Tortured Sudanese Female Journalist Speaks Up

Attacks against journalists and human rights activists seem to have intensified recently in Sudan as shown by the horrific abduction and torture of a Sudanese female journalist by National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS), Sudan's notorious security apparatus. Sumaya Ismail Hundosa, 34, was abducted from near her house on October 29, 2012, later to be found thrown inside a mud pit in a remote area in Khartoum on November 2, five days after her abduction.

The journalist was tortured for writing articles criticizing Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir. She was severely beaten up until she subsequently lost consciousness, had her head shaved because her hair ‘belongs to the Arabs’, and was iron-shocked on several parts of her body. She was called a slew of racist insults by her captors, including whore and slave for belonging to Darfur, a region in western Sudan that's also witnessing a decade-long, raging conflict.

Several human rights groups strongly condemned the attack on the journalist, including the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists and Cairo-based Al-Karama [ar], who issued calls to Sudanese authorities to investigate the attack.

Burns on Hundosa's arm caused by iron-shocking. She was iron-shocked on her stomach, back and other parts of her body!

Shock and outrage

As the details of Hundosa's unprecedented torture unfolded, Sudanese netizens largely responded with shock and outrage, showing sympathy and solidarity with the journalist.

Journalist Reem Shawkat tweeted a photograph of Hundosa's shaved hair, while expressing her support [ar]:

حلقو ليك شعرك يا سمية هندوسة و لكن لبستي تاج الشرف #السودان -يسقط جهاز عدم الانسانية و عدم الوطنية

@ReemShawkat: They shaved your hair, Sumaya Hundosa, but you wore the crown of honor. #Sudan – Down with the apparatus of inhumanity and lack of patriotism.

@nsaeed, on Twitter, pointed out to his fellow Sudanese that if they do not take action against such violations, it is going to be everyone's turn:

متى سيفهم المواطن السوداني أن ما يحدث لأمثال #هندوسة و #جليلة وارد حدوثه لأي مواطن في أي لحظة؟ كان حلقو لأخوك بل راسك #حرفياً

@nsaeed: When will the Sundanese citizen understand that what happens to the likes of Hundosa and Jalila can possibly happen to any citizen at any moment? If your brother's head is shaved, moisten your own!

Award-winning Sudanese cartoonist Khalid Al-Baih drew an expressive cartoon bemoaning Sudanese women's prestigious status in the past as compared to now, under the current regime in Sudan.

Khartoon! by Khalid Al-Baih

The cartoon illustrates two women, one who looks prestigious in a traditional garment (thoub), and refers to the old days, and another who looks bare-headed, humiliated and sitting behind bars, in reference to the treatment women are getting nowadays. The Sudanese woman is symbolized as “عزة” (transliterated, Azza), which means “glorious” in Arabic. It is a common female name in Sudan and is a semi-official national personification.

Hundosa, who gradually moved from print journalism to online journalism, came to Sudan from Egypt where she has been living since 2003, to spend Eid Al-Adha with her family. Following her horrific ordeal, she left Sudan immediately for fear for her life. Back in Egypt, she recounted her ordeal with the NISS in a detailed, first account 27-minute video testimony [ar] on YouTube. The video was recorded by a committee to protect journalists of Egypt's Journalists Syndicate.

The journalist also wrote an Open Letter to President Omar Al-Bashir [ar] that was highly circulated online, holding him accountable for bringing her offenders to justice and ensuring that no one can commit such horrendous acts with impunity in the future.

Race and identity, revisited!

The unequivocal racist attacks against Hundosa by her torturers provoked discussions online about the role of race and identity in Sudan's modern politics and society.

Amr Abbas, on Twitter, mockingly remarked:

سمية اسماعيل هندوسة تجلد، يحلق شعرها، تصعق بمكوة وتجلد بالسياط ليس لانها كتبت عن البديل لكن لانها غرباوية فى بلد العروبواسلاميين

@amrmohabbas: Sumaya Ismail Hundosa is flogged, hair-shaved, iron-shocked and whipped not because she wrote about the alternative, but because she's gharbawiya in the country of the Arabo-Islamists

Gharbawiya” is a woman who hails from western Sudan, but the term is often used derogatory as a racial slur.

A Sudanese blogger who maintains a blog called “Sudanese Dream“, wrote a bitter blog post titled: “من هم العبيد الجدد؟” [ar], which translates to, “Who are the new slaves?”. She asserts:

ان ما يحدث الان في السودان هو اكثر سوءاً من عهد امتلاك الرقيق مع اعادة تعريف للعبودية ،

What happens now in Sudan is worse than the slave owning era with a redefinition of slavery,

The blogger observes that racism is still rampant among ordinary Sudanese who sometimes practice it with relative ease. She then addresses the more structural racism within the context of state violence, pointing out that many political detainees who originate from west and south Sudan testified to have been discriminated against and received racist insults during detention. She gives the discriminatory ill-treatment of female detainees like Sumaya Hundosa and Jalila Khamis as another pointer. She then dismisses arguments of ethnic purity before concluding:

عليه ؛ كلنا عبيد يا ريس ، كلنا عبيد يا جهاز الامن.

نحن العبيد “السودانيين” نتقبل حقيقة كوننا عبيداً ، فما بالكم ايها المستعربون؟

Thus; we are all slaves, Mr. President, we are all slaves oh Jihaz Al-Amn (security apparatus)

We the slaves “The Sudanese” accept the fact of being slaves, what bothers you, the Arabized?

The issue of identity is a recurring theme of debate among Sudanese youth. Known blogger and Global Voices long-time author Amir Ahmed (better known online as ‘Sudanese Thinker’) has written in the past about ending Sudan's identity crisis. Another blogger, Moez Ali, presented a critical view of the whole “Sudanese Identity” question.


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