الاثنين، 1 ديسمبر 2014

To the elders of Sudan ... If any

Dear elders,

I will tell you my thoughts and how I perceive things. Who am I? I am nobody but a confused and uncertain person. I wish you get sometime in your super busy schedule of negotiation and photo shooting to read this.

I have heard in different occasions and news media that the ongoing negotiation is the one and only opportunity for Sudan to achieve long lasting peace. This makes me in doubts about what does long lasting peace actually mean.

If we considered the achievements of long lasting peace is only restricted to cease of causalities in war areas, I think this negotiation would be a chance to put the guns down. I perceive long lasting peace as a condition that includes achieving justice to the survivors and victims of war and treating the root causes of the conflict which were never highlighted in all your speeches neither in the code of principles signed by the Paris declaration group or 7+7 committee.

I am searching for the reasons making a salvation opportunity for Sudanese people out of the ongoing negotiations. The conditions that made this negotiation round unique; out of other 7 rounds since 2011, uncountable rounds in Abuja and Doha. The later two resulted in many peace agreements which never put an end to the war not to mention the people suffering. I get to know that Paris declaration and Umma Party involvement in the process was the magical ingredient to the long lasting peace, simply because it is the biggest political party in Sudan in terms of membership numbers. I found it needless to recount the times that NUP attacked the SRF, to remind the people of the disappointments and unmet promises by NUP leader.

The opportunity for Sudanese people to enjoy a lasting peace, justice and dignity begins with bringing the NCP regime down then collective efforts to heal the damages of war, tribalism, economic inequalities and achieve justice for the innocents who killed in a war they didn't fought. But the glimpses of opportunities in bringing the regime down were aborted several times by the (opposition leaders). I will restrict this to the recent disappointments;

In July 2012, people were gathered in Wad Nubawi, planning to pray for the souls of youth and school children being killed in peaceful protests in Nyala only few days ago. However, the Friday prayers speech focused on the fact that protestors are annoying the people who want to pray and they are no longer welcome. Regardless the lack of coordination of that day, it seems you never cared about those peaceful protesters being shot dead. Lessons learnt are not to spark protests from a mosque and never rely on untrustworthy leaders.

On September 2013, after masses of peaceful protesters being shot dead in the streets of Khartoum, and other cities, most of them were very young some as young as 12 years old. Those masses missed the political leadership and the guidance when the protests reached its peak 23-25 September 2013. On Thursday 26 September 2013, when people in Khartoum were trying to comprehend the reality of death tolls, It was even more frustrating to see Abo Isa, of the National Consensus and his peers speaking to the regional news channels saying that they couldn't hold a meeting in Azharis house because police denied them entrance to the building and pointed the guns.

What a turning off message he was trying to send to the Sudanese people who witnessed life shooting and killing of their beloved ones. After such a statement from a leading person; I could even understand my family concerns and excuses for giving me a hard time while trying to keep me away from taking the streets again. They have been listening to the 80 something years old man who announced quitting a meeting because a gun was pointed at him under the world sight and hearing. The protests momentum was dispersed by the too late, too little response to it and by the ongoing attempts to validate NCP regime through national dialogue and later the comprehensive negotiations.

It worth telling, that while each and every opposition political actor in Sudan was considering the national dialogue option or at least meeting with Thambo Mbeki of the AUHLIP except Girifna movement. Girifna members were being summoned, interrogated and tortured by NISS for rejecting the national dialogue and specifically for rejecting meeting Mbeki. This was the kind of dialogue that you were considering. A dialogue that shuts off all disobedient voices and I could see that nothing has changed that would make NCP more open to peace and democratic conversation, let alone the unmentioned justice.

I am wondering, how many times do we need to be betrayed by the unmet promises to be convinced that regime change ought to be our starting point? I wish I might be wrong and the negotiations and national dialogue would bring peace. I wish it would end the war, bring justice to the killed, the tortured and displaced persons. I wish it would heal the society that got damaged by inequalities and war. Please don’t forget that it has been 11 years of war in Darfur. The children who were born in 2003 know no peaceful life, and they have no home but the displacement camps. I hope it would succeed because I see no political will or power to bring NCP down to start up a construction process that might bring the long lasting peace.

I found myself in no position to judge or reject the ongoing collective deal of bringing peace between so called opposition and NCP. I am only an average Sudanese activist, a woman with a dream to make the world a better place to live. I want to go to bed without the images of outraged women, emotionally and physically broken down activists and striving children. I am in no better position than you to speak on behalf of the people, and with no power, similar to you to bring down the regime.

However, I will continue to record failures and disappointments for the sake of history, for the sake of millions who died, displaced, tortured; who sacrificed their life and well-being for a better tomorrow of the Sudanese people. I will continue to remind myself of that; so one day I would not consider shaking hands with criminals as a way to bring long lasting peace.

And I know I am not standing alone on this. 

There are many young persons, the housewives, the unemployed guys next door and the students which resistance is part of their daily schedule. Those are the recipe for peace and justice in Sudan and the missing component that never considered.

الثلاثاء، 25 نوفمبر 2014

حاجات فترت من سماعها (1)

في حاجات سمعتها كتير في شغلي وفي حياتي الخاصة، مرات من ناس عاديين ومرات من ناس يعتبروا مدافعين عن حقوق النساء. هنا جزء من الحاجات السمعتها دي (في جزءين جايين في السكة)، لو مرت بيكم تعابير مشابهة ياريت تنشروها في تعليقات المدونة، فيسبوك وتويتر:

المرأة هي الام والاخت والزوجة:

وكأن النساء ما ممكن يكونوا أي شي غير صورتهم النمطية في نطاق الأسرة، في نساء ما أمهات ولا أخوات ولا زوجات هل دة بيعني انهم ما نساء؟
المرأة ما ممكن يكون ليها كيان قائم بحد ذاتها كفرد في مجتمع ما بالضرورة يكون مقيد بي الحياة الخاصة والاسرة.

المرأة مربية الأجيال:

تاني تنميط النساء وحصر دورهم في الحياة الخاصة، دي تبرئة للرجال من أي دور في التربية، وتحميل كامل المسئولية والمجهود للنساء، العبارة دي ابداً ما منفصلة من فهم المرأة هي الام والزوجة والاخت. 

