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My cousin has been killed in Sudan’s protests. His death must not be in vain | Yassmin Abdel-Magied | Opinion

Category: Political Protests,Politics

On Sunday morning, the day after renewed protests in Sudan calling for the resignation of President Omar al-Bashir, a message came through on the family WhatsApp group. “Ma’ab has been shot in the heart.”

My heart skipped a beat, and I couldn’t breathe. Ma’ab Hanafi? My cousin? The funny photographer? The tall, skinny one who was shier than his brother but who always had a kind word to spare?

I furiously opened the other, extended family WhatsApp group: short, disbelieving messages and prayers pouring out of the screen; Arabic letters blurred by the tears now falling from my eyes. I thought of Ma’ab’s twin brother, his younger sister, his mother; my chest tightening. I called my own mother, and we held each other’s grief in silence, neither of us able to speak. A few weeks earlier, Ma’ab had been shot in the shoulder and survived. His family had held a party celebrating his recovery only last week. This was not how it was supposed to go. He was meant to grow old, I told my mother. I was to go to his wedding, inshallah, and one day meet his children. This was not meant to be the story. But, alas, the price of revolution, of dignity, of freedom, is often treacherously steep.

What happened to Ma’ab, and the devastation that his murder has visited on our family, is sadly a scene that has been repeated tens of times since protests broke out across Sudan in December 2018. These demonstrations are ultimately a reflection of a nation reaching crisis point: rising prices across the board, deep levels of corruption and a dearth of economic opportunity that has lead to hour-long queues for basics such as fuel, bread and cash from ATMs. In December, the country’s inflation rate was at 72.9%, second only to Venezuela’s.

The most recent protests are the culmination of months of activity commemorating the 1985 revolution that brought down the president at the time, Ja’afar Nimeiri. That year, the army joined ranks with protesters, leading to a coup. On Saturday, 34 years later, the outcome was not as simple. Security forces clashed with protesters and killed at least four, including Ma’ab. It then turned into a sit-in, and since the weekend thousands have been camping out at the military headquarters in Khartoum, chanting one simple demand: Tasqut bas. This Arabic phrase roughly translates to “Just fall” – a cry for the dictator, al-Bashir, to step down.

News of the protests has only very slowly made its way into the mainstream media. Whether this is due to the complex web of foreign interests in the nation, or a lack of care about the troubles facing an African nation, it’s hard to tell. Even more challenging on a personal level is knowing what to do as a Sudanese person living outside the country. What is our role in this fight? Following the revolution from the outside through Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and WhatsApp comes with a mixture of nostalgia and regret at missing out that I find difficult to reconcile. I was born in Sudan, and every inch of me yearns to be there in that military compound right now – in the thick of it, singing along in the melee with my fellow people fighting for a better future.

But is that really my place? As much as it pains me to admit, the reality is that my life isn’t in Sudan, and hasn’t been for a long time. I was brought up in Australia and my relationship with the nation of my birth comes from biennial trips “home” to visit family, and through the stories of my parents. I want to be there, but as a member of the diaspora, I am also not sure it is necessarily my place. Outside Sudan, it’s perhaps easier to get caught up in the romantic notion of revolution and one’s place in it. Like many others in the Sudanese diaspora, I have settled for playing a part by amplifying the voices of those on the ground, sharing translated tweets and writing about the uprising in mainstream media publications.

It doesn’t feel like enough. But truthfully, it doesn’t matter what I feel is enough. All that matters is that al-Bashir steps down, and that we then begin the project of rebuilding the nation we all feel proud to be a part of.

Yassmin Abdel-Magied is a social advocate working in Australia


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