By Mahmoud A. Suleiman
Friday the 21st October 2016 will mark the 52nd Anniversary of the Glorious Sudanese October 21, 1964 Revolution. On that date, my memories go far back to the unique struggle of the popular revolt, which broke out in the sixties of the Twentieth Century, where I was part in the activities with the students who participated in those momentous events of that era. The popular struggle eventually led to a dramatic and wide-reaching political change. Now let us delve deeper into the matter in my memories of the October 21 Sudanese Glorious Revolution.
The October 21, Sudanese Popular Revolution broke out in 1964 during the military regime of the General Ibrahim Abboud. It was a massive popular revolution that no one can dare claiming its monopoly and ownership In isolation from the others. there were objective predisposing factors and motivating reasons coincided and precipitated it. Without a doubt, many writers have dealt with the subject of the October Revolution through multiple angles stating the reasons and what haunted the revolution of the events and sacrifices as well, and mention the names of some of the personalities and institutions had a presence before and during the revolution, and then in a historical chronology.
One of the main direct causes that led to the outbreak of the popular revolution of Sudan in October 21, 1 964 was the issue of southern Sudan, which has been exacerbated and increased in severity as a result of the insistence of the regime of the General Abboud government As a result the government of General Ibrahim Abboud option of resorting to military takeover as a solution to the issue of southern Sudan instead of dialogue and political solutions and preventing the political efforts among which what was the "Round Table Conference Dialogue". Worse, as well was the attempts by the Ministry of Interior banning and fiercely preventing peaceful seminars on the issue of southern Sudan by using the Special Task Force Riot Police Unit for Repression. Moreover, the added most important factor was the hatred of the Sudanese people for the repressive military junta totalitarian regime which overthrew the democratically elected government after the Independence of Sudan from the Anglo-Egyptian Condominium , through a Coup d’état on 17 November 1958.
The most important justifications and reasons that led to the outbreak of the October 21, 1964 the glorious Popular Sudanese Revolution according to my opinion, and I was a student in the Faculty of Medicine, University of Khartoum and a participant in all stages of the revolution as follows:
The most important justifications and reasons that led to the outbreak of the Glorious Popular Sudanese October 21 Revolution are:
1) Predisposing Factors
a) The peerless unprecedented emergence of the importance of the issue of Southern Sudan in the Sudanese Political arena
b) Increasing arbitrariness of the military government and repression of freedoms and dissolution of political parties and throwing some of their leaders into prison.
c) General Abboud regime sought to cancel the independence of the University of Khartoum and annex it under the management of the Ministry of Education. Following that Mango, the University Administration invited President Ibrahim Abboud to participation in the Graduation Ceremony held by the University of Khartoum for its graduate students. The reaction of the Students was chanting against the military junta regime of 17 November 1958 followed by riots, which resulted, into drastic foiling and cancellation of the event. Furthermore the Khartoum University students Union (KUSU) defiantly resisted the aims of the university administration for amending some terms of a special clause in the University Law relation to the Students Union. The Clause was under the name of Statute 9. Statute 9 stated that the Khartoum University Students Union (KUSU) is not political and not sectarian.
d) Seminars on the problem of southern Sudan:
The first Seminar took place in the Examinations Hall of the Khartoum of University Hall and was attended by a group of personalities from the political Parties and University of Khartoum professors. The participants in the Seminar on 30/09/1964 included Dr. Hassan Abdullah Turabi. In the conclusion of his speech Dr. Turabi indicated that the solution to problem of the southern Sudan will not be achieved without solving the problem Sudan, which needs to democracy and freedom, after the demise of the dictatorial military junta rule!
2) Precipitating Factors
a) 1) The decision of the Government Abboud of preventing the establishment of a seminars about Southern Sudan with the participation of political parties in Khartoum University Sudents Union (KUSU) and when the Executive Committee presented a memorandum of protest Ithe Ministry of Interior they arrested all the members of the Union of the University of Khartoum students, led by Hafez Sheikh Zaki On 10/10/1964.
b) The seminar hosted by the Union of the Khartoum University students Union (KUSU) as a challenge headed by Rabi Hassan Ahmed on the night of Wednesday, October 21, 1964 on the fields of the Barracks Students Boarding Houses after the arrest of the Ministry of Interior for the Union President Hafez Sheikh Zaki and members of the Executive Committee on October 10, 1964.
