Protest in Sudan against rising bread prices
Protest in Sudan against rising bread prices
Bread prices almost doubled on Friday across Sudan after flour manufacturers raised prices amid dwindling supply of wheat following a government decision to stop importing the grain and allow private companies to do so.
“Citizens, demand your rights,” shouted university students in the central Sudanese town of Sennar as dozens of residents joined them in a sporadic march against the rise in bread prices, witnesses said.
Police fired tear gas to break the protest while shopkeepers closed their shops in the town’s main market, witnesses and residents from Sennar told AFP by telephone.
“The police fired tear gas at protesters. I had to close my shop as demonstrators approached the market,” a shopkeeper said on condition of anonymity.
Pictures and videos of protesters chanting anti-government slogans and burning tires in the streets were uploaded on several social media websites.
Flour manufacturers have raised the price of a 50-kilo (110 pounds) sack of wheat flour from 167 to 450 Sudanese pounds ($65, 54 euros), Mohamed Al-Saeed, a member of a barky owners’ union, has told AFP.
That sent bread prices soaring and in response leading opposition groups have called for anti-government protests across the country.
“The Umma Party calls on all its members and Sudanese citizens to protest peacefully against the rise in bread prices,” the main opposition party said in a statement.
“The only way to solve this problem is to overthrow the regime,” it added.
The opposition Communist Party and the Sudanese Congress Party also called for anti-government protests.
“The only way to defeat this regime is to go in the streets and demonstrate to get back the dignity of Sudanese people and their freedoms,” the Communist Party said.
“People have to protest against these economic policies.”
Sudan had witnessed sporadic protests in late 2016 after a government decision to cut fuel subsidies.
The authorities had cracked down on those protests in an attempt to prevent a repeat of the deadly unrest that followed a similar round of subsidy cuts in 2013.
Dozens of people were killed in 2013 protests when security forces crushed large street demonstrations, drawing international condemnation.
In rebel Syria, a race to save precious property deeds
BEIRUT: The external hard drive had been smuggled from Syrian regime territory through jihadist-held towns and into Turkey. When Ghazwan Koronful finally got his hands on it, he sighed in relief.
Loaded onto the disk were pictures of thousands of title deeds from towns in central Syria recently recaptured by government troops and largely emptied of their residents.
Fearing Syria’s regime would expropriate abandoned properties or tamper with deeds, a network of activists and lawyers set their covert plan into motion.
“It was our most complex operation yet,” said Koronful, a 65-year-old Syrian lawyer who heads the network from Turkey, where he has lived in exile since 2012.
For nearly five years, Koronful’s Free Syrian Lawyers (FSL) have been working to preserve property deeds and other civil paperwork in Syria’s opposition areas.
They enter town registries, photograph the documents, carefully log and organize them, then smuggle the hard drives across Syria’s sealed northern border into Turkey.
“In total, we’ve got eight terabytes of documents, about 1.7 million documents — court records, wills, birth, marriage, and death certificates,” said Koronful.
Among them are up to 450,000 land-related documents from northern and central Syria — title deeds, contracts, and other papers that displaced Syrians could use to prove property ownership.
These documents are crucial now, Koronful explained, as the government passes a series of laws that rights defenders fear may unfairly dispossess Syrians from their homes.
“Our work simultaneously protects against hostilities that could damage the deeds, and against the regime’s attempts through these new laws to tamper with people’s properties,” he told AFP.
“Those files represent the hope of return.”
FSL sprang into action after Homs city’s registry was destroyed in a fire in 2013, which activists suspected was a regime bid to strip oppositionists of their land.
Smuggling out original deeds from other towns was risky and could be considered tampering, so the FSL’s 15 lawyers opted for the next best thing: digital copies.
With help from civil society group The Day After, they traveled to Turkey to learn how to handle, photograph, and archive documents.
Back in Syria, they began working through abandoned registries in northern rebel towns: Harem, Azaz, Saraqeb.
“We set up a little studio in the room with the most light,” said an FSL lawyer still in Syria who identified himself as Samer.
With just four Canon digital cameras, two laptops, flashes, and tripods, they photographed thousands of deeds, making sure names and dates were clearly visible.
“As soon as we’d finish one 200-page ledger, we’d upload the SD card onto the computer. Meanwhile, the camera didn’t stop. We’d put a new card in and start photographing again,” Samer, 43, told AFP.
Each month, they emptied their computers onto external drives which they sent to Koronful in Turkey.
They raced against air strikes that damaged cameras and wounded staff members, worrying registries would be bombed to pieces before they could finish.
“When we reached the last page, we’d be so happy to be finished. Whatever happens now, if we get bombed, we have a drive with everything on it,” said Samer.
Sometimes they lost the race. In 2013, days before FSL was to begin photographing deeds in the northern town of Al-Bab, Daesh swept in and destroyed the registry, Koronful said.
They now struggle to get permission to enter registries from suspicious rebels, especially in militants-run Idlib, occasionally photographing in secret.
Since Syria’s war erupted in 2011, more than six million people have been internally displaced and another five million have fled the country.
More than 920,000 have been displaced this year alone, the UN said, the fastest rate yet in the seven-year war.
A vast majority leave behind property-related papers, the Norwegian Refugee Council found in polls last year.
That puts them at risk of losing access to their land through decrees like Law 10, which allows for property expropriation for urban development.
Koronful fears the regime could also dispossess refugees through legislation on re-issuing damaged deeds.