01 August 2017: In July 2017, students from Bakht Al-Ruda University resigned in protest against what they described as racist and discriminatory policies. Quscondy Abdulshafi provides his thoughts on the situation.

Over one thousand Darfur students have resigned from a university in protest against racist and discriminatory policies.

 

On Tuesday 18 July, 2017, over one thousand Darfur students from Bakht Al-Ruda university collectively resigned from their faculties in protest at what they described as racist and discriminatory university policies arbitrarily targeting students from Darfur.

On 9 May the Students’ Union at Bakht Alrida University, led by the ruling National Congress Party’s (NCP) students branch, held a general assembly for pre-election public auditing and accountability. The university students, mainly those affiliated with the opposition from different regions of Sudan, protested against what they considered as severe corruption cases and demanded a free and fair election. In response, the university administration suspended students.

A few hours later, armed NISS personnel wearing plain clothes and the police force launched a raid on the university dormitories using excessive force and live bullets used against students. The attackers intentionally targeted the Darfuri students and ordered the eviction of the facilities.

This resulted in the severe injury of three Darfuri students shot by a gun and the Darfuri rooms burned down to ashes. During the same raid, one policeman was killed, accidentally shot by his team, and 22 students were arrested.

The ashy remains of one room that was burned down.

The next day, on 10 May, the government security, police and local media put out propaganda accusing Darfuri students of killing the police man. In response to this propaganda, residents of Al-Duwiem city, where the University is located, showed up in huge numbers to the funeral of the policeman. The crowded residents believed that the Darfuri students were behind the murder of the policeman, despite the fact that the man died from a gunshot and nobody has a gun in town except the police and security authorities. As a result, the Darfuri students became subject to abuses and degrading treatments both in the university and in the city.

The Darfuri students became subject to abuse and degrading treatment both in the university and in the city
The crowded residents believed that the Darfuri students were behind the murder of the policeman, despite the fact that the man died from a gunshot and nobody has a gun in town except the police and security authorities. As a result, the Darfuri students became subject to abuse and degrading treatment both in the university and in the city.

Biased measures against Darfur students

Immediately after the 9 May incident, the Bakht Alrida administration issued a statement which dismissed 14 students, all of them from Darfur, and suspended several others. The Dean of Students also fined nine other Darfuri students. All the punishments made by the university administration were without any investigation.

According to the students I talked to, the university administration's decisions were directed by the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) and the Nationalist Islamist Students Movement, the students' branch of the ruling NCP. Both groups are part of the armed forces who were wearing plain clothes during the attack. Despite the fact that the NCP students branch members involved violence against the students that day, the university failed to punish any student from that group.

Even the other nine Darfuri opposition students who were part of the protest in the university and were in the same dormitory during the raid had nothing happen to them. In response, the Darfur Student Association in Bakht Alrida University requested a meeting with the Dean of Students last week to discuss the issue, but the Dean refused to meet the Association delegates.

Collective resignation and walk out from campus

The students have been stranded in a small village with nowhere to go
After the Dean of Students rejected a meeting, the Darfur Association held a public meeting on Tuesday morning where all Darfuri students decided to discontinue their studies at Bakht Alrida protesting racism and systematic discrimination. Around 1400 students from Darfur signed resignation letters to the university administration.

The students moved to the bus station to travel to Khartoum then to Darfur. But the security authority agitated the bus owners not to take any Darfuris. They then decided to walk up to Shiekh Yagout village in Khartoum gate. The government security again stopped the students and prevented them from entering Khartoum. Since Tuesday, the students have been still stranded in a small village in the open air, surrounded by a large number of police and security vehicles with nowhere to go.

The government security again stopped the students and prevented them from entering Khartoum. Since Tuesday, the students have been still stranded in a small village in the open air, surrounded by a large number of police and security vehicles with nowhere to go.