Since the Islamic Movement of the students group- the Muslim Brotherhood – had the majority votes during the poll, the Presidency of the Students Union Committee went to the student at the Faculty of Law Rabbi Hassan Ahmed. The Students’ Union, headed by Rabbi Hassan Ahmed decided to hold the Seminar in the club of the Students Union of the University of Khartoum without the invitation of the political parties in order not to risk their leaders to arrest. However, the University Administration deliberately flooded the lawns of the fields around the Club with water. This led to the inability to establish a seminar in the Union Club. Instead of canceling the seminar, the students union Chairperson Rabbi Hassan Ahmed decided to move the symposium site to the fields of the boarding houses in the Barracks. Hence, the famous Seminar took place on the night of Wednesday, October 21 1964 between the Students Boarding Houses of Kassala and the Gash. Once the first Speaker began, the Police Force stormed the arena of the Seminar and raided the yard of the Seminar attendees and launched tears gas grenades and beating with batons.
3) Cofactors for the Popular Revolution
a) Wrap up of the Sudanese people in all their sectors and political spectrums around the principles of freedom and democracy advocated by the glorious October Revolution.
b) Of the factors that contributed to the success of the October Revolution early on is that the regime of General Ibrahim Abboud was not bloodthirsty such as the Ideological military regimes that came after him. The two infamous regimes include specifically the May 25 , 1969 regime led by Jaafer Muhammed Nimeiri and the National Islamic Front (NIF/NCP) regime led by Omar Hassan Ahmed al-Bashir since 30 June 1989 to date.
Despite the continuing repression and an emphasis on oppression of public freedoms by General Abboud government, the challenge continued. Students Union held seminars at the University of Khartoum students club where members from the political parties used to participate. Nevertheless, the Government fearing the escalation of political dissent, decided outlawing seminars about the Southern issue. The Khartoum University Students’ Union (KUSU) Executive Committee filed a protest note condemning the Interior Ministry for preventing t the seminars. In return, the Ministry of Interior arrested the Executive Committee of the University of Khartoum students including its president Hafez Sheikh El Zaki. The students then decided in defiance holding its seminar on the night of Wednesday 21 October 1964. This time they moved the site of the Seminar to the students boarding Houses referred to as the Barracks. The Students chose new Chairperson for the Union. Rabi Hassan Ahmed chaired the Executive Committee. All the students of the University of Khartoum as an obligatory commitment attended the seminar. Students came from the various University Campuses. The first speaker at the time was the late Babikir Alhaj head of the Democratic Front. The moderator of the symposium was the Deputy Head of Cultural Affairs of the Union of Students, the student Anwar al-Hadi. However as soon as the first speaker began his talk, the emergency police attacked the field, which was dark at about 11 O’clock at night. As soon as the symposium began, a heavily armed police force raided the students gathering with tear gas to break up the rally and stop the conference. However, fierce and sharp confrontation between the students and the riot police in the form of "Hit-and-run” started. The confrontation punctuated by tears tear gas and throwing stones at police erupted.
The contribution of the Female students against the police Aggression
A group of female students also contributed significantly despite their small number at the University of Khartoum in that era and they sprayed water from the top of the buildings on to the arena of battle between the students and the police to minimise the harmful effect of the tear gas on the demonstrating students against the riot police.
Female Students stayed in Kassala Boarding House Complex
The Khartoum University students Union (KUSU) plan when the police force raided the Seminar in the night of Wednesday October 21, 1964 was to accommodate the female students who participated in the Seminar in the students’ boarding house called Kassala in the Barracks for their safety.
The battle of hit-and-run and tossing stones and firing tear gas grenades continued until the police felt they had tired when the judge, who was accompanied them ordered the police force to shoot to deter the students. A group of police heavily armed stood in a queue and opened fire, but the students thought that the ammunition was false, but soon a number of students were seriously injured and among the students who were injured deadly was the martyr Ahmed al-Qurashi Taha.
It is onus for one paying tribute and mentioning with gratitude those professors of the University of Khartoum in that night their risk taking efforts in spite of the gravity of the situation on the battlefield between police and students by taking the wounded to the Khartoum Teaching Hospital Accident and Emergency Department in their own cars. Furthermore, they took the risk by conveying the body of the martyr Ahmed Taha al-Qurashi to the Hospital morgue/Mortuary. At that night beside the martyr al-Qurashi the police shot and seriously injured student Babikir Abdul Hafeez from the neighborhood of Wad Douro in the City of Omdurman and also wounded student Khalid, as well as one of the workers of the university named Mabior of the sons of Southern Sudan.
