What did Sudanese activists mark the ‘Khartoum massacre’? | Human rights news

As Sudan’s civil war spirals into deeper unrest, activists remember friends and loved ones killed during pro-democracy protests in Khartoum on June 3, 2019.

The killings, carried out by military forces in an effort to disperse a sit-in calling for civilian rule and democracy, marked a pivotal moment for Sudan after the overthrow of former president Omar al-Bashir in April 2019.

Before al-Bashir was overthrown in a military coup, a large civil protest movement had been demanding for months that the president resign. That movement continued after the imposition of military rule and eventually led to what became known as the “Khartoum Massacre.”

The same forces that took power from al-Bashir (the Sudanese army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces) are now fighting each other in a civil war that began on April 15, 2023. And many activists now believe that the killings of the June 3 were a sign. of the devastating war that was to come.

Here’s everything you need to know about the significance of the murders:

What happened?

The murders took place on the penultimate day of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. Thousands of protesters remained at the sit-in, which began in early April outside military headquarters in Khartoum, despite rumors that security forces planned to disperse them.

Sulima Shafiq, a pro-democracy activist who campaigns against violence against women and who was at the protest, said sit-in participants believed “something (negative) could happen,” but the actual events that occurred , including murders, rapes and arrests of dozens of individuals – were not anticipated.

At least 120 people died. Hundreds more disappeared.

“At some point I thought we wouldn’t make it and we would die soon,” Shafiq told Al Jazeera. “I thought it was only a matter of time before we were dead like everyone else.”

Security forces initially denied attacking the sit-in after it was condemned globally. They also attempted to limit the spread of any information by imposing an internet blackout starting June 10, as well as restricting entry to foreign journalists.

Military authorities eventually admitted they had ordered the dispersal, but said mistakes had been made.

Despite the killings, protesters led another march on June 30, prompting the international community to pressure security forces to share power with civilian politicians in August 2019.

But the agreement did not last long and the civilian half of the transitional government was overthrown by its military partners in October 2021.

At least 120 people died during the forced dispersion of the sit-in in front of the military barracks on June 3, 2019 (File: Ashraf Shazly/AFP)

How has the pro-democracy movement adapted since the war began?

Many of the sit-in participants are members of resistance committees, which are neighborhood groups that were instrumental in overthrowing al-Bashir and organizing sustained pro-democracy protests.

When the war began, many members of the resistance committees established Emergency Response Rooms (ERR). These new committees solicited donations from Sudanese in the diaspora and took on the task of alleviating the catastrophic humanitarian crisis caused by the civil war.

ERR activists have cooperated to open first aid clinics, remove civilians from unsafe areas, and run countless soup kitchens to feed the hungry.

In Khartoum, where heavy fighting has occurred, Abd al-Qadous told Al Jazeera that his RRT has helped run the nearest hospital. He also opened a small school to house displaced civilians who fled heavy fighting in nearby areas.

Al-Qadous, who survived the 2019 killings, said RRTs are critical to helping civilians during war. He added that it is imperative that the ERR remain “neutral” in the conflict.

“We are not with any side and we simply believe in our humanitarian work and neutral dialogue. This is what we learned from the (revolution that overthrew al-Bashir),” al-Qadous said.

How has the war affected pro-democracy activists?

Pro-democracy activists have been detained, tortured and killed by both belligerents in the war, Al Qadous said.

“There is torture… and death threats, and sometimes there are situations where (women) are raped,” she told Al Jazeera.

In some districts, de facto authorities have passed laws prohibiting ERR or resistance committees from carrying out any humanitarian or political activities. But as parties to the conflict often restrict aid groups from reaching civilians in need, RRTs have no choice but to serve their communities.

Fatma Noon, spokesperson for the Kalakla resistance committee, told Al Jazeera in January: “We know that the (belligerents) are attacking us.”

Smoke rises in the distance around the Khartoum Bahri district amid ongoing fighting on July 14, 2023. - Sudan's war-torn capital experienced a communications blackout for several hours on July 14 , residents said, as army and paramilitary forces fought intense battles across Khartoum.  and humanitarian groups warned of worsening crises.
Fighting has spread across Sudan since the start of the war in April 2023 (File: AFP)

What is the legacy of the Khartoum massacres in the war?

Pro-democracy activists have long denounced the lack of accountability of both belligerents in the war.

They believe that impunity has emboldened them to continue attacking and sabotaging popular aspirations for democracy in order to retain power and wealth.

Survivors of June 3 were particularly dismayed by what they described as a haphazard attempt by a legal committee tasked by the former civil-military government to investigate the violent dispersal of the sit-in. The committee was supposed to produce an investigative report and file criminal charges, but the investigation was shelved after the 2021 military coup.

“The main reason for dispersing the sit-in was to stop the democratic transition process and hand power to civilians,” said an ERR member who requested anonymity for fear of reprisals.

“The sit-in was also dispersed to scare and terrorize the revolutionaries… to distance themselves from the objectives of the revolution.”

Leave a Comment