وراء كل عظيم امرأة:

النساء مهمتهم توفير البيئة الملائمة للرجال للإبداع، البيئة الملائمة هنا مقصود بيها الأسرة، مع عدم وجود أي اعتبار لانو النساء من حقهن تتوفر ليهن بيئة ملائمة للإبداع من أسرهن برضو بما فيها من الرجال. تنميط النساء وتحديد دورهن داخل الأسرة بانو طبيعي وما ممكن وما مهم يقومن بأي دور غيره، بيقود للافتراض انو ما عندهن أي حق للإبداع في الحياة العامة. 

المرأة هي الطبيعة الام، شجرة لكل بنت

هل المرأة جماد؟ الرجل ما طبيعة ليه؟
شجرة لكل بنت دي مبادرة عملوها شباب مجتهدين، بس حقيقة ما قدرت استوعب علاقة البنت بالشجرة، احتمال لانو الشجرة ما ممكن تزح من مكانها والا يتم نقلها، بالنسبة لي الفكرة ممكن تكون أشبه من بيت ابوك لي بيت راجلك للقبر، والله أعلم

أترضاه لأختك؟

اذا كان في فعل ما مستحب أو عنيف عملو زول، من الاجدى نستنكر شناعة الفعل تجاه النساء ولانو المتضررة من الفعل ما بالضرورة تكون في اطار علاقاتك الاسرية، ولا بالضرورة تكون هي جزء من أسرة عشان تستنكر الفعل الواقع عليها او ما تمارسوا اذا اتقالت للزول المعتدي.
الجملة برضو فيها نوع من الوصاية الاخلاقية في بعض الحالات، يعني استنكار لفعل ما بالضرورة يكون غلط، لكن ما مقبول بالنسبة لزول تاني، فوراً يقوم يذكرك بسلطتك الذكورية ويقارن ممارساتك بي افتراض سلطتك الابوية على اخواتك أو النساء في حياتك الخاصة عموماً، مع التجاهل التام لإستقلالية الاخت مثلاً باعتبارها فرد بالغ عاقل. 

انا عندي اخوات/ انتي زي اختي

غالباً العبارة دي بتتذكر في حالة الدفاع عن فعل محدد، أو انكار الفعل، وفكرة لانو عندي أخوات ما ممكن اكون زول كعب، معتدي ومتحرش. الزول الزي دة بيكون عندو اعتقاد دايماً إنو أخواتوا مافي زول بيتحرش بيهن أو بيعتدي عليهن لانو هو كراجل قاعد في الكرة الارضية دي دوروا انو يكون حارسهن.
عموماً ما بهمني إنو عندك أخوات؛ ولا دايرة اكون أختك أو قريبتك بأي شكل، وما بفتكر في مبررات كافية للأفعال العدائية (بالذات المبرر بتاع الاخوات دة)، وحتى الانكار وحركة ما قاصد وفهمتيني غلط، دة ما بيعني انو فعلك ما كان مؤذي، الاعتذار ممكن يكون مقبول اذا كان الفعل بدون وعي لأنو مؤذي. النكران والتبرير ما مهم ولا بغير من شناعة الفعل.

يتبع ...

الجمعة، 14 نوفمبر 2014

Tabit and the Issues of Reporting Sexual Violence in Darfur

      In a period of nine months, our neighborhood will be full of newly born Arab infants. They came to drink Maresa and ended up using us all. They had guns; we would not say anything to stop them.

Bitterly but sarcastically, Mariam told a women rights activist about what happened to her while chatting over tea in Nyala, with no prior intention to document her case. That was two years ago, sexual violence and rape became the reality of women's lives and part of everyday encounter in Darfur.

During the past few years, and after the ICC arrest warrant of Omar Albashir and other government officials, Darfur has been almost a closed area where journalists, politicians and independent civil society organizations are denied to access.

Last year Sara; a 16 years old girl from Zamzam IDP camp, was severely injured. She was hospitalized for 10 days after being gang raped by 2 young men, one of them is an officer with National Reserve Forces (Abu Taira). She proceeded with her case to police; the officer was never brought to police or court. The other rapist was found guilty and sentenced to 20 years imprisonment. He appealed and in no time found not guilty. Sara was grieved; she needed her story to be heard. To meet with the activist that recorded her case, she needed to walk, ride over a donkey and use the bus. The displacement camp remain inaccessible to journalists and activists coming from Khartoum, not mentioning the lack of suitable environment to interview sexual and gender based violence survivors. Sometimes women in Darfur are not willing to share their experiences of rape with anyone. They feel indifferent as long as it is usually happening to many women and nobody would do anything for them or for the perpetrators.

Under the current oppressive and highly monitored situation in Darfur, Radio Dabanga, a very popular community radio with a huge network of local reporters working in extremely low profile, remains the only outspoken media outlet that document and report rape cases regularly. It got the reputation of being The Rape Radio among Sudanese activists.

On November 5th, 2014 Darfur was in the headlines of international media such as BBC after UNAMID issued a statement for being denied to access Tabit village to investigate rape allegations. The news about military forces invading Tabit and raping 200 women was first published by Radio Dabanga. Four days later the mission reported that they have been allowed to access the village and no single evidence of rape was found.

      Radio Dabanga has been broadcasting in shortwaves since 2008, to inform the people in Darfur with the social, political and other events happening around them. It was broadcasting from Khartoum but due to government interference, its broadcasting is being facilitated by Free Press Unlimited from Netherlands.

Hildebrand Bijleveld, the Director Radio Dabanga and Free Press Unlimited told Sudanese dream. He narrated the current affairs in Tabit as follows:

      On 31st Oct 2014, we were informed that a young lady from Tabit who was engaged with a soldier has got pregnant. Her bothered family went to the military barracks to complain and they told the soldier that they will have to deal with him if he came back for their daughter. In the afternoon, her brothers were arrested and the village was surrounded by military forces because a soldier went missing. It was 4-5 pm Sudan time on Friday and we could not verify the information, thus we did not publish that on Friday.

On Sunday 2nd November 2014 we got information from another source that the military forces raped large number ofwomen in Tabit. Alarm bells were ringing. We got hold on two rape survivors who reported their cases, but there were still in the village. For their own safety, another person from the village testifies it on their behalf.

Early morning on Monday one of the victims disappeared. We got four recorded testimonies but we were not able to release them except one who we were sure she is in a safe place. We did not release the other testimonies because it will jeopardize their safety.

On Tuesday 4th November, a UNAMID convoy moved from Shigil Tobai located to the South of Tabit to investigate this incident. To our surprise that UNAMID ended in a military road blockade according to their statement. Bearing in mind that they came from the south and they should have already passed Tabit before reaching the military check point. People reported they have already spoken to UNAMID in the road around Tabit. I think UNAMID was purposefully seeking the military verification over investigation of rape in Tabit. UNAMID also mentioned that there are no people arrived from Tabit in Zamzam IDP camp. We sent our reporters to Zamzam to meet women who fled Tabit. Those women were not even approached by UNAMID.

