The Sudan Crisis and the Power of Social Media

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For 30 years, the citizens of Sudan lived under the tyrannical rule of President Omar al-Bashir. After seizing power following a bloodless coup in 1993, he will largely be remembered for financial corruption, enabling war, the atrocities in Darfur and countless violations of international law including genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.

After the citizens of Sudan began protesting his leadership in December 2o18, he was overthrown by the military and forced to resign on 11th April 2019. However, things haven’t got any better for the citizens of Sudan – the Transitional Military Council that seized power is equally as corrupt.

The council is controlled and dominated by General Mohamed Hamdan “Hemeti” Dagolo, an individual who not only played a key role in the Darfur genocides (which has an estimated 200,000-300,000 death toll) but is also the commander of the Rapid Support Forces, a paramilitary group who have committed countless crimes against humanity. Most recently, on 3rd June 2019, they brutally murdered, raped and injured hundreds of protestors and citizens during Eid al-Fitr celebrations in an event now known as the Khartoum Massacre.

Although local doctors have estimated the death toll to be 118, the sad reality is that we will never know for certain. As military forces stormed Khartoum, they also cut off all mobile internet access in Sudan; citizens were left isolated from the rest of the world with no means of asking for help or raising awareness of any of these human rights atrocities.

Subsequently, with this lack of communication with the outside world, international media were unable to report on the suffering of Sudanese citizens, leaving us none the wiser about everything going on. In fact, information has only very recently begun to leak through the cracks, allowing us to become aware of this at all.

The Rapid Support Forces were clearly fearful of the power of the internet, and it appears they were right to be so, with the Blue for Sudan movement gaining remarkable momentum on social media, finally giving the people of Sudan a platform and international voice. It started with one influencer, Shahd Khidir, demanding justice for the murder of her friend Mohamed Mattar, a 26-year-old graduate of London’s Brunel University. He was shot dead by the Rapid Support Forces whilst protecting two women during a peaceful demonstration against military rule outside Sudan’s military headquarters. On the now-viral Instagram post discussing her friend’s murder, Khidir said:

There’s a massacre happening in my country Sudan’s and a media blackout and internet censorship for four consecutive days. There is no objective media sharing what’s going on expect for @aljazeeraenglish which had their offices shot down.

My friend @mattar77 was MURDERED by the Rapid Support Forces. My best friend was in hiding on June 2 and that’s the last time I spoke to him. He was missing for 4 days and when I got in touch with him he said: ‘I was caught, beaten and abused and humiliated and arrested and had my phone confiscated from me. I am injured currently’. And all I could do was post this.

Mattar’s death resonated with the rest of the world and, arguably, felt particularly close to home for some given his links to a UK university. And now, with the suffering of the people of Sudan finally out in the public sphere, his friends and family were determined to not let him die in vain. They changed their profile pictures on social media to Mohamed’s favourite shade of blue in honour of his memory, quickly causing a chain reaction, as it has now become a symbol of recognition of all the peaceful protesters massacred and a symbol of defiance against the government’s attempt to silence Sudanese activists both online and through the use of violence.

Now, hundreds of people all over the world stand in unity with the people of Sudan, raising awareness of the horrors that the government have desperately tried to hide and showing the unstoppable power of social media in our times. As the online community is awash with blue, the curtain shrouding the victims of Sudan has finally been lifted.

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Wessex Scene Editor // meme queen // fan of chocolate digestives // @colombochar on Twitter.

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