The battle of hit-and-run between students and the police lasted until after midnight when the special police force withdrew and left. At that juncture, the gathering of the students decided to walk on foot to Khartoum Teaching Hospital. They spent the rest of the night in the hospital street in front of the Mortuary. The students spent the night till the morning in guard of the body of the martyr al-Qurashi. The student did that so as not allow the government authorities smuggling the body and send it to the home village of the martyr Ahmed al-Qurashi. The village of the martyr Al-Qurashi is called al-Garrasa in the White Nile region. The rumour at the time that the Government would take the body out of the mortuary secretly and send it to the martyr home village to avoid the possibility the students taking the body to spark the outbreak of the popular revolution.
The popular proverb goes that the something mentioned leads the other thing related. In that context, I thought it appropriate mentioning the fact that the martyr Ahmed al-Qurashi Taha was my classmate at El-Fasher Secondary School. Both of us and our other classmates succeeded entering the Faculty of Science at the University of Khartoum. After spending one year, he remained in the Faculty of Science and I moved to the Faculty of Medicine. People might have the right to ask as to how come the Martyr al-Qurashi who was from the White Nile locality becoming a classmate to students at the El-Fasher Secondary School in the far Darfur Province in Western Sudan. The fact is that Ahmed’s father was a merchant in the city of Delanj in the Nuba Mountains. Ahmed studied his intermediate classes in Delanj rural Intermediate school, which was within the Delanj Institute of Education from which he sat the Examination for certificate of entry to secondary schools. He succeeded and accepted as a student at El Fasher High/Secondary School. Hence, we became classmates and spent four years studying together. Moreover, we sat and succeeded in the Sudan certification Examination to enter the University of Khartoum. Both of us had the acceptance in the Faculty of Science. At the era I am talking about, there were only handfuls of Secondary Schools in Sudan. All those schools were considered ’National’ in the true sense! Government Secondary Schools included El-Fasher Secondary School in the Province of Darfur, Khortaqat Secondary School in Kordofan Province, Hantoob Secondary School in Blue Nile Province, Wadi Saidna Secondary School in Khartoum Province, Port Sudan Secondary School in the Kassala Province and Khartoum Secondary School in the Province of Khartoum. All the foregoing Schools were Government National Secondary Schools available for the few lucky successful Intermediate School leavers to compete for entry free! Ahmed Qurashi Taha was with a group of students belonging to the Nuba Mountains in particular, and the Province of Kordofan in general when he came to El Fasher Secondary School. Furthermore, they were brought with them the heritage of the Nuba Mountains in the form of songs and dances and wrestling and athletics and in reciprocation they also delved into the cultures of the people of Darfur and mutual understanding and harmony and national unity took place.
Student Ahmed al-Qurashi Taha studied the Secondary Education Level at El-Fasher Secondary School, in the Darfur Province of Western Sudan. (Photo Below)
A Souvenir Photo taken for the Fourth Year Students of Abu Bakr Class at El-Fasher Secondary School in 1963; The Picture Shows the Student Ahmed al-Qurashi Taha and his Classmates, Headmaster Mr. Ahmed Hashim and the English Language Teacher Mr. Renwick.
At sunrise on the morning of 21 October 1964 the transfer of the body of the martyr al-Qurashi on a cart to the Abdel Moneim Square, was the first event. The Abdelmoniem Square AKA (Moulid Square) - Moulid in Arabic meaning the Birth of the Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him Celebration Square, which has become the headquarters of what is now called the Family Club in Khartoum South. The crowds of students stood in the solemn sad procession in a circular shape on the Square facing and looking towards the destination where the truck carrying the casket. The funeral prayer for the body of the martyr Ahmed al-Qurashi Taha led by Mr. al-Sadiq Siddiq Abdul Rahman al-Mahdi followed. After the completion of the prayer over the body of the martyr, al-Qurashi began the speeches addressing the audience gathered around the Square. The first talk was by Dr. Hassan Abdullah al-Turabi and at the end of his speech, he said: (O students disperse now and we will take revenge from the killers)! Rabi the acting President of the Khartoum University Students Union (KUSU) immediately interrupted Dr. Al-Turabi. Rabi Hassan Ahmed was an acting President of (KUSU) because the President of the Union Hafiz al-Sheikh and the members of the Executive Committee remained in detention since Saturday 10 October 1964. Rabbi said addressing the audience in defiance to Dr. Al-Turabi :( We will not disperse and we proclaim declaring it a Revolution)! Thus, it served as the initial spark that ignited the start of the Glorious October 21 Sudanese Revolution. Thus, the Popular Revolution began as a continuation of the night battle between the students of the University of Khartoum (U of K) and the Riot Police at the Barracks. The People who attended the funeral prayer on the soul of the Martyr Al-Qurashi participated by chanting slogans that called for freedom, democracy and the demise of the military junta dictatorship. of The audience of students and the components of the Sudanese people attending the beginning of the uprising headed marching towards the City Centre. At the Khartoum City Centre existed various markets such Souk al-Arabi, Souk al-Afranji and the state offices permeated by the processions, with chants denouncing the military dictatorship and calling for freedom and democracy and the demise of the military rule and retribution for the souls of the martyrs.