On Friday 7th November 2014, there were a popular committee that was formed and documented the rape cases, they worked in the dark at night and went from door to door, they were able to document 57 rape cases of whom 8 were minors and they left.

On Saturday 8th November, the military forces came to Tabit and threaten people not to talk, a day after on Sunday 9th November; UNAMID sent a delegation accompanied by police and military to investigate rape incidents. The people were scared. How could a woman speak of rape while she is confronted by armed men? I wonder if there was a counselor among the verification team, a person who knows how to build the trust with victims, and do proper documentation without intimidating or offending the survivors.

UNAMID claimed they talked to 8-9 students; however there is no secondary school or a university in Tabit. UNAMID public statement offended the people; even UN Security Council has dismissed it. They did not say Tabit did not happen, but they said there was no evidence.

On the reputation of Radio Dabanga being The Rape Radio Mr. Bijleveld responds

        Radio Dabanga was started by the Darfurians, with the mission of reporting on all current affairs. We cover all issues of peace process, rule of law, sports and social events however there are small news that doesn’t get into the website. Our team involves the best Sudanese journalists. Its 100% independent and committed to the highest professional standards, we double check all the news before publishing them.

      A duty of journalists is to be in the front-lines when massive violations like rape happen. Our commitment is to report them and inform the people even if they found it somehow boring or everyday news. It's not something we can ignore or walk away with. We are not a lobbying or advocacy organization but we committed to inform.

Regarding the high prevalence of sexual violence in Sudan and mainly in Darfur Mr. Bijleveld said:

       I have lived in Sudan for almost two decades, while rape was a miserable crime. The society and authorities would never tolerate a rapist and he would be punished regardless being affiliated with the ruling party or a government authority. It was against the ethical and moral values of the society. Now it depressing me to see rape being a tool to suppress and terrify the people and the perpetrators ending not punished

The recent incidents in Tabit outraged the Sudanese users of social media. Though after UNAMID statement; the discussion was shifted from the anger, and prevalence of sexual violence in Darfur towards the credibility of Radio Dabanga versus UNAMID. The later has a reputation of covering up government violations and under reporting incidents as stated by Aisha Elbasiri, a former UNAMID spokesperson who resigned to speak the truth (news source Sudan Tribune). A discussion over whether Tabit happened or not and was it really that big reflects major misunderstanding of the whole issue of sexual violence.
During Tabit outrage; Radio Dabanga reported 4 women being raped in central Darfur  and a woman abducted and raped in West Darfur. The two incidents went unnoticed. No demands were made to investigate this incident or provide support to the abused women. Sexual violence is assumed as a matter of numbers of abused women rather than the actual act of violence, its consequences and impacts on the survivor and the whole society. 

Questioning the occurrence of the incident based on the argument that the military base near Tabit is a small one, composed of only one hundred soldiers and wondering how a man could rape more than a woman at once is invalid. Such an argument reflects the fact that activists perceive rape and sexual violence as a form of consensual sexual practice not a matter of aggression. In any way rape is not lovemaking where men fall asleep when they are done. It often includes using objects. Earlier this year; Fatima, A young lady living in the outskirts of Omdurman was raped with a knife when she showed resistance to gang rape attempt by nine men.

The discussion about whether Tabit happened or not is not changing the fact that sexual violence is being used as a weapon of war and is normalized as an aspect of everyday life in Darfur. Yet no profound support is being provided for the survivors, no perpetrators being brought to justice. The government of Sudan will not allow independent investigators, neither journalists nor support providers who can address the survivors in dignified manner. It will continue to use its propaganda machine to deny it.

poster credit: Ahmed Isam

edited versions appeared in the Guardian Africa Network and openDemocracy

Darfur radio station exposes the use of rape as weapon of war

Earlier this month a small radio station, Radio Dabanga, were the first to report that more than 200 women and girls had been raped in the village of Tabit in Darfur, after a commander from the Sudanese armed forces stormed the area. The reports, although unverified, caused an international outcry, making headlines across the world.
The report was significant. During the past few years – particularly after the ICC arrest warrant issued for the Sudanese president, Omar al-Bashir – Darfur has been almost a no-go zone where journalists, politicians and independent civil society organisations are denied access by the authorities.
But Radio Dabanga’s network of local reporters have allowed it to remain the only outspoken media outlet that documents and reports rape cases regularly. It now has the reputation of being the “Rape Radio” among Sudanese activists.
“Radio Dabanga has been broadcasting on shortwave since 2008, to inform the people in Darfur about the social and political events around them,” said Hildebrand Bijleveld, the director Radio Dabanga and Free Press Unlimited.
Started by Darfurians as a way to report on current affairs – from “the peace process, rule of law, sports and social events” – the station soon ran into problems in Sudan’s capital.
“We were originally broadcasting from Khartoum but due to government interference broadcasting is now being facilitated by Free Press Unlimited in the Netherlands,” said Bijleveld.
The station is now part of the Radio Darfur Network, a coalition of Sudanese journalists and international media supported by international donors, humanitarian community organisations and local NGOs. 

Conflicting reports

On 2 November Radio Dabanga quoted a source claiming that “more than 200 women and girls” had been “collectively raped” reportedly by “Sudanese soldiers belonging to a military garrison south of El Fasher” in North Darfur.
In response, the joint African Nations and UN mission to Darfur, Unamid, tried to investigate but was denied access to Tabit village by government forces on 5 November. Four days later, and a total of 10 days after the claims were made, the mission reported that they had been allowed entry, but that no evidence of rape was found.
“None of those interviewed confirmed that any incident of rape took place in Tabit on the day of that media report,” Unamid representatives concluded. 
Radio Dabanga followed this report with a news piece titled “Denial of Darfur rape case by Unamid shocks Tabit victims” – which heavily referenced a despatch by five representatives of a committee for refugees in Darfur.
“We just returned from Tabit on Friday with a delegation, after two days of investigation,” they told the station. “There we met 60 women and girls, we looked into their eyes while they told us they were raped by soldiers from 8pm [on Friday 31 October] until 5am.”
Radio Dabanga later reported further inconsistencies between information it had gathered and Unamid’s report, whose visit to the village was presided over by a heavy government and military presence.
Under these conditions, Unamid reported that there had been no new arrivals at the camp for internally displaced people, called ZamZam, following the alleged Tabit atrocity. But when the station sent its own reporters, they claimed that they met many women “who left Tabit. These women were not even approached by Unamid,” Bijleveld says.

