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Wounded Sudanese 'proud' of injuries sustained during protests

Young protesters who have lost hands and fingers as a consequence of stun grenade injuries say they will return to the streets to fight for their rights
Medics look after an injured man after Sudanese police fired tear gas at protesters in Khartoum on 17 January (AFP)
Medics look after an injured man after Sudanese police fired tear gas at protesters in Khartoum on 17 January (AFP)
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Khartoum, Sudan

Mohamed Salih Adel looked down at the scar tissue where surgeons sealed his right arm at the wrist after removing the burnt remains of his hand.

“I will never look at it as any kind of disability in the future. I’m very proud of what has happened to me because it’s a sign that I responded to the call of my country,” said the 23-year-old student at the University of Khartoum.

Adel had been taking part in protests at the university against the Sudanese government in December when, he said, a stun grenade exploded next to him.

Mohamed Salih Adel

'We have taken to the streets to raise our voices as a new generation'

- Mohamed Salih Adel, student

“I don’t know what happened exactly, I heard a huge explosion. Suddenly there was blood everywhere around me and then I realised I had lost my hand,” he told Middle East Eye.

“It was hard in the beginning, but since they did the surgery a few days ago, I’m feeling fine now.”

After leaving hospital, Adel said he had returned to the ongoing protests and had no regrets about what had happened to him.

Nor he said, had he shifted in his opposition to the continuing rule of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.

“It’s not about me, I personally know many colleagues and friends who have had the same experience, because we have taken to the streets to defend our rights and raise our demands and voices as a new generation.”

A source at the Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors, speaking on condition of anonymity, told MEE there had been dozens of similar cases reported in which protesters had suffered life-changing injuries such as losing fingers or limbs, or being blinded.

According to government figures, at least 30 people have been killed and more than 400 injured in protests so far, while more than 800 people have been arrested. Human Rights Watch said on 1 February that at least 51 protesters had been shot dead.

Why are Sudanese protesting against their government?

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Hundreds of people have been taking to the streets of a series of towns and cities in Sudan since 19 December 2018 to protest a government decision to remove subsidies on wheat and electricity.

Sudan's economy has been struggling over the past decade with inflation spiking to around 70 percent over the past year alone.

This has caused the price of bread to double, cash shortages and salaries left unpaid. The austerity measures adopted by the government are part of larger economic reforms proposed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The mobilisation on the ground against the price hikes - organised by a group known as the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA) - found almost immediate resonance among opposition leaders, youth and women movements and rapidly turned into a larger show of discontent with 75-year-old President Omar al-Bashir. 

Protesters have been reportedly chanting "freedom, peace, justice” and “revolution is the people’s choice” as they march through the streets of the capital, Khartoum.

Sudan's armed forces have responded to protesters with tear gas and at times, live ammunition, mowing down at least 30 people, according to government figures.

Human Rights Watch, the international rights watchdog, says the death toll is closer to 51.

The protests have energised the Sudanese diaspora culminating in the biggest ever challenge to Bashir's rule since he took over the country in 1989.

After a lull in recent days following a crackdown against protesters in the capital, crowds returned to the streets of central Khartoum on Thursday to demonstrate over the detention of hundreds of people arrested since December, with police responding with tear gas.

Victory sign

Abu Bakr al-Fadlabi said he had lost three fingers on his right hand while taking part in protests at the University of Khartoum on 22 December.

He also said his injuries had been caused by a stun grenade which he said had exploded in his hand as he was picking it up to throw it back in the direction in which it had been fired from.

Fadlabi said he lost three fingers when a stun grenade exploded in his hand (MEE)

“After a few seconds I lost consciousness. Some of my colleagues took me to the nearest hospital,” he said.

When he arrived, doctors had initially refused to treat his injuries because of the presence of security forces inside the hospital, Fadlabi said, “but after some negotiations they agreed”.

Since then, Fadlabi said he had undergone three operations in a private hospital.

Lying on a hospital bed with his right hand bandaged, Fadlabi remains defiant, raising a victory sign with his left hand and urging frequent visitors to continue protesting against the government.

“What happened to me is nothing when you look at the numbers killed and the youth we have lost in this uprising,” he said.

“We will continue protesting until we take our rights.”

Hospital wedding

On 24 January, Salah Yousif made good on his marriage proposal to his fiancee, Aarifa, but with the ceremony and celebrations taking place in a room at a private hospital in Khartoum, rather than at the venue where they had planned their wedding.

Sudan uprising: Anything can happen
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The wedding was brought forward, friends of Yousif told MEE, because he needs to travel to Moscow for emergency surgery after losing an eye when he was hit by a live bullet during protests in Khartoum.

In another reported case, family members of a man in intensive care at a Khartoum hospital told MEE that he had been “brutally attacked” by security forces while participating in protests in his home city of Alnihud in West Kordofan state on 17 December.

Abdul Baatin Ibrahim, a school teacher, suffered serious injuries to his neck, head and back during the protest and remains in a critical condition, a relative told MEE.

He was originally treated at Al-Obied city public hospital in North Kordofan state before being moved to the capital.

Counselling and rehabilitation

Psychologist Sulema Ishag told MEE that many of those who had suffered life-changing injuries would require counselling as well as rehabilitative treatment for their physical wounds during their recovery.

But she added: “The support they have received from others involved in the protests and their status as heroes of the uprising could be really beneficial for them as well.”

Sudan Protests Map

Mohamed Ibrahim Abdullah, a legal expert, told MEE that those injured in the protests had a right to bring a case against any member of the police or security forces who had attacked them, and possibly against senior government officials as well.

The right to protest is guaranteed by the Sudanese constitution, Abdullah said.

“According to article 146 of the civil law any person can open a case with the attorney general against the person that you think shot at you,” he said.

“But responsibility here could extend from the officers on the ground to the senior ranks, including the interior minister.”

In circumstances in which protests are deemed to be illegal, the law allows the police only to disperse or arrest participants providing they exercise restraint in doing so, Abdullah added.

“Article 128 of the criminal law states that the police have the right to repress illegal protests using minimal force. They have no right to use live ammunition unless with permission from the general prosecutor accompanying the police on the ground, and even then its use is restricted to not causing death.”

The intervention of security forces and pro-government militias against protesters appeared to contravene Sudanese law, Abdullah said.

Editor's note: Some of the names in this story have been changed to protect the identities of the individuals concerned.