They Fled Sudan for the U.S. Now They’re Worried about What Comes Next
By Jack Healy and Ann Klein
Sudan’s diaspora in the United States stayed up all night, sipping coffee and sweet tea to stay awake as people waited for a revolution in the country their families had fled.
But when the news finally came on Thursday morning that the military had ousted and arrested President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, dissolved the government and suspended the country’s Constitution, Sudanese-Americans said their hopes for a democratic transformation had been shattered.
They said the military’s move represented a continuation of the bloody regime that has killed hundreds of thousands of civilians in civil war and genocidal campaigns and created waves of hunger, suffering and refugees.
“We’re devastated,” said Jalelah Ahmed, a spokeswoman for Sudanese-Americans for Non-Violent Demonstrations, which held demonstrations in Washington. “This is not a coalition that was part of our movement. This was to repress the demonstrations. To get people to go home. We don’t know what’s going to happen.”
From the other side of the world, thousands of Sudanese-Americans have become digital demonstrators against Mr. al-Bashir’s brutal 30-year rule.
Since the protests began in December, Sudanese-Americans — many young and American-born — have held online fund-raisers and sent money through social-media apps to buy food, medicine and water for the thousands of demonstrators massed in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum. They held parallel rallies in Washington, Des Moines and Denver. They conducted seminars in organizing tactics and social-media strategies over Skype with their friends on the ground.
“We are physically out, but spiritually, we are there,” said the Rev. Oja Gafour, a Sudanese pastor in Denver.
Moyad Baba, a leader of the group, said several of his friends called out sick for work or stayed home on Thursday because they were so upset by a military takeover that appeared to shut the door on the possibility of a civilian transitional government. “It’s a continuation of the exact same thing,” he said. “It’s depressing.”
Mr. Baba, 30, grew up shuttling between Sudan and the United States. For three decades, tens of thousands of other Sudanese, including legions of orphans known as the Lost Boys, fled war and atrocities and were resettled as refugees across the United States. They ended up around New York, in Northern Virginia, Des Moines, Omaha and elsewhere.
Now, some Sudanese-Americans said they were worried the military would accelerate its crackdown against the protesters who marched on the presidential palace and are camped outside the army headquarters. More than 40 people have beenkilledin the violence, and others have been beaten, tear-gassed and arrested. From 6,000 miles away, Sudanese-Americans said they wake up and go to sleep waiting for news from friends and family in the protests.
From the Sudanese food stall she runs in Aurora, Colo., Sara Hamid keeps her phone close to stay in touch with her two brothers who are among the protesters in Khartoum and send her photos. One is camped out. The other goes back and forth to take care of his young family. “They are our voices,” Ms. Hamid, 35, said.
She said she felt compelled to send money through an app to help buy bottled water for the protesters. Her husband, Nasr Ahmed, a dual Sudanese and American citizen, said the small contributions made from 6,000 miles away helped him feel connected to a movement he desperately wanted to join.