Information lifeline

These incidents have outraged people in Sudan, with many voicing their anger onsocial media.
But the discussion has since shifted from anger about the prevalence of sexual violence in Darfur to a debate about the credibility of Radio Dabanga versus Unamid. As the only two organisations passing information out of the region, this disagreement matters. 
According to Aisha Elbasiri, a former Unamid spokesperson who resigned from her post in 2013, the UN organisation has under-reported on crucial incidents.
She says that she asked the UN peacekeeping authorities to investigate possible violations by Unamid of the public information policy “which calls for open, transparent and honest information-sharing with the media.”
“What I have received so far is a deafening silence.”
In contrast, at a celebration for Radio Dabanga’s fifth birthday Elbasiri praised the station during a keynote speech, saying that it “has become the information lifeline to the forgotten victims of Darfur.”
“This year alone, between April and September Unamid was denied access to the so-called ‘areas of operations’ on 75 occasions. But the huge network of Dabanga’s reporters enjoy access to these areas.
“They have been providing continuing, comprehensive and uncensored information. The kind of information that has saved the lives of many people in Darfur.”

Tabit and sexual violence in Darfur

In nine months, our neighborhood will be full of new born Arab infants... They came to drink Maresa and ended up using us all. They had guns; we could not say anything to stop them.
Bitterly but sarcastically, Mariam told a women’s rights activist about what had happened to her while they were chatting over tea in Nyala. That was two years ago.
Sexual violence and rape have now become a reality of women's lives and part of their everyday encounters in Darfur.
Over the past few years, and after the ICC arrest warrant for Omar Albashir and other government officials, Darfur has practically been closed off to journalists, politicians and independent civil society organizations.
Last year Sara, a 16 year-old girl from Zamzam IDP camp was hospitalized for ten days after being gang raped by two young men. One of them was an officer with the National Reserve Forces (Abu Taira). 
She proceeded with her case and reported it to the police. However, the officer was never charged. The other rapist was found guilty and sentenced to 20 years, yet after a very quick appeal, was found not guilty and released. 
Sara was grieving; she wanted and needed for her story to be heard and travelled long distances in order to meet with the activist who recorded her case, as the displacement camp remains inaccessible to journalists and activists from Khartoum. 
Under the current oppressive and highly monitored situation in Darfur, Radio Dabanga, a very popular community radio with a huge network of local reporters - working with an extremely low profile - remains the only outspoken media outlet that regularly documents and reports rape cases. This has given it the reputation of being “The Rape Radio” among Sudanese activists.
Radio Dabanga has been broadcasting in shortwave since 2008 to inform the people in Darfur of social, political as well as other events around them. It was initially broadcasting from Khartoum but, due to government interference, it is now broadcast from the Netherlands by Free Press Unlimited.
On 5 November 2014 Darfur was in the international headlines, including theBBC, as UNAMID had issued a statement after being denied access to Tabit village to investigate rape allegations. Radio Dabanga was the first to broadcast that military forces had invaded Tabit and raped 200 women. However, four days later the UNAMID mission reported that they had been allowed access and that no evidence of rape was found.
Hildebrand Bijleveld, the Director of Radio Dabanga and Free Press Unlimited chronicled these events in Tabit as follows:
On 31 October 2014, we were informed that a young lady from Tabit, engaged to a soldier, got pregnant. Her family went to the military barracks to complain and told the soldier that they would have to deal with him if he came back for their daughter. In the afternoon, her brothers were arrested and the village was surrounded by military forces because a soldier went missing. It was 4-5 pm Sudan time on Friday and we could not verify the information, thus we did not publish the same day.

On November 2 we got information from another source that the military forces had raped a large number of women in Tabit. Alarm bells were ringing. We got hold of two rape survivors who reported their cases, but they were still in the village. So, for their own safety, another person from the village testified on their behalf.

Early morning on Monday one of the victims disappeared. We had four recorded testimonies but were only able to release one, because we had to make sure that the survivors were safe.

On November 4, a UNAMID convoy moved from Shigil Tobai, located to the South of Tabit, to investigate the incident. To our surprise and according to UNAMID’s statement, they were stopped by a military road blockade. (Even though they had come from the south and should have already passed Tabit before reaching the blockade).
People reported that they had already spoken to UNAMID. This is why I think UNAMID was purposefully seeking military verification over the investigation of rape. UNAMID also mentioned that no one had arrived from Tabit to the Zamzam IDP camp even though we had sent our reporters to Zamzam to meet with some of the women who had fled Tabit. Those women were not even approached by UNAMID.

On November 7, a popular committee was formed to document the rape cases. They had to work through the night, going from door to door. They were able to document 57 rape cases of which 8 were minors.

On November 8, the military forces came to Tabit and threatened people who talked. The following day, UNAMID sent a delegation accompanied by the police and military to investigate rape incidents. The people were scared.

UNAMID claimed they talked to 8-9 students; however there aren’t any secondary schools or universities in Tabit.

UNAMID’s public statement offended the people; even the UN Security Council dismissed it.
All they said is that there was no evidence.
 Mr. Bijleveld on Radio Dabanga’s reputation as “The Rape Radio”:
Radio Dabanga was started by Darfurians with the mission of reporting current affairs. We cover all issues of the peace process, rule of law, sports and social events. Our team works with some of the best Sudanese journalists. Its 100% independent and committed to the highest professional standards.

Journalists are on the front lines when violations happen. Our commitment is to report and inform the people... We are not a lobbying or advocacy organization. 
Regarding the high prevalence of sexual violence in Sudan and mainly in Darfur, Mr. Bijleveld commented: 
I have lived in Sudan for almost two decades, while rape is a miserable crime, society and authorities would never tolerate a rapist and he would be punished regardless of his affiliations. It was against the ethical and moral values of society. Now rape is being used as a tool to suppress and terrify the people and perpetrators are not being punished.
The recent incidents in Tabit outraged Sudanese social media users. After UNAMID’s statement, the discussion was shifted from anger at the prevalence of sexual violence in Darfur to Radio Dabanga and their stand versus UNAMID’s credibility. 
The latter has a reputation for covering up government violations and under-reporting incidents, as stated by Aisha Elbasiri, a former UNAMID spokesperson who resigned because her access to information was blocked. Having a discussion over whether or not Tabit 'happened' reflects a major misunderstanding of sexual violence. During the Tabit outrage, Radio Dabangareported the rape of two women in central Darfur and the abduction and rape of another in West Darfur. The two incidents went unnoticed. No demands for investigation or for the support of the survivors were made. Questioning the occurrence, or even the blatant denial, of such heinous crimes based on the argument that the military base near Tabit is small, composed of only one hundred soldiers, is invalid. Such an argument reflects the fact that rape and sexual violence are perceived as consensual sexual acts, not the violent crimes they are in reality.
The truth is that sexual violence is a weapon of war that has been normalized as part of everyday life in Darfur. No support is being provided to the survivors and no perpetrators are being brought to justice. The government of Sudan will continue to use its propaganda machine to deny the existence of these heinous crimes as the list of survivors and victims of sexual violence gets longer and longer.

