Commentary repression in sudan: tiananmen becomes the rule

The fall of al-Bashir was the success of a courageous protest movement. But it is now being crushed and left alone by the world.

People stood their ground for months against state violence, seen here protesting in April Photo: reuters

Many people could hardly believe it when one of the world’s most murderous rulers, Omar Hassan al-Bashir in Sudan, was deposed on April 11 after thirty years of terror. The regime change, carried out by Sudan’s military, represented the triumph of a popular movement that had dared to take the dream of a free society to the streets.

For months, they bravely stood their ground against state violence: courageous women, self-confident human rights activists, militant unions, intrepid youth. They not only dreamed of freedom, they lived it in their carnivalesque mass rallies and happenings that amazed the world for weeks – and made autocrats tremble.

Now the dream is over for the time being. Like June 4, 1989 in China, June 3, 2019 in Sudan will go down in the history books as a black day – a day when the hopes of an entire people were drowned in blood. The military turned the revolution against the people. Bashir was obviously the pawn whose elimination now helps the other generals in Khartoum to carry their power over into a new era – an era in which, however, the people are to have just as little say as they did before. Bashir is gone; his system of violence is to remain.

It is still too early to tell whether this cynical game will work. If it were that simple, Sudan’s generals would not have to wage war against their own people for decades. The fact that they now have to wage this war in the middle of Khartoum can also be seen as a sign of weakness. It could just as easily turn against them in the end. Sudan’s system of violence is not particularly stable.

It is not only the dream of a free Sudan that is about to be destroyed in Khartoum

So there is still a spark of hope. But it can quickly burn out. For the shameful part of the whole story is the lack of international support for Sudan’s democracy movement. As was the case at the start of the revolt against Assad in Syria eight years ago, those in Sudan who bravely stand up for freedom in the face of gunfire are now being left alone. The world watches them die. And just as in Syria, Sudan’s generals receive active support from their friends abroad – but the people receive nothing.

Piece by piece, country by country, a very unattractive new international order is emerging in this way, in which Tiananmen stands for the rule and not for the exception. It is not only the dream of a free Sudan that is about to be destroyed in Khartoum. It is also the dream of a better world.

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