What began as demonstrations in Sudan’s northeastern town of Atbara in December 2018 over rising bread and fuel prices quickly grew into a country-wide movement striving for social and political reform.
Under popular pressure, the Sudanese military intervened to end the 30-year rule of former president Omar al-Bashir, but citizens continued to peacefully mobilise against a military takeover. A civilian-military power-sharing administration was formed and tasked with guiding Sudan to democratic elections before army generals ousted their civilian counterparts in an October 2021 coup.
Undeterred by lethal crackdowns and the risk of arrest, protesters and activists renewed their efforts in opposing a military leadership. Some continued to attend rallies with newly bandaged wounds or prosthetic limbs.
These are the stories of seven people facing life-changing injuries after participating in civil resistance movements in Khartoum and Omdurman between 2019 and 2022.
On 24 March last year , I left Bahri in the morning and arrived in Khartoum at midday to join the demonstrations. The procession started to move forward towards the street leading to the presidential palace, where soldiers were stationed. When we reached this street, the clashes began, and the soldiers fired stun grenades, gas canisters, rubber bullets and live ammunition at us. I was standing and talking with someone beside me, and the next thing I knew was that a gas canister had hit my left eye. By the time I arrived at the hospital, the pain was indescribable and I was screaming and asking the doctors what had happened to my eye. They were trying to reassure me to protect my psychological state, but all of them knew that my injury had blinded me. A few days later, I was told that there was no possibility of recovering my sight and I had an operation to have my eye removed. My cousin was with me, she was crying and breaking down, but I had already accepted my fate, and I came out of the operating room repeating the chants of the revolution. When I look back on that day, I see it as a beautiful day, a historic day, and I am proud of myself. Since 2019, I have been going out to protest against the tyranny and injustice that we face in Sudan. I am strongly opposed to any compromise or agreement with the military. The new generations of Sudan, the ones that grew up with the revolution, won’t accept another military governance. The sacrifices made by the youth should not be taken for granted, and what keeps us assured is that the revolution is ongoing.
- Joody Mohammed, 25
When I heard the news of a military coup [in October 2021], I went out onto the streets with my twin brother and our friends from the neighbourhood resistance committees. We were heading towards Burri, towards the military headquarters [in Khartoum], although the route was completely barricaded. A convoy of soldiers appeared and seemed to be on our side. They began opening the way for demonstrators to reach the military headquarters, but I felt as though we were being tricked. Suddenly, they started to fire live ammunition and cornered us for several hours so that we couldn’t escape the area. I was shot twice in the leg and brought to the hospital, where I fell into a coma due to blood loss. Eleven days later, I fell into a coma again, this time caused by blood poisoning, and that’s when the doctors decided that my right leg had to be amputated. At first, I thought that I wouldn’t be able to participate in the resistance in the same way I used to, but I am figuring out new ways, and speaking out as much as I can. I was able to travel to India to get a prosthetic leg, and I don’t regret participating in the demonstrations. I am a conscientious person, and I cannot accept such injustice. Even the incident that happened to me is minor compared to what happened to other protesters who lost their lives.
- Mohayed Faisal Jaafer, 19, engineering student
It was on Mother’s Day this year [21 March 2022]. I went out to join the demonstrations as I usually do, but this time I went alone. The procession was peaceful at first, and we weren’t facing any soldiers until they intervened, firing tear gas canisters and stun grenades at us. In self-defence, I started throwing stones back at them. They shot at me, and I was hit in four parts of my body: my right leg, my right thigh, my left hip, and my left upper arm. One of the bullets was removed at the hospital, but the other three are still in my body. There was a time when I was afraid of things like this, but it didn’t stop me from participating in the revolution. I had been arrested twice in the time of the former regime. Of course, my family gets worried when I go to processions and have even forbidden me from attending, but I still go. This is my duty to my country. My brothers and sisters are out there on the streets, and I can’t leave them on their own. I kept the blood-stained trousers from the day I was shot, and I hope one day to show them to my children.