الخميس، 6 نوفمبر 2014

Snapshots From Sudan's Hot Summer & "National Dialogue"

"I cannot even describe how I feel but mainly I'm so angry an depressed, my family is being air bombed, they targeted them on Thursday of the weekly market, killing innocents and children, all the victims were from one family, they were my first cousins, I'm incredibly worried about my family there, I pray lord may protect them and give them peace"

Sara* (name changed  for safety reasons), a young lady from Haiban village in Nuba Mountains, expressed her grieves of the recent air strikes on the village happened in the morning of 16th, Oct 2014. The strike left 6 civilians dead, 5 of them were minors and 2 children were severely injured. As Thursday marks the weekly market of Haiban; people from the neighboring villages were gathering, they were all terrified and shocked. Nawal Jafar, a five years old child who was severely injured has died on Sunday 19th, Oct 2014 following 4 of her siblings and leaving an injured sister and overwhelmed mother.

Nuba Mountains is striving in war since June 2011. In 2012, HRW described the international response by "The international response to humanitarian law and human rights violations in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile has been muted and largely eclipsed by attention to the deteriorating relations and conflict between Sudan and the newly independent South Sudan. Although the relation between the two neighbors has been quite stable since 2012, yet the violations are not being in the spot light of the international community which is prioritizing  the issue of national dialogue over the humanitarian and human rights situation in Sudan.

Albashir addressed the nation in January 27th and invited the opposition parties to hold on national dialogue in order to resolve economic and political issues affecting the country. On September 4th, Signing parties of Paris declaration (SRF and Umma Party) have met with Thmbo Mbiki of the African Union High Level Implementation Panel. Both Paris declaration group and 7+7 mechanism of the national dialogue has signed separately on code of principles which verifies the needs for national dialogue and constitutional process, calling for suspension of causalities, cease of fire and allowing provision of humanitarian assistance. The NCP regarded the signature as important step forward, says Sudan Tribune. However, recent bombardments of Haiban seems contradicting to what is happening in Addis Ababa, on the dialogue table.

 Abdallah Teia Gumaa, a former Minster and MP and a member of SPLM-N told "The signature over the code of principles was intended to decrease the pressures on the NCP government without making any genuine actions to reach a solution. Soon after the signature; they started to look for financial support and Mbeki requested to alleviate the economic sanctions on Sudan. The NCP government has never committed to cease fire, even to provide access to humanitarian assistance for people trapped in the war zones. They insisted on complete cease fire without reaching a political agreement, moreover relief missions to be managed from Khartoum, despite the trust issues between the people in war zones and the central government" He described the recent shelling of Haiban as continuation of the atrocities against the civilians and the seriousness of the government on implementing "Hot Summer Operations" Which was announced in November 2013 with the purpose of eradicating rebellion. Personally he thinks the signature over the codes was made out of a good intention from the oppositions towards NCP. He emphasized that they have never signed those codes, but the mechanism of the national dialogue did. According to Sudan Tribune; the Sudanese minister of foreign affairs stated that he discussed improving the bilateral relations with US in a phone call with John Kerry. Apparently NCP are making benefits over the national dialogue alleged progress.

The atrocities in Darfur also never ceased. Birka village in North Darfur was attacked at night on Friday March 14th, by Rapid Response Forces (RRF) a pro government militia. Residents of Birka were racially assaulted, their properties were looted, men were severely beaten up while they were trying to protect women from sexual violence. Adam Omer Musa; a father of three minor girls were shot dead while he was protecting his daughters and asking them to run away. By Sunday 16, March Birka village was completely burnt. RRF moved to Serefai village; looting and terrifying the people. Additionally they destructed over 1700 farms by running their vehicles over the plants, putting the local population at risk of famine. By April 15th, the number of looted and burnt villages exceeded 30, with tens of thousands of displaced persons. However the local government in Elfashir claimed that the perpetrators are boarder guards militias and not RRF although that wouldn't make any difference as both militias operate under the supervision of National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS).

On March 11th, University of Khartoum students peacefully protested against the deteriorated humanitarian situation in Darfur displacement camp. Ali Abbakar, a third year student at the faculty of economics and social sciences originally from South Darfur was killed by pro government students militias and around 100 students were arbitrary arrested. The person who shot him in front of his colleagues was never taken to court.

Last January It seemed ironic calling for a national dialogue while two thirds of the population are living in war zones and huge violations of freedom of expression and association was manifested in the killings, arbitrary arrests and detention of peaceful protesters.The NCP regime seems to be more committed to the hot summer operations than the national dialogue process and the international community yet to consider looking at those violations over the one sided so called national dialogue.

People of Birka fleeing their village, Mar 2014, copy rights to Sudanese Dream

الثلاثاء، 28 أكتوبر 2014

The Government of Sudan Must Act Immediately to Control or Prevent an Ebola Outbreak

The issue of Ebola Virus disease is creating a lot of debates in Sudan while the authorities being ambiguous and giving shady statements to calm the people.

As I mentioned earlier in the post Ebola in Sudan?  unofficial sources prefers to remain anonymous testified that there was a case identified in Khartoum hospital. Oil companies in West Kordofan warned its' employees as another case identified in Alfola hospital. All the government efforts since then was meeting with Ethiopian authorities, attending a meeting in Tunisia, creating a kind of mechanism with DRC & CAR as well as implementing emergency measures in airports and keeping a blind eye on the fact that, there is a huge population mobility among the loose boarders of Sudan, specifically with West African countries. In North Darfur, there is a cluster of villages known as Korma, that is connected by a long trade route to Mali. While Algineana; the capital of West Darfur is well known for its perfumes and fabrics market, enriched with West African products from Nigeria, Ghana and other countries. Never mentioning the across boarder tribes that move all the way long with Chad and refugees movement between Central African Republic and Sudan. Basically; the population mobility to Sudan cannot be regulated neither Ebola could be controlled through controlling the airports. I might hear that there is no Ebola in Chad, Ghana, CAR and Nigeria is Ebola free (though it wasn't few weeks ago). The mentioned examples is to demonstrate that controlling Ebola through monitoring population mobility seems nearly impossible.

