December 27, 2018
Sudanese activists say they have waited decades for the nationwide protests that currently threaten the rule of President Omar Al Bashir and have no intention of stopping despite the violent response from security forces.
The catalyst for the unrest has been Sudan’s shattered economy, but activists say they also harbour longstanding grievances for crimes committed against them, their families and communities.
Amal El Zein is a human-rights lawyer who has defended political detainees since the 1980s, making her family a target of the government. Her brother has been arrested for his political activism three times since Mr Al Bashir seized power in 1989, while her other brother was dismissed from the police force just days after graduating from police college.
Ms El Zein’s husband is also a human rights lawyer and critic of the regime, putting him on the government’s radar. After protests broke out in the Nile state of Atbara on December 19, he suspected that security agents would come looking for him. He packed some belongings and went into hiding that same evening without telling his wife where he was going.
“We weren’t even in the protest, but security agents often summon well-known activists whenever there is unrest,” said Ms El Zein, 51. “Security agents knocked on our door the night after he escaped. They left after I told them that I don’t know where he is.”
Now alone with her son, Ms El Zein has joined protests in Khartoum despite the risk of reprisal. Rights groups say security forces have killed at least 37 people during protests so far and arrested hundreds, some of whom were later released. The protests have erupted in a half dozen cities across the country and appear to building momentum, with another planned in the capital on Friday.