March 8, 2011 (KHARTOUM) – Sudanese anti-riot police on Tuesday arrested and beat dozens of women activists shortly after they attempted to stage a protest in Khartoum’s twin city of Omdurman against the alleged rape of a young female activist last month and right abuses, manifesting Khartoum’s growing anxiety over dissent.
- Sudanese women protesting for political rights, photo: GCRT
Women protestors gathered in a public square in central Omdurman on Tuesday and lifted banners demanding the authorities to cease "violence against women," citing the case Saffiya Ishaq, a young female activist who appeared in a Youtube video last month accusing members of Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services of gang-raping her after she participated in anti-government protests late in January.
But policemen swiftly moved to break up the protest, arresting and beating with batons over forty activists, eye witnesses told Sudan Tribune and added that the police even confiscated the cameras of journalists who came to cover the protest.
The protest was planned by the "No to violence against women initiative" to mark International Women’s Day and denounce right abuses against women in Sudan.
"The arrests debunk claims of democratic transformation and reveal the miserable conditions of freedoms in Sudan" Gala Al-Azhari, a member of the opposition Democratic Unionist Party told Sudan Tribune, demanding that the authorities release all detainees "immediately".
Some protestors were released on bail hours later while others are still under arrest.
Sudanese authorities have in the past crushed any attempts to stage anti-government demonstrations, but they recently stepped up their crackdown on dissent following mass protests in neighboring Egypt and Libya.
Last September, Sudan arrested over forty women protestors when they held a peaceful demonstration in Khartoum against flogging of women, sparked by the appearance of a Youtube video showing Sudanese police lashing a women as she screamed for mercy.
Opposition parties plan to hold a demonstration in Abu Genzeir square in central Khartoum on Wednesday in solidarity with the Egyptian and ongoing Libyan revolutions. However the police authorities warned they would not allow this "illegal" political gathering.
Sudan used heavy force in late January to break up small anti-government demonstrations in Khartoum organized via the internet by youth groups demanding reforms and reversal of hikes in prices of basic commodities. Many activists were arrested and tortured, according to human rights organizations.