 Khalid Abdel Ati, a Sudanese pathologist told Sudanese Dream "The danger in Ebola outbreak extends beyond the high mortality rates to the destruction of the whole health system. Whenever there is case of Ebola discovered in a certain hospital; people would ban that hospital and hence might die as a result of complications of other health conditions. The health workers would be reluctant to provide medical care to any patients with hemorrhage of unknown cause. Never mentioning that the reagents to test the Ebola are not available in Sudan as well as the laboratory safety for handling suspected specimen is Level 4. Upon this circumstances, any case of hemorrhage should be handled as Ebola until proofed to be another condition"

The fact that Ebola cannot be tested in Sudan was confirmed by Dr. Hayat Salah, the head of Epidemiology department in the ministry of health in an interview with Alsaiha, a Sudanese daily newspaper on 27th, Oct 2014 issue.

Panic of Ebola spread widely among Sudanese social media users, specially after the news of an 8 years old child died of acute hemorrhage in Ibrahim Malik hospital in Khartoum. The Khartoum state ministry of health spokesperson Dr. Moez Albakheet stated that the girl died of severe Malaria, which for many Sudanese people who knew Malaria for decades was simply not convincing.

I think an Ebola emergency is waving on the air which is beyond any individual or voluntary groups capacity. Not having the means to verify a suspected case of Ebola is actually Ebola that doesn't mean an outbreak didn't and wouldn't happen. As a Sudanese citizen; I urge the government of Sudan to act immediately and do the following:

1. set out laboratories that could test Ebola in different parts of the country as soon as possible.
2. Launch massive health education programs through local media and door to door advises, the messages on the disease transmission and symptoms must be delivered as widely as possible. It should reach all the citizens in urban centres and IDP settings.
3. Take the necessary protective measures to health workers seriously. Patients shouldn't pay for the water and sanitation products when they need care in public hospitals. They should not be asked by health workers to bring water and soap, as its happening in many hospitals. This is your responsibility and obligation towards the health workers as well as the patients.

I'm demanding the government to act not because it represents me, neither many Sudanese people, but I assume at least some officials in the ministry of health might have sincere commitment to Abokrat's medical oath.

الأحد، 26 أكتوبر 2014

Reclaiming the People's Power

On Tuesday 21st, October 2014 Ibrahim Ghandour, the Sudanese presidential assistant announced that Elbashir will be running for presidency again in 2015. This was approved on the 25th October by the general conference of National Congress Party according to the official website of Albashir.

I was not amazed by the news but by some reactions of Sudanese community online, who expressed anger, surprise and frustration.

I assume, if Albashir has chosen to resign or will not seek re-election, that wouldn't make him a hero neither manifest a democratic behavior after 25 years of oppressing the Sudanese people. His regime, the NCP would still exist with another foreground. If he would step down, would we let him go without achieving justice for the people he killed, tortured and forced them to flee their homeland?
One of NCP's propaganda to hold on power is to convince the people that there are no alternatives to lead and govern beside them. Moreover they drive people blindly of the consequences of their presence in office. The question of the alternatives to NCP has been answered by several initiatives from Sudanese youth, who stood up to meet the demands of the people whenever the government failed to meet them. A few examples of those initiatives are Education Without Boarders, providing volunteer teachers, free books and maintenance to public schools. Shariee Alhawadith which covers the costs of emergency medications of people who cannot afford it. Nafeer initiative of 2013 which was found in response to floods and rainfall disasters in Khartoum and recently the Sudan Shadow Government Initiative which presents an alternative program to manage the state and works as a monitor of the government performance. Never mentioning the unbreakable efforts by Girifna, a non-violent resistance movement which is challenging and protesting against the regime regardless of the crackdown on the movement's members.

I see the alternatives for NCP regime in youth, the people with motives to create a change and lead to serve the people of Sudan. The alternatives might fail, but also there is a possibility of success which cannot be verified unless they found the space to operate and implement their aspirations. However, gaining this space will not come as a result of Albashir's resignation but as a result of toppling the regime down through popular peaceful revolution. As long as Albashir has the power to choose whether to seek election or not, we remain passive and even more powerless if we seek salvation in the hands of the oppressor. Reclaiming this power relies on our ability to rebel, and change needs the courage to lead.

الأربعاء، 22 أكتوبر 2014

Ebola in Sudan?

According to WHO, the most severe outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease has started in west Africa in Dec 2013 when the first case was identified in Guinea. The outbreak incited a worldwide panic as there is no certain medication for the disease and it has 90% mortality rates.

Fears among Sudanese people from Ebola outbreak in Sudan evolved after the Sudanese Football Association offered to host the Africa Cup of Nation finals in January 2015 after Morocco rejected hosting the tournaments. The news incited public anger among social media users, saying that our lives and well being worth more than your relations to confederation of African football. The consumers' protection society has issued a press statement on 14 Oct against the decision calling the officials to postpone hosting the event. Although the government of Sudan has refused to host the tournaments; yet the Sudanese Football Association seems not convinced by the decision according to Sudan Tribune.

Sudan is a country with loose boarders' control and a huge population mobility from and to west and central Africa with across boarders tribes, conflict driven displacement and migration; never mentioning the centralized health services and poor primary health care that exclude millions from accessing health services and makes it difficult to diagnose and report the possible cases of Ebola.

On Oct 19 an unofficial source in Khartoum Teaching Hospital confirmed that one patient was diagnosed with Ebola, One day after, workers at oil companies in West Kordofan State said that they have received alerts from their employers as there is a patient was identified with Ebola in Alfola hospital, however there is no official statement about the two cases yet.

On 21st, October, Altaghyeer an online newspaper cited a story from Almeghar Alsyasi, a daily newspaper in Sudan claims that WHO announced there are 19 identified cases in South Sudan, and Sudan government announced emergency situation on its boarders and ports. However nothing on WHO  website on Ebola cases in South Sudan till the moment of writing this post. According to Sudan Tribune, the cabinet in South Sudan advised people not to shake hands in order to avoid catching the infection, yet this sounds not enough as there are more than 91% of the population lacking the improved sanitation facilities(world bank statistics of 2009-2013) beside the poor hygiene, lack of clean water resources in both Sudan and south Sudan.

