Sudan university protests enter third week By REEM ABBAS in Khartoum | Thursday, November 3   2011 at  14:44

Protests by the students of University of Kassala, a state in the Eastern Sudan, have entered the third week.

The students are demanding economic and political reforms to reduce the impact of the recent alarming increase in the cost of living. They also want academic and administrative reforms in their institution.

Sudanese youth and university students who have in the recent months organised peaceful protests, have been subjected to brutal crackdowns by the police, apparently sensitised by the wave of mass protests and revolutions sweeping through North Africa and the Middle East.

Girifna, a nation-wide coalition of youth campaigning for the end of President Omar al-Bashir’s rule, has reported that the police had used tear gas and rubber bullets to counter the aggrieved students, and in the process injured several of them.

The most brutal crackdown was on October 21, during the 47th anniversary of Sudan’s 1964 revolution against military dictatorship, in which a government  landcruiser ran over at least eight students. Four of the victims were seriously injured.

Those who suffered serious injuries included a computer science student, Abd Al Gadir Adam, who had to be transferred to the capital Khartoum for specialised medical treatment.

Constant threat

"There are always injured students every time there is a protest and this happens almost on a daily basis," disclosed A.M, a student who preferred being identified only by his initials, for personal safety.

On some occasions, said A. M, all lectures were cancelled while on other occasions, students were forced to seek refuge in the lecture halls to escape the police tear gas.

The protesting students have been reaching out to the neighbouring communities for  support, but their disenchantment was yet to spread beyond the university campus.

"I live next to the university and I see how the university is surrounded by security forces all the time, but I have yet to see a protest in other parts of Kassala," said  a local pharmacist, who requested anonymity to avoid victimisation.

The flow of information about the protests has been greatly curtailed as several independent Sudanese newspapers have been closed down in recent months. The remaining independent news outlets are under constant threat over reporting on controversial issues.

"Many newspapers practise self-censorship, especially when it comes to a security issues such as protests," said Mr Khaled Saad, a journalist working for one of Sudan's best-selling newspapers.

Mr Saad stated that in addition to the restrictions faced by newspapers, they lacked resources to send reporters to most parts of the vast country.