Sudan 'martyr' Salah becomes symbol of protest

Published October 1, 2013
Sudanese anti-government protesters chant slogans during a demonstration in Khartoum - Photo by AP
Sudanese anti-government protesters chant slogans during a demonstration in Khartoum - Photo by AP
Sudanese people chant slogans against longtime President Omar al-Bashir during a protest in front of the Sudanese embassy in Cairo, Egypt - Photo by AP
Sudanese people chant slogans against longtime President Omar al-Bashir during a protest in front of the Sudanese embassy in Cairo, Egypt - Photo by AP

KHARTOUM: The shouts of demonstrators carry the name of Salah Sanhouri through the Khartoum night, as they mourn a slain comrade who has become a symbol of a deadly government crackdown.

“With our souls and our blood, we are ready to die for you, Salah,” a crowd chanted outside the home of the young pharmacist who was killed during a protest on Friday.

Most of the dozens killed last week during protests sparked by fuel price increases have died in obscurity. But the name of Sanhouri, who comes from a prominent business family, has resonated.

Ordinary Sudanese know him as the “doctor” who lost his life.

His name has spread widely on the Internet and thousands turned out for his burial on Saturday.

“Dead or alive - Salah you are a symbol of freedom and your death may well be the beginning of the end of 24 years of tyranny,” an activist using the name “Sudan revolts” tweeted on Monday.

Last week, President Omar Al Bashir's regime faced the worst urban unrest since he seized power in 1989 as Khartoum's long-suffering poor - and more well-off sympathisers like Sanhouri - took to the streets.

Authorities say 34 people have died since petrol and diesel prices jumped more than 60 per cent on September 23, sparking demonstrations by people who had quietly borne two years of soaring prices in an impoverished nation.

Activists and international human rights groups said at least 50 people were gunned down, most of them in the greater Khartoum area.

On a dirt lot outside the Sanhouri family home in the Burri area, around the corner from Khartoum's most expensive private hospital, his father Mudather Alraya stated on Monday night that Sanhouri was born in Abu Dhabi.

He was the second of seven children.

Alraya worked as a civilian clerk in the United Arab Emirates defence department before retiring to run a clothing business from there.

Sanhouri grew up in the Emirates and then studied pharmacology in Pakistan before returning to Khartoum two years ago, Alraya said as he sat on a plastic chair surrounded by well-wishers, at the end of a bumpy unpaved road.

“He liked to work here,” and had taken a job with Al Mashtal Pharmacy as a pharmacist, said Alraya who still lives in Abu Dhabi.

Faint shouts came from the distance as Sanhouri's supporters held another daily march through the neighbourhood.

Demonstrations against the fuel prices began in a rural area south of Khartoum before escalating in the capital, where most of the deaths occurred.

After the main weekly Muslim prayers last Friday, more rallies took place, one of them in Sanhouri's district of Burri.

“I know that he went in a demonstration with his colleagues,” said a relative, who asked not to be named. “Most of them were graduates in the university... and many citizens of Burri. It was a very big one. More than 1,000.”

Sanhouri, from a well-off family, was concerned about the impact of the price rise on those less fortunate, the relative said.

“He went just to express his opposition to this new policy because that will affect all the lives of the people.”

The shouts of about 200 demonstrators grew louder as they returned from their tour of the neighbourhood to rally on the lot near Sanhouri's home.

“I think it is a sort of spring wind,” said the relative. “A Sudanese spring.”

In 2011, “Arab Spring” revolts toppled longtime rulers in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen.

Moments before his death Sanhouri had urged other demonstrators not to light a protest fire, according to a cousin.

“This is peaceful,” Sanhouri told them just before he was shot through the back, said the cousin who saw the wound.

The government says it has arrested hundreds of “criminals” and had to intervene when crowds turned violent.

Information Minister Ahmed Bilal Osman has said, however, that “innocent”people died last Friday and an investigation is being conducted.

“They are denying that they are shooting them,” the relative said.

On a nearby street, riot police stood by in their truck.

“Shahid (martyr), shahid, ya Salah”, the crowd chanted.

“Not only Salah,” the relative said. “So many Salahs have been killed or injured.”

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