Contribution of Khartoum Technical Institute (KTI) Students to the October 21 Revolution
It’s noteworthy to mention the fact that the students of the Khartoum Technical Institute (KTI) in Khartoum immensely contributed and participated at the time of the outbreak of the October Revolution 21.1964 and especially the activities of the revolution during and after the funeral of the martyr Ahmed Taha al-Qurashi.
Myths and Rumours around the martyrdom of al-Qurashi
There are murmurs and malicious rumors and conflicting statements about the death of al-Qurashi the first martyrs of the October Revolution. Some of them said that he was going to evening showers holding bath towels at the time of his gunfire jury. Still some others said that he was close to the bathroom when the police fatally wounded him. Thus, some ask as to what is the truth. The story that he was going to the bathroom carrying a bath towels is a figment of imagination incorrect, because the time was not the time for bath. The truth remains that the police wounded him near the bathroom. When students dispersed from the field entered the centre of the Boarding Houses, where there are different buildings and the bathrooms were originally in front of boarding houses. Because the police was chasing the crowds of the students with tear gas, Batons, and the students scattered into small demonstrations, and group of police tried to make the event an unintentional natural event. - According to the analysis of Rabi Hassan Ahmed who said in an interview with (Akhir Lahza newspaper) on the link http://www.tawtheegonline.com/vb/showthread.php?t=41221. Some say it was an attempt by some dishonest jealous haters who wanted to discredit and not allow the honour of the martyrdom of the Glorious October Revolution to go to the First Martyr Ahmed Qurashi Taha.
To the Presidential Palace until Victory
After protests swept across the country, and concurrent with the front moving bodies and political parties components Gen. Abboud decided to dissolve the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces and he remained caretaker President for the management of Sudan. In agreement with the political forces that have been negotiating on behalf of the people. Nevertheless, the masses of the people did not accept Abboud stay in power, and they saw as the head of the snake must be eradicated!
The thundering type of demonstrations continued unabated in the Province of Khartoum and in the rest of Sudan, where all the popular sectors participated. However, on Wednesday the 28th 1964 masses of people moved from in front of the Club for the University of Khartoum Teaching Staff, located on the University Street and headed to the Presidential Palace to demand the General Ibrahim Abboud and his entourage of military junta to step down. The demonstrators chanted slogans: (to the Palace until Victory ), When the demonstration reached near the barbed wire Presidential Palace Wall, the army snipers fired heavily at random at the protestors. Scores of demonstrators seriously wounded and more sadly, mainly at the Square in front of the Presidential Palace at the junction of the University Street and the Palace Street. The Square was named the Martyrs’ Square.. The wounded were transferred to the Khartoum Civil Hospital Accident and Emergency (A & E) Department while the bodies of the martyrs were moved to the hospital morgue.
Night of the Barricades
After the formation of the Government of the October Revolution the Prime Minister Sir-Khatim al-Khalifa, who used to be an official in the Ministry of Education, included in his cabinet ministers belonged to members of the trade union bodies and opposition political parties. However, rumours circulated during the night on Radio Omdurman broadcasted by the Information Minister Farouk Abu-Isa. The rumour indicated that there was an imperialist conspiracy hatched against the October the popular revolution. Furthermore, the rumour said that there was a military coup in the making. As soon as the masses heard that people rushed out from all the neighborhoods of the cities of Sudan’s capital Khartoum, which includes the city of Khartoum and Omdurman and Khartoum North, and its suburbs. The citizens established barricades on bridges and roads leading to the Presidential Palace and buildings of the cabinet. The situation was a unique one and the demonstrations continued all night until the government issued a statement reassuring citizens that the situation is under control. The masses of people went back to their homes, but the city’s streets were filled with branches of trees and other barricades.
At this point I felt content in myself with these memories which are considered sufficient to highlight the most important events that have accompanied the October 21 Glorious Sudanese Revolution. As for what followed of the series of the political events, one considered them a marathon soap opera that has no end and the rest is nothing but history!
Dr. Mahmoud A. Suleiman is an author, columnist and a blogger. His blog is http://thussudan.wordpress.com/