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Victims of Sudan's patriarchy: Settling political scores at the expense of women’s bodies

English Women rights

Wednesday 25 January 202306:07 pm
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In an incident that reflects the extent of how much political crime had evolved in Sudan, a senior official in the Empowerment Removal Committee (ERC) tasked with dismantling the remnants of the regime of deposed President Omar al-Bashir, revealed earlier this month that his 15-year-old daughter had been raped by unknown assailants, in a matter of settling political scores.

According to the Secretary-General of the committee, al-Tayeb Osman Youssef, the child was kidnapped from in front of her house in the suburb of Mamoura, south of the capital, Khartoum, by three unknown individuals. She was taken to an empty house, where she was beaten and gang-raped, and then was released hours after the incident near one of the Nile bridges. The assailants had left her in a bad state on the street and told her to deliver a verbal message to him: “We’re capable of reaching you at any time”.

After beating and raping her, the assailants left the 14-year old in a bad state on the street and told her to deliver a message to her father, an official tasked with dismantling remnants of the Bashir regime: “We’re capable of reaching you at any time”

What is the ERC?

Before further examining the incident, we need to shed light on the Empowerment Removal Committee (ERC) that the victim was targeted over, as a result of her father's work in its corridors.

The “Committee for Dismantling the June 30 1989 Regime, Removal of Empowerment and Corruption and Recovery of Public Funds” (ERC in short) was formed in December 2019, by the civil authorities in the deposed transitional government, with the aim of recovering the funds and assets looted during the era of deposed President Omar al-Bashir, prosecuting those involved in public money crimes, in addition to revising the civil service structures aiming to empower the dissolved National Congress Party.

The committee's officials kept constantly complaining of attempts to obstruct their work, whether from what they described as "remnants of the isolated regime," or even by its military partner in power at the time.

The deputy chairman of the committee, and a member of the dissolved Sovereignty Council of Sudan, Mohamed al-Faki Suleiman, revealed that the ERC has been subjected to a fierce and continuous war since its establishment, with the aim of dissolving it. It has been subjected to a wide range of means and methods, including disrupting the work of the committee, disrupting the establishment of the appeals committee, and depriving them financially of promoting their work by withholding funding for their activities.

On October 25, 2021, army commander Abdel Fattah al-Burhan issued a decision to suspend the work of the ERC committee, as part of his first decisions after removing the civilians from power.

During the period of suspension of the committee's work, al-Bashir's men benefited from the decision, recovering many of their frozen bank accounts. Some even returned to public service, while others chose to leave the country.

Last December, due to international pressure, the military signed a framework agreement that paves the way for ending the political crisis in the country. Among the issues that the civil team stipulated to be included in the final agreement expected to be signed this month, is the resumption of the work of the ERC committee again.


The political dimension

A week ago, the Sudan Tribune published news about the arrest of one of the perpetrators involved in the assault on Karima al-Tayeb Youssef, but it did not indicate the reasons for the incident, saying that the case is still under investigation.

But what gives the incident its political dimension are two things: The first is what Youssef said about the message he had received from the kidnappers via his daughter about their ability to reach and harm him, and the second is because it coincided with a preliminary workshop held by the members of the frozen committee, to evaluate, asses, and rectify their past experience, in preparation to hold a conference on issues of dismantling the June 30th 1989 regime.

Salah Manna, a prominent leader in the committee, was quick to accuse the Islamic Movement (the intellectual incubator of the dissolved National Congress Party NCP) of being behind the crime of assault and rape, through members of the “Popular Security”, a special security formation created by the country’s so-called islamists to protect the isolated regime and kill their opponents.

Omar Hussein, a leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), said that the political dimensions are clear in the crime of Mamoura, with the aim of preventing the return of the ERC committee work.

He cautioned in his interview with Raseef22 that targeting the committee and its members is not new, as its headquarters had previously been set on fire by unknown persons during one of the protest processions, and an attempt had previously been made to target Wajdi Saleh, a member of the committee. In addition, anonymous threats are occasionally issued to the committee’s leadership.

Has the honor and bodies of Sudanese women become so cheap?!

He added that if the NCP and the Islamic Movement were found to be involved in the incident, legislation should be passed declaring them terrorist entities.

Meanwhile, Mahjoub al-Zein, a journalist specializing in such cases, demanded that investigations not be preempted and that certain parties be accused of not helping the perpetrators escape punishment.

He told Raseef22 that the ERC committee, as a result of its work in exposing the scandals of the isolated regime, gained many political opponents, some of whom are followers of Bashir, as well as others far from that circle who were affected by the decisions or those close to them were.

He went on to point out that the circle of opponents could also include parties supporting military leaders who expressed reservations about the work of the committee, to the extent of the resignation of its chairman and a member of the Sovereignty Council for the military component, Lieutenant General Yasser al-Atta.

Al-Zein did not rule out that the crime is related to the state of lawlessness and security chaos that the country has been suffering from recently.

He then added, "We have to wait, and leave the role of uncovering the crime and its causes to the security services.”

False slogans

Ever since the news of the assault on the daughter of a leader in the committee emerged, most analysis and speculation have gone to the political dimension, ignoring an important and crucial dimension related to the state of Sudanese society.

Social researcher Shehab Abu al-Qasim called for the need to abandon false slogans when every crime occurs, like saying that it is "alien to Sudanese society".

He tells Raseef22 that all crimes exist in Sudan, from honor killings and identity killings, to political crimes.

He warns that criminal records have registered political crimes related to defaming opponents, spreading harmful rumors, and have even reached murder, as was the case in the attempt to assassinate the deposed Prime Minister, Abdalla Hamdok, in March 2020.

In the case of rape, he listed records of famous political incidents such as the liquidation of Ishaq by security personnel, and the torture and killing of school teacher Ahmed al-Khair after being violated with a “pole” by security officials, one of whom said in court that he was a "rape expert", in addition to the endless recorded incidents of rape and harassment against female participants in peaceful protests demanding civilian rule.

He added, “Even though all cases of rape are condemned and regrettable, what makes it even sadder is that most of the cases that occur are left out of the spotlight, for social reasons that may end with the killing of the victim in an ‘honor killing’.

He continues, “It is true that politicians are responsible for the devastation in the country as a result of their conflicts and uncalculated decisions, but we must also acknowledge that Sudanese society is not well.”

Abu al-Qasim concluded his speech by stressing the importance of providing psychological assistance to the daughter of the political official. He also praised her father's handling of the issue and his recourse to public opinion, despite the voices that were demanding that the case be kept under wraps, for fear of social stigma.

The incident sparked wide condemnation across the country, with journalist and TV presenter Dalia El-Tahir taking to Twitter to denounce the crime and its perpetrators, saying, “You fight your wars over women's bodies, you bastards.. How low are you? You claim that you are God's messengers spreading his religion, while you are the lowest and most despicable of all. The likes of you are a disgrace to the Islamic religion.


Support for the young girl

The assaulted minor received great solidarity, from political forces, human rights and women’s organizations, and even social media activists.

The Sudanese Congress Party announced its readiness to provide legal support to the child and her family, to ensure that the perpetrators receive a deterrent punishment.

The No to Oppression against Women Initiative issued a statement condemning the incident and rejecting turning women's bodies into a battlefield and a place for political liquidations.

It is important to leave the ideals, and remember that politics is a dirty game, and that addressing issues of public opinion requires sacrifices that may reach the family.


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