It is a sad thing ― the crisis happening in Sudan. Even sadder is the response of the rest of the world to the rapidly escalating catastrophe going on in the North African country.
According to news reports, on June 3 alone, a clash between paramilitaries from the Rapid Support Forces and civilians led to more than 100 killings and 70 rapes with over 700 people injured in the country’s capital, Khartoum.
These happened during a general strike and campaign of civil disobedience called by the opposition in an attempt to encourage the Transitional Military Council to transfer power to civilians.
It has also been reported that scores of bodies of Sudanese are being dragged from the river Nile.
Khartoum is currently at a standstill. Markets and hospitals are closed, the streets are virtually deserted and almost all internet services are cut. The people of the city are cut from all forms of emergency communications, including information from health care providers, and to access other basic information in times of crisis.
Until yesterday when #BlueForSudan started trending on social media, only pockets of people said or did anything about the Sudan crisis. Rihanna is one of these few people. On Tuesday, the Barbadian pop icon retweeted a picture with the inscription: “They’re shooting people’s houses, raping women, burning bodies, throwing them in the Nile like vermin, tormenting people, urinating on them, making them drink sewage water, terrorizing the streets, and stopping Muslims from going to Eid prayer. There is an Internet blackout! Please share. Raise awareness”.
Yesterday, thousands of social media users changed their profile pictures to blue to express camaraderie with demonstrators in Sudan in the wake of the brutal crackdown. The blue upsurge spread across various platforms via the #BlueForSudan hashtag as Twitter and Instagram users attempted to honour the memory of one of the victims: Mohamed Mattar, whose favourite colour was reportedly blue.
Mattar, who was a 26-year-old engineer, was fatally shot during the June 3 crackdown. The paramilitary group ― Rapid Support Forces (RSF) led by a senior member of Sudan’s ruling Transitional Military Council is being held responsible for the loss of life. Mattar was reportedly shot while trying to protect two women during the bloody dispersal of the protest camp outside the military headquarters.
#BlueForSudan is putting Sudan on people’s radars and stories about Sudan have gained momentum online, however, the people of Sudan tried to get the world’s attention long before yesterday.
The Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), the group which has spearheaded the months-long protests calling for a return to democratic rule endorsed the #IAmTheSudanRevolution hashtag. Only, Sudan’s diaspora heard the call and the hashtag trended in a couple of countries. The Sudan population adopted #BlueForSudan only because it was working in a way that was gaining the attention they had been crying for, for many months now.
The people of Sudan would have wanted to be heard longer than this. Compared to the world’s response to crisis and misfortunes in other places, Sudan should have loved that the world responded much quicker than this. In the beginning, it felt like no one cared and there was a wait for many more people to get injured, be molested and worse, die before responding.
Within minutes after the Notre Dame fire in April this year, several world leaders took to social media to solidarize with the people of France. The international community has been slow in response to the Sudan crisis. This has cost the people of Sudan so much; peace of mind, happiness, dignity and the lives of some friends, family and loved ones. Why did the world have to wait this long to make Sudan the talk of town?
Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir who was in power for close to thirty years was ousted and arrested following months of protests on April 11. The world should have done so much more at the time for the people of Sudan. That’s when they deserved to trend. All the atrocities they have been subjected to could have been prevented. They deserved it, especially in this age where the collective voices on social media could accomplish a lot.
It is my hope that #BlueForSudan does not trend for only one day; that the campaign will not only be about the late Mohammed Mattar but also about all the other people who are suffering and dying in Sudan following this crisis. We are already too late.