Amidst mounds of sand capped by hand-written signs naming the dead, Khadom embraces the tomb of her son, one of the more than 200 killed in Sudan’s months-long turmoil.
It was an April morning when a freshly-shaven Al-Moez drank his tea before heading out to the office from the modest home he shared with his parents in Al-Rimela, southern Khartoum.
His office was in the same building as Qatar-based news channel Al-Jazeera and near a longstanding protest camp outside army headquarters in central Khartoum.
“The building was under surveillance by the all-powerful National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS),” Khadom told reporters.
Shortly after he arrived at work, a colleague started to take pictures with his mobile phone from a window of their office.
Out of nowhere, a bullet pierced the window and lodged itself in the heart of Al-Moez who was standing nearby. The 45-year-old died on the spot.
Like dozens of others who lost a son, uncle or brother, the family has paid a high price for Sudan’s revolution that toppled its longtime autocratic ruler Omar al-Bashir in April.
And now, Al-Moez’s family want justice.
His parents have called for an official investigation and for his killer to pay the “eye for an eye” penalty.
But Khadom says there is little chance the case will come to trial or that the NISS will be found guilty.
Anti-regime protests which first broke out on December 19 after the tripling of bread prices have cost the lives of more than 200 demonstrators, according to doctors close to the protest movement.
Gatherings have been staged in front of the homes of the “martyrs”, whose portraits have been painted on walls across the capital.
Outside a rundown apartment block in central Khartoum, two little boys, Ahmed and Asir, are often seen waving small Sudanese flags at motorists.
Their uncle, Ali, 25, was felled by a bullet in the back on June 3, the day gunmen in military uniform brutally dispersed the sit-in outside army headquarters that was in place since April 6.
“Blood for blood, we don’t want compensation!” they chant if security forces pass by in their pickups.
More than 100 lives were lost that day alone and over 500 people wounded, according to the doctors.
“My brother died a martyr. We’re proud and I’m also prepared to die for the revolution,” said Yussef, 35, as tears welled up in his eyes.
‘Blood has not been shed in vain’ –
Eman, 24, also lost a brother in the massacre at the sit-in, which the protesters had initially launched to demand Bashir’s ouster and later to call on the generals to transfer power to a civilian administration.
A student in England, Mattar was back to visit the family and had just celebrated his 26th birthday when he decided to spend a night with the demonstrators at the sit-in.
“They killed him without mercy,” said Eman, whose brother’s fate evoked a campaign of solidarity on social media under the hashtag #BlueForMattar.
“Mattar gave his life. Now things in Sudan must change.”
Last Friday, crowds of jubilant Sudanese took to the streets to celebrate a landmark deal between protest leaders and ruling generals aimed at turning the page on seven months of political unrest.
Protest leaders said they had agreed on a transition period of three years and three months, with the first 21 months presided over by a military nominee, and the last 18 months by a civilian.
Demonstrators greeted the breakthrough with chants of “the martyrs’ blood has not been shed in vain” and “civilian rule, civilian rule”.
But Yussef, at the centre of the protests from the outset, said he would keep demonstrating because nothing significant would come from Sudan’s military.
“We still have a long way to go for a new Sudan… We must keep up the fight for future generations,” he said, glancing over at his sister’s boys Ahmed and Asir.
Morocco frees journalist jailed for abortion after royal pardon
Hajar Raissouni was sentenced on September 30, along with her Sudanese fiancé for having sexual relations out of wedlock
Moroccan journalist Hajar Raissouni who was sentenced to one year in jail for an “illegal abortion” and sexual relations outside marriage walked free on Wednesday, shortly after being granted a royal pardon.
In a case that had provoked a storm of protests from rights groups, the justice ministry said the 28-year-old woman was released on a pardon issued by King Mohammed VI.
Rassiouni was sentenced on September 30, along with her Sudanese fiancé, a gynaecologist, anaesthetist and a medical assistant, whose convictions were also overturned, an official told reporters.
The journalist made a victory sign to the waiting media as they emerged from El-Arjat prison near Rabat, but she made no statement before joining her family and friends.
The ministry said the monarch wanted to help “preserve the future of the couple, who wanted to establish a family in line with our religious and legal precepts, despite the error they made”.
The amnesty was decided on the grounds of “compassion”, it said.
A government source told reporters the ruling was made “without entering into the debate that is sovereign to Moroccan citizens on the evolution of their society and in which, regrettably, certain foreigners, intellectuals, media and NGOs invited themselves to take part”.
The journalist at the Akhbar Al-Yaoum newspaper, which has a history of run-ins with the authorities, denounced the affair as a “political trial”, saying she had been questioned by police about her family and her writing.
Youne Maskine, a director of Akhbar Al-Yaoum, took to Twitter to hail “finally a wise decision”.
Raissouni was arrested on August 31 as she left a clinic in Rabat. In court, she denied having had an abortion, saying she had been treated for internal bleeding — testimony backed up by her gynaecologist.
She was sentenced under Article 490 of the Muslim-majority kingdom’s legal code.
