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Sudanese Islamists support military’s push for Sharia3 min read

Religion is for God, politics is for the street -protesters respond

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Sudanese Islamists support military's push for Sharia
Leader of the Nusrat Al-Sharia Movement, Abdelhay Yousef is among Sudan's Islamist movements who are backing the army in the hope it will keep sharia law in place. (Photo by ASHRAF SHAZLY / AFP)

With talks suspended between protest leaders and Sudan’s military over a transfer of power to civilian rule, Islamist movements are backing the army in the hope it will keep Sharia law in place.

Islamist parties stayed on the sidelines during the months of nationwide protests that led to the April ouster of long-time ruler Omar al-Bashir.

They have since not joined the protest alliance at loggerheads with the generals over the makeup of a new governing body, which would rule the country for a three-year transitional period.

But hundreds of Islamists have rallied in the capital in recent days, warning they would reject any deal that would exclude Sharia -Islamic law- from the country’s political roadmap.

They have also backed the army’s demands that the head of Sudan’s new governing body be a military figure -putting them at odds with protesters who want civilian rule.

“We agree with (protesters) that there will be a cabinet of civilian technocrats,” said Hassan Rizk, deputy head of the Islamist Reform Now Movement, a breakaway group from the National Congress Party formerly led by Bashir.

“But the sovereign council should be headed by the armed forces because there is a security problem.”

Bashir came to power in an Islamist-backed coup in 1989 and Sudanese legislation has since been underpinned by Islamic law.

But the protest leaders have remained silent on whether sharia has a place in Sudan’s future, arguing that their main concern is installing a civilian administration.

‘Stole the revolution’ –

Ultraconservative preacher, Abdelhay Yousef, a leader of the Nusrat Al-Sharia movement, drew large crowds Friday at a mosque in the capital’s southern Jabra district.

He used his sermon to champion Islamic law and to rail against the prospect of secular rule.

Buses then transported worshippers to a courtyard outside Khartoum’s presidential palace where they broke their daytime fast for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan before rallying against the roadmap.

“Free revolutionaries will not be ruled by the forces of the left,” they chanted.

Nusrat Al-Sharia chief Mohamed Ali Jazuli justified the rejection by Islamists, saying the negotiations between the protesters and the generals were for an agreement that was “purely bilateral and excluding” the Islamists and other political forces.

While the protest alliance could be a “partner in change”, he said, it was not “the only leader of the revolution”.

“The revolution was not against ideology but against corruption and tyranny,” he said.

Tayeb Mustafa, who heads a coalition of conservative parties, said Islamists were opposed to the transition plan because it “ignored the application of Islamic law”.

The protest alliance “stole the revolution in broad daylight”, said Mustafa, whose 2020 coalition brings together Islamist groups, including the Popular Congress Party, a long-time ally of Bashir.

‘Religion is for God’ –

Analysts say Islamists’ close ties to Bashir have made it difficult for them to join forces with protesters and their Alliance for Freedom and Change umbrella group.

“It’s impossible to equate a party that has always been opposed to the regime with another side that was with the regime until its fall,” said prominent Sudanese journalist, Khaled Tijani.

“Freedom and Change therefore has the right to lead.”

A few metres (yards) away from the Islamist rally outside the presidential palace, a man wearing traditional robes lit a cigarette as the call to prayer marked the end of the day’s fast.

“We’re fed up with the injection of religion into politics,” he said in a low voice.

“We want freedom, we don’t want to be ruled by anyone in the name of religion…What have we done with 30 years of that kind of rule?” he asked.

“Religion is for God, politics is for the street.”

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Former Spanish garrison becomes tourist magnet

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Former Spanish garrison becomes tourist magnet
Kite-surfers manuever their kites at Dakhla beach in Morocco-administered Western Sahara (Photo by FADEL SENNA / AFP)

In the heart of Western Sahara, a former garrison town has become an unlikely tourist magnet after kitesurfers discovered the windswept desert coast was perfect for their sport.

In Dakhla, an Atlantic seaport town punctuated with military buildings in Morocco-administered Western Sahara, swarms of kitesurfers now sail in the lagoon daily.

“Here there is nothing other than sun, wind and waves. We turned the adversity of the elements to our advantage: that’s the very principle of kitesurfing,” said Rachid Roussafi. 

After an international career in windsurfing and kitesurfing, Roussafi founded the first tourist camp at the lagoon at the start of the 2000s. 

“At the time, a single flight a week landed in Dakhla,” the 49-year-old Moroccan said.

Today, there are 25 a week, including direct flights to Europe.

“Dakhla has become a world destination for kitesurfing,” said Mohamed Cherif, a regional politician.

