Calgarians can’t contact families in Sudan where internet is down following bloody protests

Dozens of Sudanese Calgarians and allies stood in front of city hall clad in blue on Saturday, to raise awareness of the violent unrest that has made them fear for family members back home.

Rawya Gumaa, with Sudanese Youth of Calgary who organized the protest, says her grandparents and extended family all live in the northeast African country, and they’ve been difficult to reach with a weeks-long internet blackout.

The country’s military ousted president Omar al-Bashir in April, but since then talks between the military and demonstrators calling for a civilian-led democratic government transition have collapsed.

On June 3, the country’s military opened fire on protesters during a peaceful sit-in in Khartoum, and it’s reported that more than 100 people have been killed since, while many others have been raped or injured.

“There’s been no internet since then and we haven’t been able to reach or contact our families,” said Rawya. “It’s basically locked down, everyone’s staying at home, they’re eating what they have at home … It’s tough because there’s not much that I can do from over here but try to raise awareness.”

Gumaa and others at the protest wore blue armbands, in memory of Mohamed Mattar, an activist who has become somewhat of a martyr for the movement after he was reportedly killed while protecting two women.

Fatima Osman, another organizer, said they’re hoping to put pressure on governments to intervene.

“We are here standing up for the rights of our brothers and sisters back home,” she said. “We want our voices to be so loud everyone in the world can hear us.”

Rawya Gumaa, with Sudanese Youth of Calgary, says it has been difficult to reach her family in Sudan since a violent crackdown on protesters in the country in early June. (Julie Debeljak/CBC)

Amnesty International says the military and government forces have committed war crimes and other serious human rights violations in Darfur in recent years, as well as the “ongoing bloody crackdown” in Khartoum. But, the United Nations is set to shut down a peacekeeping mission in the country at the end of June, the agency said in a recent press release. 

Ranya Gumaa, another organizer, said women led the revolution in Sudan, and they took inspiration from them in organizing the Calgary event. 

“We saw those videos of the revolution over there, the women leading the chants leading the protests, that really moved us,” she said. 

“We just want to let them know we’re still here with you, the outside world is still here with you.”

Canada has warned against all non-essential travel to Sudan.

Global Affairs said in a statement released on June 6 that it is closely following the situation in the country.

“This violence, including sexual violence, is unacceptable and a blatant attack on the basic rights of the Sudanese people, who have been bravely calling for change following decades of oppression from their government,” the government said. 

“Canada is prepared to do whatever it can to support a civilian-led transition to a democratically elected government in Sudan.”

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