The solidarity campaigns

Sudanese activists have arranged an online media coverage and campaign against the government acts. The Darfur Bar association along with many lawyers advocated in support of the stranded students. The mainstream opposition parties held an urgent meeting in Khartoum and formed an emergency committee to help the students and decided to host the returning students in their party houses in Khartoum.

These activists also moved to the village where the students were stranded to provide food and urgent needs, but the security forces prevented them from entering. Some activists and opposition leaders were arrested attempting to enter the village, including the former president of Sudanese Congress Party Ibrahim Alshiekh and his wife.

Meetings with governor activists and lawyers

On Thursday, Abdul Hamid Kasha, the governor of the White Nile State where Bakht Alrida University located, along with activists and lawyers met with the Students at Yagout village. In the meeting, the students conveyed their demands to return as follow:

1-    The university to cancel the arbitrary dismissal of 14 members of the Association from the University

2-    Immediate release of nine detained Darfuri students falsely accused of killing the police man.

3-    Arrange exams for the students whom arbitrarily disallowed to take exams.

4-    Cancel the financial fine against 19 Darfur students penalised by the university administration.

5-    Take decisive measures to end all kinds of discrimination and harassment against Darfur students in and outside the campus.

6-    Hold the university staff and professors who racially abused Darfur students.

7-    Commitment from the university and the security to stop targeting Darfur students.

The university response to the demands

More than 10,000 students from Darfur have been arrested and tortured, and more than twenty Darfur students have been killed by the government security forces since 2003
 After the meeting the governor met with the university and the Dean of Students released a short statement in which the university urged the students to return to the university and that exams will take place as scheduled.

The Dean agreed to solve the problem of the students who missed the exams and to cancel the fines against 19 students. Regarding the dismissed students, the university stated that it would not withdraw the decision to dismiss 14 students. Regarding the nine detained students, the statement mentioned they are in the hands of law and only the court will decide their release.

The Dean agreed to solve the problem of the students who missed the exams and to cancel the fines against 19 students. Regarding the dismissed students, the university stated that it would not withdraw the decision to dismiss 14 students. Regarding the nine detained students, the statement mentioned they are in the hands of law and only the court will decide their release.

Although the above response seems a positive step towards a better settlement of the issue, it’s important to understand the complexities surrounding the issues of Darfur students across the country. Since the beginning of the war in Darfur, the government has continued to treat Darfur students in the same brutal way as it treats the people in the region.

As a result, about 10,000 students from Darfur have been arrested and tortured, and more than twenty Darfur students have been killed by the government security forces since 2003.

The violence and discrimination against Darfur students are not merely a policy of the university administration. It is the policy of the state intentionally planned to harm students originally from Darfur. Unless government policies change, resolving the issue of Bakht Alrida university students will not be the end of the turmoil.

Situation update

This is a big blow for Darfur's relation with the rest of Sudan

After three days of negotiations, the students, the governor and the university did not reach an agreement. All the students moved to Elfashir, the historic capital of Darfur.

The last agreement from the university side was the acceptance of all the terms, but that the 14 dismissed students must individually write an appeal letter to the university to be pardoned. The detained students continue to be held in prison till the court decision. The university refused to hold the staff members who publicly abused the Darfur students accountable.

The students accepted the release of the detained students with a court decision but demanded that an immediate trial must be fair. Tens of national lawyers including the Darfur Bar Association volunteered to support the case. However, they rejected individual letters of appeal. This is another way of making the students admit to crimes they did not commit. Many consider this a big trap.

The university did not respond until the time the students moved to Elfashir. They arrived this morning welcomed by civil society, IDPs and school children. The government tried to prevent the welcoming crowd from reaching the students in the bus station and requested the students leave and return to their respective counties.

This incident is a big blow for Darfur’s relation with the rest of Sudan. The returning students are from all tribes and societies of Darfur, including sons of those in government. Several solidarity protests have been organised in Eastern Sudan and in Sennar today.

Below are some photos taken in Elfashir bus station:

 

 

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