In the wake of a violent attack in Sudan leading to at least 30 deaths, students and activists packed the Diag on Sunday to demand action and to show support for the Sudanese people. The rally consisted of a recapitulation of the events, a prayer and an open discussion which followed shortly after in North Quad Residence Hall.
The humanitarian crisis in Sudan first began when protesters demanded long-time president of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir, be removed from office after remaining in power for more than 30 years. Protests were first provoked when President Bashir’s government imposed emergency austerity measures in an attempt to save the Country’s failing economy in December 2018. Protesters succeeded in forcing Bashir out of the office, and a seven-member Transitional Military Council replaced him.
Despite the removal of the president, the TMC struggled to appease the tension in Sudan. Protesters continued to demand a civilian-led government, in response, the TMC launched a violent attack on protesters on June 3, resulting in at least 30 deaths.
Khadega Mohammed, Wayne State University junior and one of the organizers of the event, said her goal is to help the community become aware of the current situation in the country and the severity of the crisis.
“I think it is especially important that we organize something like this because what is happening in Sudan is not just a Sudanese cause, it is a humanitarian cause,” Mohammed said. “I’ve noticed that a lot of people are silent about this, there is nothing happening in Michigan, there is no awareness event for it.”
Because of her Sudanese heritage, the situation was personal for Mohammed. With this connection, she felt the obligation to spread awareness.
“If nobody is going to do it, then I’m going to have to do it,” Mohammed said. “This is my people, this is my country that I care about. So I’m going to do an event to raise awareness and to echo the scream of Sudanese people.”
During the rally, Mohammed led the chanting of phrases such as “Who are we? Sudanese. What do we want? Justice. When do we want it? Right now” and “No justice, no peace” to voice the struggle for justice in Sudan.
Zaynab Elkolaly, an incoming freshman to the University, said she believes regardless of race and ethnicity, everyone should feel obligated to show their support for those affected.
“You don’t have to be Sudanese to care about a humanitarian crisis,” Elkolaly said. “People are too motivated by the fact that it would be their family or someone they care personally involved, but I don’t think that should be a factor, it should be the people who need help, and we need to respond to that.”
Elkolaly also criticized what she believes to be the ignorance and stereotypical assumptions Americans tend to have when it comes to crisis in underdeveloped nations.
“In this region of the world, Middle East and Africa, there is this tendency for people to believe that, ‘Oh, it’s a third world developing country, there is going to be violence,’” Elkolaly said. “So we normalize the human atrocities that’s committed there. How we can help with this is just not to become desensitized to it, by raising awareness, by showing that there is an extreme amount of misinformation going around and that peace is achievable there.”
The reason LSA sophomore Nithya Arun said she came to the rally is to stand up for justice.
“A lot of the times in America, in universities, we are kind of closeted to what happens around the world,” Arun said. “This is a form of raising awareness, this is a form of bringing justice to people who have been stripped of their rights.”
Lance Bitner-Laird, a recent graduate from the University, agreed with Arun that university students need to be aware of what’s going on around the globe. He also emphasized that using a voice is the only way to drive progress.
“I go back to this quote from Martin Luther King, ‘Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable,’ so for me it’s like, everyday we have to use our voice to change things, to make things better, so that we can leave a better world for posterity,” Bitner-Laird said.
In terms of what students can do to be aware, Arun said she believed reading and watching the news is an easy way to stay connected to the world outside of Ann Arbor.
“Watch the news, and don’t just watch CNN or NBC, watch Al Jazeera and BBC,” Arun said. “We also have a news app on iPhones which is easily accessible, just go on there and see what’s going on around the world. It’s not just about being a student, but being a knowledgeable student.”
This is not the end, assures Mohammed. She is currently planning more events in a continual effort to spread awareness and to save Sudanese lives.
“We are working on planning a fundraiser dinner for Sudan where we will raise funds and send them for medical aid and other things that are necessary,” Mohammed said. “We are also going to do another rally in Lansing and hope to urge representatives and congress members to be there as well by the end of this month. We are going to keep the momentum going.”