Tourist numbers have jumped from 25,000 in 2010 to 100,000 today, he said, adding they hoped to reach 200,000 annual visitors. 

Tourists watch kitesurfers at Dakhla beach in Morocco-administered Western Sahara
Tourists watch kitesurfers at Dakhla beach in Morocco-administered Western Sahara (Photo by FADEL SENNA / AFP)

The former Spanish garrison is booming today with the visitor influx adding to fishing and trade revenue.

Kitesurfing requires pricey gear — including a board, harness and kite — and the niche tourism spot attracts well-off visitors of all nationalities. 

Peyo Camillade came from France “to extend the summer season”, with a week’s holiday costing about 1,500 euros ($1,660). 

Only the names of certain sites, like PK 25 (kilometre point 25), ruined forts in the dunes and the imposing and still in-use military buildings in Dakhla, remind tourists of the region’s history of conflict.

In the 1970s, Morocco annexed Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony, and fought a war with the Algeria-backed Polisario Front from 1975 to 1991, when a ceasefire deal was agreed.

A United Nations mission was deployed to monitor the truce and prepare a referendum on Western Sahara’s independence from Morocco, but it never materialized.

Without waiting for the political compromise that the UN has been negotiating for decades, hotels have sprouted from the sand along the coast, and rows of streetlights on vacant lots announce future subdivisions. 

‘Good communication’ –

“The secret to success is to develop kitesurfing with good communication focused on the organisation of non-political events,” said Driss Senoussi, head of the Dakhla Attitude hotel group. 

Accordingly, the exploits of kitesurfing champions like Brazilian Mikaili Sol and the Cape Verdian Airton Cozzolino were widely shared online during the World Kiteboarding Championships in Dakhla last month.

The competition seemed to hold little interest for Dakhla’s inhabitants however.

Only a few young people with nothing to do and strolling families found themselves on the beach for the finals.

Just as rare are the foreign tourists who venture into the town of 100,000 residents to shop.

A kitesurfer manoeuvring her kite at Dakhla beach in Morocco-administered Western Sahara.
A kitesurfer manoeuvring her kite at Dakhla beach in Morocco-administered Western Sahara. (Photo by FADEL SENNA / AFP)

Like her friends, Alexandra Paterek prefers to stay at her hotel, some 30 kilometres (19 miles) from downtown. 

“Here is the best place in the world for learning kitesurfing,” said the 31-year-old Polish stewardess. 

On her understanding of the broader regional context, she said: “It’s an old Spanish colony and they have good seafood, for sure.”

Like many tourists, she was under the impression that the area belonged to Morocco, as the destination tends to be marketed in the travel industry as “Dakhla, Morocco”.

That angers the Polisario, which wants independence for the disputed region and tried last year in vain to sue businesses it said were “accomplices to the occupying military power.”

The independence movement is now focused on challenging commercial deals between Morocco and the European Union that involve Western Sahara, according to the group’s French lawyer Gilles Devers.

Moroccan authorities are looking actively for investors for their development projects on the west coast, the most ambitious being the Dakhla Atlantique megaport with a budget of about $1 billion to promote fishing. 

Environmental concerns –

On the lagoon, surrounded by white sand and with its holiday bungalows, “there is a struggle between developing aquaculture and tourism,” said a senior regional representative, who spoke on condition of anonymity. 

“One has less impact on the environment, but the other generates more revenue and jobs,” said the representative, adding that “pressure from real-estate investors is very high.”

With the influx of tourists, the protection of the environment has become a major concern.

“Everything is developing so quickly… we need to recycle plastic waste and resolve the issue of wastewater,” said Rachid Roussafi. 

Read: Plastic in crosshairs at UN environment forum

Daniel Bellocq, a retired French doctor, worries for the future of this lagoon, that was “once so wild” that he has kitesurfed in for 20 years.

“There is green algae that weren’t there before, it’s becoming a septic tank,” he said.

Regional councillor Cherif, though, insists the bay is clean, saying: “All the hotels are equipped with wastewater management systems.”

For him, the real threat is from plastic waste, whether it is dropped by tourists or brought by sea currents. 

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Triggered by MP’s disgrace, Tunisia’s #MeToo breaks taboos

Tunisian politician allegedly masturbating outside a high school has sparked the country’s own #MeToo moment, with sex abuse victims breaking taboos under the hashtag #EnaZeda.

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Viral images of a Tunisian lawmaker allegedly masturbating outside a high school have sparked the country’s own #MeToo moment, with sex abuse victims breaking taboos under the hashtag #EnaZeda.

Read Also: Newly sworn-in Tunisia President vows to reunite the country

Discussion of sexual harassment had previously been limited to a few edgy TV shows, but now thousands of women in the North African nation are sharing their experiences from lecherous remarks to paedophilia.

