Here's why people are turning their profiles 'blue for Sudan'
A new social media campaign aiming to raise awareness about the unrest in Sudan and to show solidarity with protesters has users turning their accounts ‘blue for Sudan.’
The particular shade of blue was a favourite of Mohamed Mattar, a 26-year-old engineer and graduate of London’s Brunel University who was reportedly one of dozens who were shot and killed by security forces during a demonstration in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum on June 3.
Mattar had changed his profile photo on Twitter to blue the day before he was shot and killed.
After Mattar died, the colour was picked up as a symbol of Sudanese unity, with social media users changing their profile pictures, business logos and layouts to blue in support of pro-democracy supporters and those that died in the unrest.
The June 3 demonstration was just one of many protest events demanding that the armed forces hand power over to a civilian administration after the April coup which ousted President Omar al-Bashir.
Activists are calling for western media and governments to exert pressure on the current Sudanese government and military forces who are accused of war crimes, human rights violations and the killing of civilians.
Sudan has been locked in a pitched battle for control after longtime President Omar al-Bashir was ousted from power in a coup in April.
A Transitional Military Council (TMC) consisting of seven members and led by Lt-Gen Abdel Fattah Abdelrahman Burhan, assumed power on April 11, but has struggled to return the country to any sense of normalcy.
The crisis hit a critical point after security forces opened fire on pro-democracy protestors in the capital of Khartoum on June 3 of this year – organization Human Rights Watch estimated more than 100 people were killed and hundreds more were injured.
Demonstrators had been occupying the square in front of military headquarters since April 6, days before al-Bashir was ousted, demanding that power be transferred to a civilian administration.
During peaceful sit-ins, advocates for the protest organizers - under the umbrella group Alliance for Freedom and Change – were meeting with the council of generals to discuss the future of the country’s democracy.
The military eventually agreed on May 15 to a three-year transition period to civilian rule, which demonstrators said was necessary to ensure al-Bashir’s political legacy was dismantled and fair elections could be organized.
On June 3, the military reneged on their agreement and said that elections would be held within nine months – which sparked outrage among the demonstrators and was the catalyst for the bloodshed that followed.
Government forces, led by the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) arrived at the protest and began shooting at protesters, burning down tents and looted as they went.
Reports of soldiers chasing protesters into buildings, beating, whipping and raping them have shocked the international community and caused the African Union (AU) to suspend Sudan’s membership and threaten the council of generals with sanctions for failing to hand over power to a civilian administration.
Early reports said more than 100 people were killed in the crackdown, and activists have accused the RSF of dumping bodies into the Nile River in an attempt to hide the true count.
The Sudanese Professional’s Association, a network of doctors, lawyers and health workers who are credited with spear-heading the organization of the demonstrations, called for a campaign of ‘civil disobedience’ starting on June 9, including a general strike – cutting all contact with the TMC.
After talks broke down, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed flew to Sudan to try and broker a truce – his special envoy announced Tuesday that protest leaders had agreed to suspend strikes and return to the negotiations.
But the situation is still volatile.
On Wednesday, the Sudanese Doctor’s Syndicate published a list of 112 people that have been killed in the week following June 3 – most of the people listed died by gunfire, but stabbings, burns, traumatic crush injuries and being run-over by trucks are also listed as cause-of-death.
Activists began reporting internet disruptions the day of the Khartoum protest on June 3, and on June 10 authorities cut the remaining fixed line connections – classed as a “near-total restriction,” by NetBlocks, a civil society group that maps internet freedom.
The blackout has prevented residents and activists of Sudan from reporting critical information about the continued unrest and caused serious safety concerns.
Medical professionals say the RSF has a continued presence at hospitals, undermining attempts to give people aid – which the lack of internet exacerbates as it’s difficult for them to coordinate and organize without it.
Amnesty International released a scathing report June 6, calling for the immediate removal of the RSF from the streets of Khartoum, calling their actions “horrific and barbaric.”
An additional report released Tuesday said they had “disturbing new evidence” that the Sudanese government forces, including the RSF, “have continued to commit war crimes and serious other serious human rights violations” in Darfur, echoing their call for the RSF to be withdrawn immediately.
Global Affairs Canada released a statement June 6, saying “Canada is closely following the evolving situation in Sudan.”
The statement condemns the violence stemming from the Sudanese TMC and the RSF, saying “Canada is prepared to do whatever it can to support a civilian-led transition to a democratically elected government in Sudan.”