The Fall of Omar al-Bashir: The first step toward justice for his victims

By Nazik Awad, Sudanese human rights defender and refugee

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Photo: Omar Haj Kadour/AFP/Getty

Badrya Ishaq was the first protester to be killed in the protest of April 6 in Sudan. She was a mother of a newborn baby, and was living in a displaced persons camp in Darfur. Her death was the result of an attack by government security forces on a peaceful demonstration demanding regime change in Zalinji, a town in Darfur. Badrya’s sacrifice, along with the sacrifices of dozens of others, has brought about the change that all Sudanese people have been praying for: the end of the reign of General Omar al-Bashir. Bashir was ousted on April 11th, just 5 days after her death. I, like all other Sudanese, have been waiting for this moment for 30 years. Now we can tell Badrya and others killed by this regime that we are on the way to hold their killers accountable.

I was in kindergarten, when General Bashir came to power in a military coup on June 30, 1989. As a young woman, I always felt that I was living inside an open jail. Women were targeted by Islamic patriarchal laws, and violently suppressed for three decades. This made me decide to work for women’s rights in Sudan. In 2011, I started several initiatives, including the Sudanese Women Human Rights Project and Arry Organization (Arry), that focused on women’s rights and the protection of human rights defenders, including in conflict-affected areas such as Southern Kordofan, Blue Nile and Darfur. I was arrested three times in 2011 before being forced to seek asylum in Egypt. Arry was closed by the Sudanese Humanitarian Affairs Commission but continues its operations from outside of the country and continues to condemn human rights violations as well as violations of international humanitarian law in Sudan.

This is why women like Badrya are the main leaders of this revolution. For the women in Darfur in particular, the fight against the Bashir regime has different dimensions. Sexual violence and mass rapes were part of the weaponsused in the Darfur genocide. Thousands of Darfuri women were raped, according to international human rights groups, the United Nations and governments like the United States. This led to Gen. Bashir being charged with war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide by the International Criminal Court. For all these reasons, women in Darfur and other regions are leading the uprising that ousted Bashir.

Although Bashir has fallen, the uprising and resistance continues, because the main demand of Sudanese people and the victims of Bashir’s brutality is to hold him accountable for his crimes. The victims of his regime deserve no less than complete justice. This demand can only be accomplished by a civilian government that can deconstruct all the regime militias and institutions. Unfortunately, the coup that pushed Bashir out of power is also led by war criminals. For example, the vice president of the ruling military council is Brig. Gen. Mohammed Hamdan Dagolo, commonly referred to as “Hemeti.” Hemeti is also the leader of the Rapid Support Forces, the new name of Janjaweed militias that committed genocidal crimesin Darfur.

The transition from the Bashir regime to a civilian government will not be easy. But the Sudanese people are determined to remain on streets until all the demands of the revolution of freedom, justice and peace are fully achieved.

Amid this difficult conditions, Sudanese women need support and solidarity from women all over the world. The Middle East North Africa coalition for Women’s Human Rights Defendersand other women rights groups have launched a campaign, #SolidarityWithSudaneseWomen. Join ushere. Now is the time to support Sudanese women in their fight to reclaim their rights and insure justice for all the victims of the Bashir regime.

As a woman human rights defender, I believe that without transitional justice, Sudan transition toward peace and stability will be impossible. This is why the current uprising in Sudan will continue until the killers of those who gave sacrificed their lives, like Badrya, are held accountable.

The ouster of Omar al-Bashir is only the first step to bring justice for all the victims of his regime. Human rights defenders in Sudan, especially women, are leading a tough fight against all the remaining figures of the former regime. The days to come are going to be the hardest to ensure that Sudan will move forward on the right path. For me the change that the Sudanese people deserve is yet to come. Accountability, justice and freedom are the most important foundations for sustainable peace and stability in Sudan. The world that watched Sudanese people toppled one of the worst dictatorships in the world must support Sudanese human rights defenders’ efforts to hold its leaders accountable. This will be the only way to honor millions of the former regime victims and ensure real change in Sudan.

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