Battle for change far from over for women in new Sudan

Unrest which has gripped Sudan since bread riots in December that led to the anti-Bashir uprising left scores dead. (File/AFP)
Updated 21 July 2019

Battle for change far from over for women in new Sudan

  • Women have been at the forefront of the revolt which led to Bashir’s overthrow by the military on April 11
  • A female lawyer was detained on the evening of Jan. 12 and escorted to “the fridge,” a grim room where interrogations are paired with extreme cold

KHARTOUM: She may have spent 40 days in jail for demonstrating against president Omar Al-Bashir who has since been toppled but activist Amani Osmane says the battle for women’s rights in Sudan is far from over.
Women have been at the forefront of the revolt which led to Bashir’s overthrow by the military on April 11 after three decades of iron-fisted rule.
Osmane, who is also a lawyer, was detained on the evening of January 12 and escorted to “the fridge,” a grim room where interrogations are paired with extreme cold.
“There are no windows, nothing, just air conditioning at full blast and the lights on 24/7,” she told AFP.
The fridge is part of a detention center run by the all-powerful National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) in a building on the Blue Nile that runs through Khartoum.
Dozens of activists and political opponents of Bashir’s regime have passed through what NISS agents cynically refer to as “the hotel.”
Osmane, who spent 40 days behind bars after a frigid seven hours of questioning, said she was arrested “contrary to all laws... because I stand up for women in a country where they have no rights.”
Another activist, Salwa Mohamed, 21, took part each day in protests at a camp outside the army headquarters in central Khartoum that became the epicenter of the anti-Bashir revolt.
Her aim was “to have the voice of women heard” in a Muslim country where she “cannot go out alone, study abroad or dress the way I want.”
Student Alaa Salah emerged as a singing symbol of the protest movement after a picture of her in a white robe leading chanting crowds from atop a car went viral on social media.
Portraits of Salah — dubbed “Kandaka,” or Nubian queen, online — have sprouted on murals across Khartoum, paying tribute to the prominent role played by women in the revolt.
Unrest which has gripped Sudan since bread riots in December that led to the anti-Bashir uprising left scores dead.
Doctors linked to the protest movement say that 246 people have been killed since the nationwide uprising erupted, including 127 people on June 3 when armed men raided the protest camp in Khartoum.

SPEEDREAD

Women have been at the forefront of the revolt which led to Bashir’s overthrow by the military on April 11 after three decades of iron-fisted rule.

On Wednesday, protesters and the generals who took over from Bashir finally inked a deal that aims to install a civilian administration, a key demand of demonstrators since his fall three months ago.
The accord stipulates that a new transitional ruling body be established, comprised of six civilians and five military representatives.
A general will head the ruling body during the first 21 months of a transition, followed by a civilian for the remaining 18 months, according to the framework agreement.
“We will no longer wait for our rights, we will fight to obtain them,” said Osmane, stressing that women wanted 40 percent of seats in parliament.
Amira Altijani, a professor of English at the all-female Ahfad University in Omdurman, Khartoum’s twin city, said: “This movement is an opportunity for women to have their voice heard.”
For Osmane, Bashir “hijacked” sharia laws for three decades to oppress women.
“But a new Sudan is rising, with a civilian government that will allow equality,” she said.


Can Damascus-Ankara face off in Syria flare up?

Updated 20 min 40 sec ago

Can Damascus-Ankara face off in Syria flare up?

  • An all-out conflict between Syrian regime forces and Turkey is unlikely

BEIRUT: A week-old Turkish invasion of northeast Syria combined with a US withdrawal have redrawn the lines and left Russian-backed Syrian regime troops and Ankara’s forces standing face-to-face.

Experts argue that an all-out conflict between Syrian regime forces and Turkey is unlikely but they do not rule out sporadic clashes.

On Oct. 9, the Turkish army and its Syrian proxies launched a broad offensive against Kurdish forces controlling swathes of northeastern Syria.

The move against the People’s Protection Units (YPG), a militia Ankara considers a terrorist group, came after US troops who were deployed along the border as a buffer between the two enemies pulled back.

Turkey and its proxies — mostly Arab and Turkmen former rebels defeated by regime forces earlier in Syria’s eight-year-old conflict — have already conquered territory along 120 km of the border.

In some areas, they have moved some 30 km deep into Syria territory, prompting the Kurds to turn for help to the regime in Damascus.

Government troops responded and rushed north as soon as US troops withdrew from some of their positions, including the strategic city of Manbij.

The Syrian regime’s main backer Russia swiftly sent its own forces to patrol the new contact line between regime forces and the former fighters.

“It is mostly rebel groups linked to Ankara who are on the front lines, Turkish troops are mostly deployed along the border,” the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The intense ballet of military deployments is redrawing the map of territorial control in a region previously held by the US-backed and Kurdish-led Syrian Defense Forces.

“There’s a new map. And it’s the regime sweeping almost everything, Turkey is left with a few crumbs along the border,” said Thomas Pierret, from the French National Center for Scientific Research.

Turkey insists it will not stop the offensive until it meets its declared goals of creating a buffer zone all along the border, but it now has limited room for maneuver in the face of the regime surge.

Russia and Iran, both Damascus allies, “will act as intermediaries to ensure everybody stays on the patch they have been allocated,” said geographer and Syria expert Fabrice Balanche.

He said incidents should not be ruled out “due to the unclear nature of the territorial boundaries and the presence on the Turkish side of uncontrollable elements.”

Two Syrian soldiers were killed near Ain Issa in artillery fire from Turkish proxies Tuesday, the Observatory said.

“There could be limited clashes ... but no major battles,” Pierret said. “The Syrian army cannot take on Turkey ... The Turkish army is much better equipped.”

“It isn’t hard to imagine how areas retaken by the regime could be used as a staging ground for YPG guerrilla operations,” he said.

The Kurdish force could be “reinvented as an anti-Turkey force” at Damascus and Moscow’s orders. “It’s a very credible scenario and could give Russia new leverage against Turkey.”

Moscow is keen to avert any escalation, analysts say.

“Russia is working overtime to prevent any type of large scale conflict between Assad’s forces and Turkey and its proxies,” said Nick Heras from the Center for New American Security.

Turkey together with Russia and Iran launched the so-called Astana process which provides a framework for peace talks on Syria.

To win support for its invasion, Turkey will need to make concessions over the Idlib region in Syria’s northwest, Balanche predicted.

“The Russians finally agreed to this Turkish intervention in the north, in exchange for Idlib,” he said, referring to the last opposition bastion in Syria, a region where Ankara has some clout but which Damascus wants to retake.

The strategic relationship between Ankara and Moscow goes far beyond the Syrian conflict. NATO member Turkey has ignored US warnings and acquired Russia’s state-of-the-art S-400 missile defense system.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is expected in Moscow on Thursday for talks with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.

Putin’s office said a prior phone call between the two leaders had emphasized “the need to prevent confrontations between units of the Turkish army and Syrian armed forces.”