That article punishes sexual relations out of wedlock, while the law also forbids all abortions unless the mother’s life is in danger.
‘Obsolete’ ban –
In a case that sparked widespread debate on personal and media freedoms in Morocco, her gynaecologist, who spoke up in her defence, was given two years and her fiancé one year in prison.
The anaesthetist was handed a one-year suspended sentence and the medical assistant eight months, also suspended.
Rights groups were quick to condemn the verdicts, which Amnesty International described as a “devastating blow for women’s rights” in the country.
Ahmed Benchemsi, the regional director for Human Rights Watch, described the sentencing of Raissouni and her fiancé as a “black day for freedom in Morocco”.
The verdicts were “a blatant injustice, a flagrant violation of human rights, and a frontal attack on individual freedoms,” he wrote on Twitter.
The prosecution insisted she had been seen by a medic and showed signs of pregnancy and of having undergone a “late voluntary abortion”.
It had said her detention had “nothing to do with her profession as a journalist”.
Between 600 and 800 back-shop abortions occur each day in Morocco, according to estimates by campaign groups.
In a manifesto published on September 23 by Moroccan media outlets, hundreds of women declared themselves “outlaws” by claiming to have already violated the “obsolete” laws of their country on abortion and other social norms.
In the early 1970s, in a similar text, French women calling themselves the “343 sluts” famously declared they had had an abortion when it was still illegal.
Last year, Morocco tried thousands of people for sex out of wedlock, 170 people for being gay and 73 for pregnancy terminations.
Sudan announces “permanent ceasefire” as peace talks hit deadlock
The talks were launched on Monday, but a rebel group says it would pull out unless the government withdrew from its territories
Sudan announced Wednesday a “permanent ceasefire” in the country’s war zones even as a key rebel group threatened to pull out of peace talks, accusing government forces of bombing its territory.
Juba has been hosting talks between new Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok’s government and delegates from two umbrella groups of rebels who fought now-ousted President Omar al-Bashir’s forces in Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan states.
The talks were launched on Monday, but the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement North (SPLM-N) told journalists it would pull out unless the government withdrew from an area in the Nuba mountains.
The group said that for the past 10 days, government forces had kept up attacks on its territory despite an unofficial ceasefire.
Late on Wednesday, the chief of Sudan’s ruling sovereign council, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, announced a permanent ceasefire in the three conflict zones.
“General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan has announced a permanent ceasefire to show that the government is committed to peace,” the sovereign council said in a statement.
“The ceasefire is valid from the signing of this declaration.”
An unofficial ceasefire had been in place since Bashir was ousted by the army in April in a palace coup following nationwide protests against his decades-old rule.
A joint civilian-military sovereign council is now ruling Sudan and is tasked with overseeing the country’s transition to civilian rule as demanded by protesters.
A new transitional government is in place to carry out the daily affairs of the country, and has been leading the peace talks in South Sudan’s capital with the rebel groups.
Bloodshed in the three states has left hundreds of thousands of people dead and millions displaced, in turn severely impacting the country’s economy.
Dhieu Mathok, a member of Juba’s mediation team, told reporters they were investigating the SPLM-N’s complaints but would not stop peace talks.
“We are still investigating whether there are really attacks in those areas or not, but this will not stop the peace process,” Mathok said.
Mohammed Hassan, a spokesman for Khartoum’s delegation, attributed the fighting to an attack by herders on local merchants.
“The government regrets and condemns in the strongest terms these unfortunate events that keep happening in the area and in other parts of the country,” he said.
“We also regret that these events took place at a time when people are entering peace negotiations, and the country and the whole region is united for the cause of peace in Sudan.”
Tunisia’s outsider Kais Saied projected to win presidential election
The official results are expected Monday, but news of the projected victory has triggered celebrations
Conservative academic Kais Saied, who is poised to become Tunisia’s next president, on Sunday thanked the “young people for turning a new page” in the country’s history.
“We will try to build a new Tunisia,” he told a gathering of supporters, his family and the press after state media announced his landslide election victory.
“Young people led this campaign, and I am responsible for them.”
In a contest which reflected Tunisia’s shifting post-revolution political landscape, Saied, an independent, scooped almost 77 per cent of the vote, Wataniya television said.
Some 90 per cent of voters aged 18 to 25 voted for Saied, according to polling institute Sigma, while just 49 per cent of people above 60 chose him over his rival, business tycoon and media magnate Nabil Karoui.
The official results are expected Monday, but news of the projected victory triggered celebrations at the retired law professor’s election campaign offices in central Tunis, as fireworks were set off outside and supporters honked car horns.
“I will carry the message” of the 2011 Arab Spring revolution that ousted dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Saied said.
“The law will be applied to all, and first and foremost to me,” he said.
“Everyone made their choice, in complete freedom. Our project is founded on freedom. The era of submission is over. We have just entered a new era in history,” he said.
“The state will be built on a foundation of trust. Trust between the leader and the people, and in a framework of respect for the rules,” he added.
Saied, meanwhile, underlined his support for the Palestinian cause, which he said he considered a foreign policy priority.
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