Dozens protest against Sudan reforms

Protesters chant slogans as they march during a demonstration along Al-Siteen Street in the Khartoum East district of Sudan’s capital on Friday. (AFP)
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Updated 18 July 2020

Dozens protest against Sudan reforms

  • Protesters took to the streets of Khartoum after prayers on Friday in the east and north of the capital

KHARTOUM/AMMAN: Dozens of Sudanese protested in the capital Khartoum on Friday against recent government reforms they consider anti-Islamic, including allowing non-Muslims to drink alcohol, an AFP correspondent said.
Justice Minister Nasredeen Abdulbari said last Saturday that Muslim-majority Sudan now “allows non-Muslims to consume alcohol on the condition it doesn’t disturb the peace and they don’t do so in public.” He also said that converting from Islam to another religion would be decriminalized.
The announcements came a day after the country criminalized female genital mutilation.
Protesters took to the streets of Khartoum after prayers on Friday in the east and north of the capital, an AFP correspondent said.
They shouted slogans including, “God’s laws shall not be replaced” and carried banners reading “No to secularism.”
“Hamdok, Khartoum is not New York,” other protesters cried, addressing Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, who leads Sudan’s transitional government.
Late last month, Hamdok had pledged to announce decisions that “may have a major impact” in the country.
Security forces blocked streets in central Khartoum and bridges connecting the capital with its twin city of Omdurman, the AFP correspondent said.
Unprecedented popular protests that kicked off in Sudan in December 2018 led to the ousting of President Omar Bashir in April last year after 30 years in power and set the course for civilian rule. Extremists largely stayed on the sidelines of the nationwide demonstrations.
Under Bashir’s 30-year rule, the country adopted a more radical course of Islam, hosting Al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden between 1992 and 1996.
It also imposed punishments including flogging and sent jihadist volunteers to fight in the country’s civil war with the south Sudanese.
The US blacklisted Sudan as a state sponsor of terrorism, in a move that decimated the country’s economy.
Sudan’s transitional government, installed under a deal between protest leaders and the generals who took charge after Bashir’s ouster, has been pursuing a string of reforms, seeking to rebuild ties with the US, boost its international standing and rescue its ailing economy. A day earlier, activists hailed Sudan’s decision to lift the death penalty and flogging as punishment for gay sex. Others criticized the relaxation of the law in conservative Sudan, where a transitional government has promised to lead the country to democracy.
“These amendments are still not enough but they’re a great first step for the transitional government that’s trying to implement changes,” Noor Sultan, founder of Bedayaa, an LGBT+ group in Egypt and Sudan, said on Thursday. “We see this as a positive change on the path to reform.”
Sudan also decided to ban female genital mutilation, which typically involves the partial or total removal of the external genitalia of girls and women, and allow women to travel with their children without a permit from a male relative, he said.
Sultan said the government was discreet about dropping the death penalty for gay sex and its amendment document did not detail what Article 148 — the sodomy law — was about.
“I think society is still reluctant to accept such changes but I hope that the government will continue in its path toward reform,” she said.
Others criticized the Justice Ministry’s reform agenda.


UAE opens 4 new rapid COVID-19 testing facilities

Updated 27 min 39 sec ago

UAE opens 4 new rapid COVID-19 testing facilities

  • The test centers, which offer the service for $14, use laser technology to provide a result in five minutes
  • COVID-19-negative test result will be required for students and school staff who are set to resume in-person classes in Sharjah

DUBAI: Four new rapid coronavirus testing facilities have been opened in the emirates of Dubai, Fujairah and Ras Al Khaimah, particularly for people who want to enter Abu Dhabi where a negative test result is required, national daily Khaleej Times reported.

The test centers, which offer the service for $14, use laser technology to provide a result in five minutes, but screenings can only be done through appointment.

The Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (Seha) said people who want to get tested in these facilities – four of which are located in the UAE capital – will need to book an appointment through the Seha mobile application.

The laser test could suggest some people to take the traditional PCR screening, authorities said, which they can also avail at the same center.

Abu Dhabi earlier said it was mandatory for people to present a COVID-19-negative test result before entering the emirate. Border checks were put in place to regulate the movement of people.

Meanwhile, the private education authority of Sharjah said a COVID-19-negative test result will be required for students and school staff who are set to resume in-person classes by Aug. 30.

“All students, teachers and staff of all private schools will be tested for Covid-19 (ahead) ... of physically joining the school,” the Sharjah Private Education Authority (SPEA) said in a circular, adding testing could be carried out continuously throughout the new term.

“School principals should be aware of the COVID-19 test schedule, which would impact their operational reopening plan. This might result in teachers, staff and students joining their school in batches,” SPEA added.

The UAE Minister of Education earlier announced a COVID-19 test was mandatory for students and teachers returning to campus.