinab and Yasin.

Since the arrests, Beja people in East Sudan have mounted a campaign to release the detained citizens. Street demonstrations have been held to publicize the situation [see photo at top of page].

After a street protest in Port Sudan on Thursday, February 2, as many as fourteen more people were arrested, including some women. They include lawyers and members of the Beja Congress Students Union.

Concerned Beja believe that some of the arrested persons are now being held in isolation at the infamous Kober Prison in Khartoum.

UPDATE: A facebook page dedicated to freeing the Girifna group of 10 that were arrested has been created. Visit: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Free-the-Girifna-Heroes/177199752386817

UPDATE #2 Amnesty International has picked up these arrests as an item to highlight on their Sudan page, along with arms trading to Darfur, etc.

UPDATE #3 Most of the people arrested have now been released. Some of them were subject to torture. Details are available at the Girifna site

UPDATE #4 No further action required. 

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