Protests in Sudan: death, disappearance, and the dread of not knowing

Students demonstrate in Sudan


Students demonstrate outside the Ministry of Justice, over the deaths of four students from war-torn western region of Darfur in Gezira state, at Khartoum. ((Reuters) (December 9, 2012)

Hi everyone,

A few months ago, protests in Darfur got personal for me.  As the reports of government forces using live fire on demonstrators and mass numbers detained, one of my Facebook friends, living in South Darfur, suddenly didn’t have a profile on line anymore.  With no response to my email query to him to find out if he was okay, I was left with an overwhelming feeling of dread and helplessness.

There were myriad explanations and I knew he might be just fine.  Yet, just in case, I reviewed, and reviewed again, the names of those who had been killed.  I was relieved to not see his name listed, but that was the extent of info I had access to.  He re-surfaced after a few silent weeks and told me he had indeed been detained for five days.  He said it was the Government of Sudan that had taken down his Facebook profile and this of course had been my fear.  His communications had an undertow of lack of safety far more than what I had ever heard from him before.  It took a while, but he eventually managed to get out of the country and I continue to live with fingers crossed for his safety.  Silence in between emails can feel very long.

For many years I have heard stories of those who have been “disappeared” in many different countries of the world.  This was my first personal experience of realizing that I might have a friend who so-to-speak “disappeared”, leaving me in the uncertainty of not knowing what had happened, and not knowing if it involved yet another act by a malevolent, genocidal government.

Fortunately, my friend was released, able to communicate, and leave the country.  Yet, the brief silence left a deeply embedded experience of what it is like when you just don’t know.  For some, over the course of a lifetime, they never get to know what happened to those they love.  If ever there was an act of cruelty to inflict torment without direct contact, leaving family members to just not know anything has to rank very high on the list of most extreme cruelties human beings can do to one another.

With that as background, protests continue in Sudan and in many of them, those from Darfur continue to be targets.  Some protestors were killed;  some disappeared.  And somewhere others sit wringing there hands, feeling a sense of dread and helplessness, not knowing what happened to their loved ones.

Barbara English
Executive Director, Living Ubuntu
http://livingubuntu.org
(949) 891-2005

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