In Sudan, “this revolution is women’s revolution!”

In Sudan, on December 19, 2018, people took to the streets to protest a precipitous rise in bread prices. Since then, protests have persisted and grown. As so often in food uprisings, the price of food was the visible spark that revealed an undergrowth of fire, and, as so often, women of Sudan set and sustained the sparkOn June 3, freedom loving, democracy building people, `civilians’, `protesters’ were butchered by the so-called Rapid Support Forces, or RSF, under the leadership of Mohamed Hamdan Dagolo, also known as Hemeti, also known as the Frankenstein of Khartoum.The RSF are also known as the Janjaweed, the group that terrorized Darfur for years, with particularly brutal violence against women. Killing at least 128 people, brutalizing everyone, raping women en masse, was meant to intimidate the masses, especially the women, into silence and submission. It didn’tOn June 30, in response to a call for a “millions march”, hundreds of thousands of people hit the streets. Eleven people were killed. On Monday, a call was issued for mass civil disobedience on July 14. Your news media may or may not be covering these events, but, in Sudan, the revolution continues, and, in Sudan, this revolution is women’s revolution: “Throughout Sudan’s ongoing revolution, women have led the chants for freedom, justice and peace.” Women have led and women are leading.

While Sudanese women attach a multitude of meanings and aspirations to freedom, justice and peace, they are united and uniform in their insistence that the military step down and turn over power to civilian authority. To that end, the women are united in their determination that the movement in Sudan for freedom, justice and peace is a revolutionary movement. That means that those who committed atrocities, and particularly those who used rape and other forms of sexual violence and intimidation as a weapon of State, will be held accountable. While many women differ on what sorts of freedom they want, for women, for everyone, they are clear and united in the determination that this is the moment to broaden and deepen the space(s) for freedom, for women and for everyone. 

For 30 years, Sudanese women have organized and mobilized to end the dictatorship and to establish a just, egalitarian, democratic, free society and nation-State. For 30 years, women in Sudan have refused to sit down, shut up, disappear. When the current regime shut the internet, women opened windows and doors, as they have done for the past three decades. In Sudan, today, women are organizing, mobilizing, chanting, singing, refusing to be shut down or shut out, demanding freedom, chanting, “Long live the struggle of Sudanese women!” “This revolution is women’s revolution!”

(Photo Credit 1: Reuters) (Photo Credit 2: BBC / EPA)

Eritrean and Sudanese women asylum seekers protest in Israel

 

Thousands of mostly Eritrean and Sudanese women and children asylum seekers marched through the streets of Tel Aviv today, protesting Israel’s new `immigration policies’ and new `open’ immigrant detention center, Holot.

In September, the Israeli Supreme Court declared Israel’s 2012 Prevention of Infiltration Law unconstitutional. Under that law, an undocumented resident, including asylum seekers and refugees, could be held without trial for up to three years. They were previously held in the notorious Saharonim prison. One of the reasons Saharonim is notorious is the number of infants, toddlers and young children, held for what were basically indefinite periods.

When the Supreme Court declared the law unconstitutional, the State swung into action and, first, passed a new amendment to the law. Under the new legislation, the undocumented, again including asylum seekers and refugees, can only be `detained’ for one year … but they can be held in an `open’ facility indefinitely. Welcome to Holot `open’ facility, where `residents’ can walk outside, but must report for roll call three times a day and can’t seek work. And it’s in the middle of the Negev Desert. It’s a prison.

Last week, mostly Eritrean and Sudanese refugees and asylum seekers went on a three day strike. This affected primarily restaurants, hotels, cafes, and cleaning services. One of the strike organizers, twenty-eight-years-old Eritrean Kidane Isaacs, explained: “The new law basically gives us two choices: be a prisoner indefinitely or self-deport. We have been here for years without any sort of human treatment. We are forgotten, neglected.” In Eritrea, Isaacs experienced torture, imprisonment, forced labor, and more.

Today, the women, and children, by thousands, resumed the public struggle. They chanted, “We are refugees!” They carried placards that read, “We need freedom” and “Stop racism!” As one Eritrean woman, Zabib, explained, “We are seeking asylum. We’re not criminals. Our kids have no legal documents so they don’t have any basic rights. We have no kind of support for us and the kids … we’re in survival mode.”

The women’s formal statement read, “The Israeli government treats us like we aren’t people. We live here without states, without basic rights, without hope and without the ability to support our children with honor. We are not criminals. The Israeli government summons the heads of families to the Holot detention facility in the south, separates women from their husbands, fathers from their children, and breaks families apart. The detention and arrests of asylum seekers destroys the one support we have – the support of our family and our communities.”

No one disputes that Sudan and Eritrea are under repressive regimes, but these women, children, men, somehow, despite that consensus, pose `a threat’ to the State’s Jewish character. Indefinite detention, torture, racism, inhumanity, is the threat, not the “negligible number” of Black African bodies.

 

(Video Credit: YouTube.com)

 

The Women of Togo call for Spring

Isabelle Améganvi

The women of Togo have had enough. Like the women of Sudan two months ago, the women of Togo have had more than enough. More than enough of the same family ruling Togo for decades. More than enough of a political climate that doesn’t change. More than enough of men finding alibis for why things don’t change. Not just men. Their men. Their partners. And so, the women of Togo have called for a one-week sex strike.

In so doing, Isabelle Améganvi, head of the women’s wing of the Collectif Sauvons le Togo, or Let’s Save Togo Collective, invoked the experiences of Liberian women in stopping the war and the violence, first, and, more profoundly perhaps, calling everyone to act on their collective and individual responsibility. State violence doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Decades long State violence doesn’t happen without the cooperation and collaboration of the citizenry. Togolese women know, and are teaching, that lesson, as did their sisters in Liberia … and Kenya three years ago … and Italy four years ago … and Colombia seven years ago … and before that in Poland and in Iceland and the list goes on and on.

