Omar Ismail sang a revolutionary song as he frisked people before letting them pass a barricade of bricks and twisted metal in the capital city of Khartoum last week. It was past 10 o’clock at night, but people still streamed toward the massive sit-in outside the country’s military headquarters, where thousands of protesters calling for a new government have been camped since April 6.
Ismail confiscated any potential weapons and checked identification cards. If any government officials aligned with the previous regime of President Omar al-Bashir, security forces, or members of Islamist student groups tried to enter, he would arrest them, he said.
“The law here is our law,” said Ismail, 21, who before the revolution studied software engineering at a local university. “The law here is freedom.”
The sit-in, a sprawling collection of tents, stages, kitchens, and checkpoints that stretches for nearly a mile on the streets of Khartoum, has become the heart of an unprecedented uprising seeking to remake one of the world’s most oppressed countries.
What started in December as a bread riot in a small industrial town outside Khartoum, snowballed into a nationwide movement — and one of the world’s largest and most impressive nonviolent mass actions in recent memory. It reached its zenith on April 11, when Sudan’s Islamist dictator, Omar al-Bashir, failed to break up the sit-in and was forced from power in a military coup. Al-Bashir had ruled Sudan since seizing power in 1989, and his reign was marked by civil war, accusations of genocide in the country’s Darfur region, a collapsed economy, and the secession of the nation’s southern half.
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