The government of Sudan seems to be taking measures of boarders control, while Sudan Shadow Government; a youth initiative aiming to change the political practice in Sudan has prepared and published health education materials on Ebola prevention. The following days might be hard on Sudanese people and even the whole regions of East Africa and Middle East.

الأربعاء، 8 أكتوبر 2014

Female Students Arrested over Al Adha Feast in Sudan

On Tuesday Limited news spread among Sudanese social media users on  NISS and police forces raiding Al barracks dorms and arresting female students who couldn't travel to spend Al Adha feast and holidays with their families.

A human rights activist working with (Hugoog group) preferred to stay anonymous narrated the incidents as follows:

"On October 1st, 2014 there was an evacuation alert for the dormitories by the National Fund to Support Students, mainly for residents who are not attending the University of Khartoum. NISS and police forces surrounded the dormitories since Sunday 5th, October and arrested an unknown number of female student while they were trying to access the building after attending a celebration organized by the regional associations. On Monday NISS and police forces bombed the dormitories with tear gas and raided the buildings, eye witnesses testified that they beaten up the students with electrical rods and steaks. Accordingly many of them has been transferred to Khartoum hospital emergency room. While officers in plain civilian clothes step directly into the rooms of politically active students and arrested them immediately, until now there are 22 arrests on Monday only and the rest of the students were forced to evacuate the building"

It worth-noting that most of the female students who were unable to spend the Eid holidays with their family are originally from war torn zones, mainly Darfur region. With the high costs of flights to the region and the risks of road trips due to insecurity and road cuts, its nearly impossible for the girls to go back home during holidays. Some of them stay for years until they manage to get back.

The National Fund to Support Students which issued the evacuation order is the government entity that managing the students' housing across the country. 

Trials has been made to get a statement from one of the student detainees' brother but no response from his side so far.

السبت، 27 سبتمبر 2014

A Heart Can Be in Two Places

On being a diaspora, Akram's detention and remembering September 2013

Last Monday was my second day in UK for the first time, knowing that I'll be away from home for a long cold year. I was extremely sad to leave my family and friends behind, missing a lot of major incidents in their life and in Sudan as a whole. I was alert to the new environment and very excited to explore the place in my very own way. On the other hand I was looking on my Facebook updates and learnt that Akram and so many others got arrested. Akram, on my farewell party told me to study hard and not to worry about incidents happening in Sudan I promised him to do so if he wouldn't get arrested/ kidnapped. He couldn't keep his promise at least for one day.

Akram is one of the bravest persons that I ever met. He spares no effort to bring NCP down, help the patients who lack funds to get emergency medical care and always stands by your side in the hard times. Akram was arrested several times since June 2014, being physically and psychologically tortured for hours and he never wanted people to speak about his arrests. Although I disagree with him but he thinks campaigning for detainees would take time and efforts of the actual regime change activities. I met Akram last year abroad, he fled Sudan in 2012 after escaping arrest attempts and receiving threats from NISS. Akram had a great sense of humor, he made me laugh and we became friends in no time. He was the man who cried because of being forcibly displaced. His heart is as big as his voice.

I was running all back to my laptop to check "Facebook" updates to the extent that I started not to really read the detainees names and learn about what happened to them. I realized that I've to pull my self out. I cannot make it this way, I cannot get an MA while I spend most of the day scanning my Facebook home page and I should start to care less. I thought about showing some solidarity to my detained friends and I felt that I should not; a Facebook post without taking the streets seems to me like doing nothing at all; it will only drag me back to my worries, concerns and being helpless.

Being helpless is not a diaspora exclusive feeling/ status. I can tell that, I left only few days ago. I cannot even recall all the moment I couldn't do or think of any doable acts. Many of those moments happened in September of last year and the days followed that. I was helpless when I sat in our reception room with my fiance and we listened to Albashir announcing lifting up subsidies on fuel and basic food items. My thinking was towards we wouldn't be able to get married anytime soon, but that's not a catastrophe situation as of the kids in the outskirts of Khartoum who hardly can get one meal a day. I felt helpless when one of my former colleagues and a pharmacist in a hospital communicated with me on Whatsapp saying that two boys where admitted to the hospital yesterday with injuries of live ammunition and even more severe injuries are getting into the hospital that morning and .. oh  they cut-off the internet, I cannot go back home and I'm too weak to protest. I spent that night in a friend's house. I felt helpless when I got a phone call from an extended family member who were insisting to know my whereabouts and take me back home. I was scared because I had doubts on that person being NISS agent so either he thought that I'm doing something he wants to know or something might happen and he doesn't want to be in a bad position if I got hurt in anyway. I had a feeling that horrible thing will happen, neither I can stop it nor alert enough people about it. That was only an hour before the government militias started to shoot people who are randomly gathered in the streets. Few weeks later I felt helpless, trivial, angry and so small when visited some of the martyrs' families. I felt helpless when Moniem was detained and when I knew about Mohamed Salah being terribly tortured. This is only a glimpse of the moment I was helpless in Sudan. But I remembered Akram in many of those situations telling me and his eyes full of tears "not to stop what we have already started".

So I need to disconnect myself a bit from Sudan, that was an advice from a friend before I leave. I started to explore the city I walked around for 2-3 hours after completing my scheduled tasks. I chat with my Chinese and Indian flatmates over dinner. I try to organize my meals time after so many years of mess.

Wednesday came soon and its time for the 57th session of human rights council on Sudan. Badrin's report is being discussed. Listening to that live web-casting was a mistake. The council member states' comments were so nauseating, full of lies and belly tickling. I was so amused to hear even Eritrea's comment not on the report but on the situation in Sudan. Never mentioning the speeches by Zibair charitable organization and working women association. I never have had hopes on Badrin; the so called UN independent human rights expert to Sudan who get most of his appointments controlled by pro-government agents. However It was frustrating and painful to hear all that nonsense. I spent most of the day listening to that bullshit although I wanted to stop. I realized it is not healthy to stay inside alone with all that frustration and anger. I went to the gym and I joined a boxing class. I imagined that I might need it someday in Sudan to punch a NISS agent or even Akram for not keeping his promise.

By today the numbers of detainees is exceeding the 70 persons in a week. I'm in a different place and I think the world neither know nor care, nothing in the news about that. Actually arrest and detention in Sudan and other oppressive countries is not even "news" its something of the daily life of the people and it shouldn't be. For this reason I'm here 3244 miles away from home, studying, experiencing new things and gaining better skills. I believe in Sudanese people, they deserve living in dignity and I would spare no efforts to achieve that.