- Name withheld, 24-year-old medical student
On 24 March this year , I was injured during a demonstration against military rule in Omdurman. I was hit by more than 38 lead pellets that were fired at my body, and three of them went into one of my eyes. Bystanders and other protesters who I didn’t even know lifted me out of the area on a motorbike and drove me to the hospital. I had two operations, one to remove the pellets from my eye and another to reattach my retina, but after that doctors told me that I would never regain sight in my left eye. The demonstrations in Omdurman are more violent than in Khartoum, because we have a bigger youth population and that’s what the security forces are afraid of. The people are the ones who should decide the future of our country. We are facing weapons, yet we are unarmed. I am still attending the demonstrations. Sometimes, I head out with the same people who carried me to safety on that day, who have become my friends.
- Faris Ismail, Umbada resident
After hearing about the coup, people expected that [junta leader Abdel Fattah al-Burhan] was responsible, and groups of young people were gathering around the military headquarters and on Airport Street [in Khartoum]. The security forces came out and tried to disperse us, first by firing warning shots into the air. There were no injuries or clashes at this point, so I didn’t leave the area. In the moment before I was hit, I lifted my head, and within a split second I had been shot on the right side of my jaw. My face was numb, and I thought it might have been a rubber bullet, until I put my hand to my face and saw a lot of blood. I felt around my jaw area and realised that some of my teeth had fallen out. I went back to the front lines, but feeling that I was losing consciousness, I jumped on a motorbike and signalled to the driver the directions to the hospital, because I could hardly speak. The X-ray showed that my jaw had split in half and the bullet was still lodged there. For months I’ve had difficulties with eating and speech. In the beginning, I was writing things down to communicate. I kept the bullet after surgery, in case there is ever a trial against the perpetrators. If the military authorities stay in power, there will be no future for Sudan. This is the first time that all of the youth are participating in a movement against military rule, against dictatorship and a one-party system. Instead, we want to establish a state with institutions that respect the people and their rights, so that the generations after us will find themselves in a decent country that they won’t want to emigrate from.
- Mohammed al-Neel Ibrahim, 29
From the beginning of the revolution, Omar was very active in the struggle and was well-known among the revolutionaries of Bahri, Burri and Omdurman. He used to organise processions in our village [in Gezira State] and on the same day he would return to Khartoum to join the demonstrations there. All he wanted was to live a decent life and for the Sudanese people to have the most basic rights of healthcare and education. Omar was injured on 4 April 2019 during a procession in Jibra. He was struck by a rubber bullet to the head, resulting in paralysis on the left side of his body, which severely impacted his movement and speech. At the time, he was known to the security and intelligence services, who would pursue him to some degree wherever he was, and eventually targeted him for his activism. Before his injury, Omar used to collect donations and clothing for families in need and did a lot of charitable work. If I kept talking for an entire year, I couldn’t do justice to his good deeds. Omar is fully conscious and understands what we say to him, and slowly his condition is improving with the help of physiotherapy. His injury has turned the lives of our family upside down, but having him around and being able to hear his laughter and his voice makes any dilemma easier.
- Gorashi al-Tayyeb, brother of Omar al-Tayyeb
The story begins on 7 July 2020, in front of the courthouse in Omdurman. There was supposed to be a court session in the case of the soldiers who ran over the martyr Hanafi Abdul Shakour, a young man from my village. But it was postponed, and that’s when the clashes started. We were the ones in the line of defence, demanding the right to hold a procession. There were elderly people and girls in the crowd when the regime forces started to fire tear gas canisters at us. I was throwing the canisters back, but one that I picked up was actually a stun grenade, and it exploded in my hand. My right hand and lower arm were amputated and I had to have six operations in total. It has been difficult for me to adapt to life with an injury like this. I couldn’t continue my studies or the work I was doing, which is a problem because I’m the eldest in my household and I can’t provide for my family any more. I spent 100 days in India to get a prosthetic hand and learn how to write with it. No matter what, and by all means necessary, we will achieve all of the political and economic reforms we have been seeking in this country.
- Name withheld, 23-year-old Omdurman resident