Violent abductions target Sudanese civilians in aftermath of coup

·4-min read

In the days since Sudan’s military coup, it has become a familiar scene in Khartoum and other cities. At a home or an office, a convoy of vehicles crowded with armed men usually in plainclothes from army intelligence and the notorious paramilitary Rapid Support Forces suddenly arrives to make an arrest.

Bundled away, sometimes beaten and hooded, for some relatives it is the last news they have of those detained.

In the space of barely a week, dozens of individuals selected by the army for detention, or who have spoken out against the coup, have been swept up, including ministers and journalists, as well as activists in the “resistance committees” who have been involved in organising street protests.

The spate of detentions comes as the coup faces its first big test on Friday, historically one of the biggest days for street protests in Khartoum and other Sudanese cities.

Among those earmarked for arrest in the first wave was Yasir Arman, a political adviser to Sudan’s detained prime minister, Abdalla Hamdok, who is now being held under “heavy security” at his own home after being kept at the house of Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the general leading the coup.

Arrested along with his half-brother, Mujeeb al-Rahman, Arman was taken from his house in the early hours of Monday morning in the same sweep that picked up Hamdok and other ministers, a few hours before the coup was formally announced.

“They were taken barefoot with masks on their faces. Our younger half-brother was on a visit to Yassir Arman and he isn’t even a politician. They just took him and some papers of Yassir,” said Fatah Arman, Yassir’s younger brother.

The wave of arrests also targeted journalists, among them the manager of the Democrat newspaper El-Haj Warrag on Thursday from his house in Khartoum.

Faiz el-Sailik, another journalist and former adviser in Hamdok’s office, was arrested after giving an interview to Al Jazeera Arabic.

“They took him from the offices of AJ Arabic,” his wife, Mawa Kamel, said. During interview, he condemned the coup. “I think they wanted him to say something to please them but he refused to do it.

“I haven’t been able to speak to him but I believe he was taken to one of the Rapid Support Forces’s prisons,” she said.

“I am so worried about him. He suffers from asthma, and other breathing problems. He didn’t have a chance to take his medicines with him”.

While some arrested journalists who were seized from their offices were later released, many others are still missing.

Finding news of those who have been seized has been complicated by an internet and communications blackout imposed by Burhan, ostensibly “to prevent hate speech and racism”. Government offices also remain shuttered.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, another of those arrested from his home was Maher Abugoukh, the manager of several news and political programmes on Sudan’s state television channels, with the CPJ describing his whereabouts and reason for his arrest as unknown.

Families of some politicians who have been arrested described violence and threats of violence during the arrests, including that of Sadiq al-Sadiq, a protest movement leader and senior figure in the Umma party who was taken from his house along with his guard after being beaten.

“We’re worried about him, and we don’t know how he’s been treated nor who took him or his location,” said Zeinab al-Sadiq, his sister.

“We only know that some armed men in civilian clothes came in and they put their guns on the head of his drivers before going inside his house.”

Related: ‘Patients hid under beds’: Sudan doctors refuse to hand injured protesters to soldiers

It has not only been in the country’s twin cities of Khartoum and Omdurman that arrests have taken place. In Nyala, the capital of South Darfur, at least six lawyers and government officials who worked with the civilians have been arrested.

The army has also targeted resistance committees in eastern Sudan, according to a human rights advocate in Kassala, who preferred to remain anonymous. There, at least five resistance committee members were arrested by the army on Tuesday.

“We think the people who took them were army intelligence but we don’t know where they were taken.”

Describing the situation, Jehanne Henry, a human rights lawyer and a former Human Rights Watch Sudan researcher, said: “Sudan’s security forces are yet again cracking down on protesters with extreme violence in the streets and they are rounding up political leaders and activists by the hour.

“These tactics are totally unacceptable and fly in the face of what military leaders should immediately release all the political detainees and respect protesters’ right to demonstrate against them.”

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