The people of Sudan have endured a long and winding road towards realising their dream of a free, just and peaceful country.
Since the arrest of former President al Bashir in April, protesters organised under the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC), have been engaged in negotiations with the Transitional Military Council (TMC) over the creation of a civilian led transitional administration.
What is clear is that human rights like freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) must be upheld in order for such a transition to be successful. FoRB is a vital right in the context of a democratic society. Being able to live in a diverse society, where a plurality of opinions, beliefs, cultures and expressions are accommodated is key to promoting tolerance, peace, and development.
In recent weeks Hong Kong has
seen unprecedented protests in which over one million demonstrators have taken
to the streets to protest a controversial extradition bill that would allow the
extradition of suspected criminals to Mainland China. On 9 July the city’s
leader, Carrie Lam, declared that the bill was ‘dead,’ however some
protesters remain concerned that the bill is still on the official agenda
and has not been formally withdrawn.
Near the beginning of the protests CSW spoke with a Chinese pastor who explained the main concerns regarding the bill, and what the bill may indicate about the general direction for freedom of religion or belief in Hong Kong.
Mohaned Mustafa El-Nour is a distinguished Sudanese Human Rights Lawyer who practiced law in the country for over 13 years. He currently resides in the UK along with his family after they were forced to flee Sudan in 2018. Despite his displacement Mohaned has continued to advocate for the rights of Sudanese citizens, in this post he breaks down some of the details of the current protests in Sudan, looking at why they are different this time and what may lie ahead for the country.
“Sudan’s revolution began on 13
December in Blue Nile State, followed by Atbara State on 19 December after cuts
to bread subsidies. Protests quickly spread over all Sudan, calling for the overthrow
of President Bashir and his regime. So far 55 people have been shot or heavily
tortured to death, and hundreds have been injured and detained.
Despite a violent official response the protests have continued for more than three months and are increasing day by day.
The revolution has become a way of life for people in Sudan. Across the country, Sudanese men and women of all ages are repeating the slogan ‘Just fall that is all’ on a daily basis.
A young church leader is unwittingly caught up in a
security dragnet, arrested, falsely accused and imprisoned. Another church
youth leader is shot and killed when security forces open fire on peaceful
protestors. In the same country, the military surrounds a cathedral where over
a thousand peaceful protestors have sought refuge after fleeing tear gas and
violence at the hands of security forces.
What is happening in Venezuela today shows how
religious groups can become caught up in larger political movements, sometimes
despite their best efforts to remain neutral and disengaged from politics.
Once religious groups find themselves in situations like these they can be forced out of their neutrality, putting them in opposition to powerful forces; this in turn can lead to violations of freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) as the authorities crack down on what they perceive to be rebellious religious groups.
The Ladies in White are a Cuban peaceful protest movement comprising the wives and other female relatives of jailed dissidents. Last year CSW interviewed their leader, Berta Soler, about her experiences, and the challenges facing Cuba:
“My activism really got started in 2003 when the government took [imprisoned] 75 men and one woman just because they defended the Declaration of Human Rights.
I and the other Ladies in White are women who are prepared, very well prepared, and aware that we are in a struggle for the freedom of political prisoners and for respect for human rights in my country. And we, the Ladies in White and I, are very conscious that in my country we need freedom and rights, especially for the men and women who are in prison just for demanding this and promoting and defending the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.