Thousands on strike in Sudan calling for president to quit

A handout picture released by the British Embassy in Khartoum on March 5, 2019, shows Irfan Siddiq (R), British ambassador in Khartoum, meets with Omar el-Digeir, the chief of the opposition Sudanese Congress Party, upon his release in Khartoum. (AFP)
Updated 05 March 2019

Thousands on strike in Sudan calling for president to quit

  • Unrest quickly turned to calls for Al-Bashir to resign after two decades in power

KHARTOUM: A one-day strike shuttered businesses and emptied streets in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, and other parts of the country on Tuesday, as pressure mounted on longtime autocratic President Omar Al-Bashir to step down following more than two months of deadly protests.

Initially sparked by rising prices and shortages, the unrest quickly turned to calls for Al-Bashir to resign after two decades in power. A heavy security crackdown has killed scores since the current wave of demonstrations began in December, the most serious protests against Al-Bashir.

Many students, doctors, markets, public transportation and other professionals took part in the strike Tuesday in support of Al-Bashir’s ouster, according to photos and videos provided by activists and posted by the Sudanese Professionals Association. The association is an umbrella group of independent professional unions that has been spearheading the recent wave of protests.

Sarah Abdel-Jaleel, a spokeswoman for the group, said in a video posted late Monday that the strike is part of their “peaceful resistance” against the government.

Media workers at the privately owned newspaper Al-Tayar joined the strike. “We’ve faced daily abuses since protests first broke out,” said Shamayel El-Nour, a journalist. “We cannot do our work. Security agencies censor and confiscate our newspaper and others.”

The opposition Sudanese Congress Party said its leader, Omer El-Digair, was released Monday after two months in detention. El-Digair tweeted Tuesday that he would “resume the path with our people ... to freedom. We will not come back halfway.”

The country’s intelligence and security officials, along with Al-Bashir, insist that the rallies are the work of what they describe as “evil” foreign powers, and have vowed to stop them.

Al-Bashir has banned unauthorized public gatherings and granted sweeping powers to the police since imposing a state of emergency last month, and security forces have used tear gas, rubber bullets, live ammunition and batons against demonstrators.

Activists say at least 57 people have been killed in the current wave of protests, but the government total stands at 30, including police. The figures have not been updated in weeks.

Opposition leaders, doctors, journalists, lawyers and students have been arrested, along with some 800 protesters. Emergency laws and night-time curfews have been imposed in some cities.

Al-Bashir’s current term ends in 2020, and he would not be able to seek another term without amending the constitution.

Though he has repeatedly promised not to run again, a parliamentary committee was tasked with amending the constitution to scrap presidential term limits. In February, the committee canceled its meetings in what appeared to be the only political concession by Al-Bashir so far.


Rouhani: Iran will bypass US sanctions or overcome them through talks

Updated 21 min 17 sec ago

Rouhani: Iran will bypass US sanctions or overcome them through talks

  • Tensions have soared between Tehran and Washington since last year
  • The Islamic Republic has rejected negotiating a new deal with the Trump administration

DUBAI: Iran will overcome US sanctions by either bypassing them or through negotiations, and it will not cross its red lines in any talks with arch-adversary Washington, President Hassan Rouhani said on Wednesday.
Tensions have soared between Tehran and Washington since last year, when President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with six powers and reimposed sanctions on Tehran that have crippled its oil-based economy.
The Islamic Republic has rejected negotiating a new deal with the Trump administration, saying talks are only possible if Washington returns to the nuclear pact and lifts sanctions.
“The government is determined to defeat (the enemy) by bypassing America’s sanctions...or through various means including talks, but we will not cross our red lines,” the semi-official Iranian news agency ISNA quoted Rouhani as saying. In a rare act of cooperation between Tehran and Washington, the United States and Iran each freed a prisoner on Saturday.
Washington said it was hopeful that the prisoner swap would lead to the release of other Americans held in Iran and that it was a sign Tehran was willing to discuss other issues.
Iran released Xiyue Wang, a US citizen who had been held for three years on spying charges, while the United States freed Iranian Massoud Soleimani, who had faced charges of violating US sanctions against Tehran.
Iran said on Monday there were about 20 Iranians jailed in the United States in cases linked to sanctions violations.