For now I'm not around, I might not be soon but I got my heart in two places.

الأربعاء، 13 أغسطس 2014

My life with & without Hijab

I was a child in 1989; I can hardly remember the incidents of the Islamic Front’s military coup. All I remember is what a big fan of my elder sister I was. She was a very elegant university student who had loads of coloured peeps & sandals. I remember spending hours inside her big closet playing with her makeup, wearing her clothes and walking in her shoes. I also remember our neighbour, an editor in Al Sibian Magazine, passing by our house in the early mornings and saying that she could not come in and have a cup of tea because I would start crying and ask her to style my hair like hers. She was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen, her hair always immaculately styled.

When I was in grade two at primary school and about seven years old, our class teacher used to beat me every morning with a piece of hose asking me, “Where is your khimar?” I never knew why she was so angry, or what a “khimar” was. Once my mother came to know, she transferred me to another school but this time she bought me a white scarf which I had to put on every day.

Years passed and I was in grade seven when my mother, for the first time, talked to me about “decent attire”, which meant long skirts and covering my hair with a scarf. She told me if I didn't dress decently she and my father would go to hell for not having raised me well. I deplored her orders, because my mother herself was neither wearing long skirts nor covering her hair. I refused to cover my hair - although I had to wear the long skirts -there was no option in the market other than long skirts.

In the midst of this confusing time for me, my older sister had to leave the country to find a decent job. Our beautiful neighbour had to wear a scarf beneath her Sudanese thobe to sustain her new job in the Ministry of Education, after Al Sibian Magazine, the Sabah Magazine and other periodicals were cut. There were concerns about attending wedding parties, with men and women sharing a dance. Lots of stories were spreading about police raiding private parties and arresting people. All our neighbours started to wear hijab, saying it was for their husbands’ job promotions, and they kept asking my mother to wear it as well. My mother who considered herself a true believer of Islam rejected this hypocrisy, saying that, since she didn’t wear the hijab after pilgrimage, she would not wear it for my father's job promotion. I asked her once why she wanted me to wear hijab while rejecting it herself. She answered, "You are young will probably be harassed if you are not wearing the hijab.

There were two periods in my life during which I wore hijab; the first time lasted for a whole year while the second lasted five months.

The first time was when my application to Khartoum University had been accepted. I decided to try the hijab for two different reasons. One was that according to University rules, I had to sign a pledge that I would wear it on the campus. Secondly, I was depending on public transport and my brothers told me that girls without hijab are being harassed a lot. I thought that, with a scarf covering my hair, I'd get more freedom to move. Many girls I know wear hijab and some are veiled for this reason. In addition to that, styling my frizzy hair every day would otherwise consume a lot of time and money.

Surprisingly, my life with hijab was not as smooth as I expected. One day I got an opportunity to express my thoughts in a public discussion of the Congress of Independent Students. Their speaker claimed that Islam was the reason behind all the troubles of Sudan. I replied that it was not a matter of Islam, rather of the Islamists who are ruining our life and spreading false concepts of Islam.

This three-minute intervention of mine resulted in me receiving a long letter on how inappropriate it was for a woman to raise her voice in public and talk about Islam, particularly whilst she herself was being a bad example of a Muslim woman, wearing indecent clothes and speaking loudly in front of men. I kept receiving such assaults for years. I was even more shocked when, every other day, the guards at the university prevented me from entering the university campus - for not using pins in my scarf; having a split in my skirt; wearing a T-Shirt or a tight shirt and one day, for wearing leggings under a maxi dress.

At that time, I realised that the hijab has no standards. Whilst I thought myself to be “veiled”, many other people thought I was dressing indecently. I concluded that my dress style should be about me and what I like - not about others and what they think. Most interestingly the harassment never stopped – instead, it even increased with even more Islamists staring at me - those same people who offered me guidance to wear hijab. They have never heard about lowering their gaze or the sins of staring. I often used to tell them that Allah said, “You cannot guide whoever you wish”.

During my college years it was a widely held belief that girls without hijab will not find a man to marry. Most of my class mates started to wear hijab and, from one day to the next, they used to be stricter in their dress code - even in shaking hands with boys for greetings. Many friends displayed more signs of religiousness, like reading the Qur’an in public, holding a sibha - the prayer beads, and not missing an occasion to recite a duaa loudly. Unfortunately, they forgot the soul of Islam, which is being kind to people; not to be talking about people behind their backs; focusing on your own behaviour and avoiding judging others.

My second time to wear hijab was in 2009, after doing everything I could think of to try to stop harassment committed by my work mates and my boss in a public service office - that was full of Islamists and NCP affiliates - had failed. I had submitted written complaints against some work mates after personally rebuking them severely and even in front of other employees. My complaints were never taken seriously and the people in charge always used to find excuses for the harassers, even when one incident ended with an injury as a harasser squeezed my fingers against a ring I was wearing while shaking hands for greeting. I was told several times that a trainee like me could never get a permanent job while wearing such clothes. At a certain point, I realized that neither raising a complaint, nor shouting loudly at harassers was going to change anything when my boss who received the complaints was also staring at my legs under the table as I was wearing a mid length skirt in a meeting. On another occasion, he asked me to cover my neck because he cannot handle staring anymore.
On that day I cried my eyes out. I stayed at home for two days. I made up my mind that, if this humiliation continued, I'd have to quit my job and my career as well. If I could not build my future because of my dress style and I could not control my own body either, I would lose self-esteem, sacrificing it for my career development. That was when I decided to quit my career and the hijab.

I am going back to my lovely mother who, during all this hesitation, has always been there. She supported all my decisions to wear hijab or to take it off. She encouraged me to defend myself against the harassers. At home, when I used to cry from anger and subjugation she used to get sad and tell me, “I didn't raise you to cry like a little girl. You should go there and fight for your rights and teach those abusive Islamists a lesson”.
She panicked after Lubna Hussein was arrested for wearing trousers and always thought something like this would be the revenge of my work mates. She also used to tell me what the dress code was till the 1980s. People used to wear all kinds of clothes which are now considered revealing and indecent. At that time, no man would dare to harass a woman, regardless how much of her body was visible and, for sure, they were Muslims - just not in way of the harassers of women, regardless of how much of their body is covered.

We regularly used to attend the speeches preceding the Friday prayers together and criticize when women were portrayed as the evil of the nation. All our confusion ended up with both of us being convinced that it was not wearing a hijab that would protect women but the power of using their minds, having self-esteem and not allowing any person to define what's wrong and right on their behalf.