A video showing the moustachioed politician sitting in a car with his trousers dropped to his knees was shot last month by a student who shared it online alongside accusations of harassment.

The newly elected lawmaker denies inappropriate conduct and has said he was urinating due to a medical condition, even threatening his accuser when pursued by prosecutors.

#EnaZeda — Tunisian Arabic for #MeToo, was inspired by the huge global movement that bloomed in 2017 in the wake of sexual assault allegations by multiple women against Hollywood movie producer Harvey Weinstein.

It has given some in Tunisia the confidence to confront their harassers face-to-face.

“Tonight, I have cried all the tears from my body. Tonight, I was harassed and nobody took the trouble to react,” wrote one internet user Lina Kaboudi.

But “unlike all the other nights, I dared to respond to the perpetrator. I did not keep walking, pretending I had not heard.

“I stopped, and I held him to account”.

Breaking taboos 

Tunisia is considered a pioneer on women’s rights in the Arab world and was the first predominantly Muslim country to abolish polygamy in 1956.

But the taboo on confronting sexual misconduct remains strong, especially within the family.

It is rare for victims to pursue formal complaints, despite sexual harassment in public places being punishable by law with a one-year prison term and a fine of 3,000 dinar (around 1,000 euros) since July 2017.

To catalogue the avalanche of testimony, Tunisian activists have set up private Facebook groups including one simply named #EnaZeda, which has more than 20,000 members.

Poignant accounts, some anonymous, are shared daily in the group — ranging from rape and incest to inappropriate behaviour by teachers or celebrities and molestation on public transport.

Activists say they have been surprised by the volume and variety of the stories, and NGO Aswat Nissa (Voice of Women) says it has collected more than 70,000 testimonies.

“At first, we created a group to defend the young girl who filmed the lawmaker, because she had suffered a lot of criticism and pressure,” said Myriam Bouattour, who heads Aswat Nissa.

“Then women, and sometimes men too, shared their stories, so now we are trying to organise workshops with psychologists.”

Bouattour said she has received messages from parents who have “broken the family taboo by talking about sexual harassment with their children, after reading testimonies about paedophilia”.

‘Didn’t lift a finger’ 

Traditional attitudes and apathy among some in power mean the nascent #EnaZeda initiative faces an uphill battle.

Kaboudi — the woman who called out street harassment — laments the passivity of the police, who “were a few feet away” and did not “lift a little finger” to help her when she was harassed.

She also despairs of witnesses who similarly “did nothing”.

In an attempt to break the silence, in October the Centre for Research, Study, Documentation and Information on Women (Credif) launched an awareness campaign about sexual harassment on public transport.

Dubbed “the harasser #MaYerkebch (does not ride) with us”, the initiative includes an app that uses a chatbot to speak to a harasser on behalf of a victim or witness and remind them of the law.

Najla Allani, director of Credit, emp the app states out loud the type of sexual misdemeanour and location, in a voice that speaks firmly in local dialect to “intimidate and scare the harasser”.

“People dare not speak (themselves) out of fear, but with this voice app, they will be better able to react”, Allani said.

An evaluation of the experimental initiative later this month will decide if it continues, so long as “the financial means allow it”, she added.

It remains to be seen how big a contribution #EnaZeda will make to Tunisia’s battle against sexual harassment, but one thing is sure — the shroud of silence is no longer so suffocating.

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Sudan launches first-ever satellite in partnership with China

Sudan has been involved in a national space programme for decades covering activities such as remote sensing and geoinformatics

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Sudan launches first-ever satellite in partnership with China

Sudan’s first-ever satellite for conducting research in military, economic and space technology has been launched by China, the country’s ruling body said Tuesday.

General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, who heads Sudan’s sovereign council, announced the launch of the satellite at a meeting of his top security officials held in Khartoum.

China’s state news agency, Xinhua, reported that the satellite was launched on Sunday from north China’s Shanxi Province.

“The satellite aims to develop research in space technology, acquire data as well as discover natural resources for the country’s military needs,” a statement issued by the council said.

The spokesman of the ruling body Mohamed al-Fakhi Sulaiman told reporters that “in a few months the satellite would be monitored from Sudan”.

“China launched the satellite as it is a partner in this project.”

Sudan has been involved in a national space programme for decades covering activities such as remote sensing and geoinformatics.

In 2013, the then Sudanese government of now-ousted leader Omar al-Bashir established the Institute of Space Research and Aerospace (ISRA) as part of an overall plan to develop space technologies.

Bashir was ousted by the army in April following a nationwide protest movement against his rule of three decades.

The protests were triggered by the economic crisis led by an acute shortage of foreign currency and high inflation.

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