How celebs are using social media to help Sudan’s people achieve freedom

Hashim Mattar, a protester who was allegedly killed by Sudanese Rapid Support Forces. Picture: Instagram.

Hashim Mattar, a protester who was allegedly killed by Sudanese Rapid Support Forces. Picture: Instagram.

Celebs including Rihanna, George Clooney and comedian Hasan Minhaj want governments of Western countries to put pressure on Sudan’s ruling military.

The plight of the people of Sudan, where citizens have demanded a transition to Democracy through protests that have been crushed by the military government that has replaced the country’s fallen dictator Omar al-Bashir, has been picked up by people as diverse as Hollywood celebs, big business and a variety of global governments, who are using social media as a way of bringing attention to the problems facing the country.

A social media movement, which has caught the attention of people including Rihanna, George Clooney and comedian Hasan Minhaj, aims to force governments of Western countries to put pressure on the ruling military to hand power to the country’s protesting masses.

The social media movement began on June 3, when 26-year-old Mohamed Hashim Mattar was allegedly shot dead by the Rapid Support Forces during a crackdown on protesters in Khartoum, the nation’s capital.

Mattar’s friends and family posted his favourite shade of blue on social media as a tribute following his death.

This led to the hashtags #BlueForSudan and #TurnTheWorldBlue, which have gone viral on Instagram and Twitter.

According to Sudanese-American campaigner Remaz Mahgoub: “This is an effort to raise awareness as we the Sudanese diaspora are the only voice left”.

“The internet has been completely turned off in Sudan, the government has shut it down in order to conceal its massacres and crimes against civilians,” he continued.

The campaign led to Rihanna posting a plea for help on her 16-million strong Instagram account, George Clooney co-writing an article in Politico and Minhaj discussing the crisis on his Netflix show Patriot Act.

Demi Lovato, Naomi Campbell and Ariana Grande are among other celebs who have also shared info on the movement.

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The country’s protest movement and the military government currently controlling it have agreed to resume talks, following mediation by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

But protest leaders have insisted on certain conditions, including removing an internet blockade imposed since the crackdown, something government spokesperson Shamseddine Kabbashi says the military council won’t agree to.

Kabbashi welcomed Ethiopian mediation, but said that “whatever has to do with social media, we find it dangerous and we will not allow it so long as we see it as a threat to national security”.

Sudan’s ruling military council on Thursday for the first time admitted it dispersed a Khartoum sit-in, which left dozens dead, as US and African diplomats stepped up efforts for a solution to the country’s political crisis.

Protesters had staged the weeks-long sit-in outside army headquarters in Khartoum, first calling for the ouster of veteran leader Omar al-Bashir, then for the military council that took his place to hand power to a civilian administration.

But on June 3, days after talks between protest leaders and the military collapsed, armed men in military fatigues broke up the camp in an operation that doctors said left 120 people dead. The health ministry has put the death toll for that day at 61 nationwide.

This follows Sudan’s long-time president Omar al-Bashir being ousted in April after months of demonstrations against his regime, before being charged with corruption on Thursday.

Here is a timeline.

Bread prices

Protests erupt on December 19, 2018, against a government decision to triple bread prices.

They quickly spread and morph into demands for Bashir to quit after three decades of iron-fisted rule.

In the capital Khartoum on December 20, demonstrators take to the streets chanting “freedom, peace, justice”.

Clashes break out as police try to disperse the crowds. Eight demonstrators are killed in two cities, the first of dozens of deaths in protest-related violence over the following months.

Hospital shooting

On January 1, some 22 political groups call for a “new regime” in Sudan.

Four days later soldiers fire bullets and tear gas as they enter a hospital in the city of Omdurman in pursuit of protesters, Amnesty International says.

“Demonstrations will not change the government,” Bashir tells supporters on January 14 during a visit to Darfur.

On January 17 a doctor and a child are killed during the demonstrations.

Three days later Bashir says the security forces have not killed any demonstrators since the start of the protests.

State of emergency

On February 22, Bashir declares a nationwide state of emergency. He swears in a new prime minister two days later, as riot police confront hundreds of protesters calling for him to resign.

On April 6, thousands gather for the first time outside army headquarters in Khartoum, chanting “one army, one people” in a plea for the military’s support.

The demonstrators defy attempts by the feared security service to dislodge them and troops intervene to protect them.

Ousted, arrested

On April 11, military authorities announce they have removed Bashir from power and that a transitional military council will govern for two years.

The next day, the new military rulers say that Bashir is in detention. They rule out his extradition on arrest warrants by the International Criminal Court to face genocide and war crimes charges.

Sudan’s military leader vows on April 14 to “uproot” Bashir’s regime, to try those who have killed demonstrators and release protesters.

Charged with killings

On May 13 the prosecutor general announces Bashir has been charged over the killings of protesters during anti-regime demonstrations.

The charges against Bashir came during an investigation into the death of a medic who was killed during a protest in the capital’s Burri district.

“The prosecutor general has recommended speeding up of the investigation of the killing of demonstrators,” the statement from his office says.

At the time the toll since December came to 90 deaths, according to protest leaders, 65 according to the authorities.

Charged with corruption

On June 13 the official SUNA news agency says Sudan’s public prosecutor has charged Bashir with corruption.

An unnamed official is quoted by the agency as saying that Bashir is facing charges including “possessing foreign funds, acquiring suspected and illegal wealth and ordering (the state of) emergency”.

In April, military council chief General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan said that more than $113 million worth of cash in three currencies had been seized from Bashir’s Khartoum residence.

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