The call for a one-week women’s sex strike was issued at a mass demonstration over the weekend. The women were supported by traditional leaders. They marched to free political prisoners, held in deplorable conditions. They marched with thousands of others to end the regime; they marched to save Togo. And so they called a strike. By so doing, instead of declaring war, the women threatened to wage peace. As women across the centuries and around the world have done repeatedly, turning their bodies into … their bodies.

The political climate in Togo is built on oppression of women and sexual violence. Discrimination against women is common, domestic violence as well. Women make up 11% of the Parliament and 14% of the Ministerial positions. Women have little to no access to land ownership rights. Women have `born the brunt’ of political violence, especially in the 2005 elections during which targeted sexual violence against women was rampant. That violence has yet to be properly investigated.

So, the women of Togo, disobedient, insurrectionary, have had enough. They call for climate change. They call for Spring.

 

(Photo Credit: BBC)

Regret haunts the world

Regret is in the air this week. You might say, regret is the name of the game and, even more, the game of the name. From Geneva to the Gushungo Dairy Estate, in Zimbabwe, to Guinea, it’s been a week of declarations of regret.

On Monday, in Conakry, the capital of Guinea, thousands gathered in peaceful, and courageous, protest, to demonstrate their opposition to the military dictatorship of Captain Moussa Dadis Camara, who seized power in a military coup last December. Reports suggest that as many as 157 people were killed by soldiers who opened fire on them. Survivors and witnesses also reported, “A number of women taking part in the demonstration were stripped naked and sexually assaulted by security forces”. This has been described as “most shocking to the wearied citizens in this predominantly Muslim nation” who were “`profoundly traumatized’ by what had happened to the women in the stadium”.

The government of neighboring Liberia, a country that knows something about militarized sexual violence, issued a statement: ““The government of the Republic of Liberia has expressed grave concern at the events unfolding in neighboring Republic of Guinea, and has learned with profound regrets of the deaths of over 90 persons during a demonstration in Conakry on Monday, September 28, 2009”.

From Conakry, “Guinea’s military junta leader has expressed regret over the bloodshed in the clash between the opposition and security forces in the capital Conakry, Radio Senegal reported on Tuesday.” Death merits “merits” regret. Rape and sexual violence are clothed in silence, deep and profound.

In the same week, it was revealed that Nestlé had been purchasing dairy products from the Gushungo Dairy Estate, in the Mazowe Valley, about 20 kilometers north of Harare, a dairy farm recently taken over by Grace Mugabe. Once this was discovered, other connections were revealed. For example, DeLaval: “DeLaval, a leading equipment firm based in Sweden, is part of the giant Tetra Laval group owned by the Rausing dynasty”. They had sold a ton, actually tons, of equipment to Gushungo. Their response: “.Jörgen Haglind, a spokesman for Tetra Laval, said: “Tetra Laval was not previously aware of this transaction and we can only regret that the control functions within DeLaval have failed as this transaction should never have been approved.””  On Tuesday, “Delaval’s international spokesperson and vice-president of marketing and communications, Benoit Passard, said….”We regret that this has happened. We first made contact with the SA Dairy Association and then a long list of investors. The Mugabe name was never mentioned. This has come as a surprise to us and we would never have done business with them had we known this was who we were dealing with.””

Tuesday was a big day for expressions of regret. On Thursday, Nestlé Zimbabwe “ditched” Gushungo, without any expression of regret but rather an explanation of market forces. Perhaps those would include the threatened global boycott. We’ll never know. By Thursday, the government of Guinea was no longer expressing regret for anything, but rather claiming outside agitators and other nefarious forces were at work in Monday’s demonstration.

What is regret? “To remember, think of (something lost), with distress or longing; to feel (or express) sorrow for the loss of (a person or thing)…. To grieve at, feel mental distress on account of (some event, fact, action, etc.).” Regret is lamentation, grief, sorrow. Regret is loss.

In Conquest: Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide, Andrea Smith, Cherokee scholar, feminist, rape crisis counselor, activist, woman, tells a story of regret: “`Assimilation’ into white society …only increased Native women’s vulnerability to violence. For instance, when the Cherokee nation was forcibly relocated to Oklahoma during the Trail of Tears in the nineteenth century, soldiers targeted for sexual violence Cherokee women who spoke English and had attended mission schools….They were routinely gang-raped causing one missionary to the Cherokee, Daniel Butrick, to regret that any Cherokee had ever been taught English.”

As Smith records for Native women in the United States, as the women of Guinea and Zimbabwe understand deeply, as women in Sweden and Switzerland might know as well when they consider DeLaval and Nestlé as elements of their own well being and comfort, sexual violence is a State policy. It is not an exceptional event, but rather is woven into the very fiber of State security and national development. Ask the Sudanese women refugees in eastern Chad, who have no place to hide from or escape the daily sexual violence.

The United Nations Security Council this week voted to request the appointment of a special representative to address sexual violence in armed conflict zones. After the vote, “Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon … immediately following the text’s adoption…. expressed regret that previous responses to sexual violence had not been able to stem the scourge.”

Were the Security General to express regret, or the leader of Guinea, or the corporate representatives, or the clergy, or anyone in public office or private spaces, for sexual violence, it would have to be more than a simple pro forma apology. The one expressing regret must perform and demonstrate grief, lamentation, sorrow, must understand and teach a lesson of loss. Until then, regret haunts the world … profoundly.

(Photo Credit: Rhizome) (Video Credit: Yoko Ono, Maysles Films, Inc / YouTube)