The military coup of 25 October 2021 threw Sudan’s progression towards a just and democratic society into disarray. Violence is escalating at devastating levels in areas such as Darfur, and brutal crackdowns of pro-democracy protests by security forces continue to result in arbitrary arrests, kidnappings, incommunicado detention, deaths and injuries from gunfire and teargas. Women human rights defenders have been subjected to intersecting violations including, harassment and sexual violence, including rape by security forces.
Amidst this crisis, concerning instances of hate speech and incitement have arisen, both on and offline. At the same time, the leader of the coup and Commander-In-Chief of the Sudanese Armed Forces, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, has attempted to justify the internet shutdown on the grounds of preventing hate speech and racism. Clearly, there is a need to monitor, counter and disempower instances of hate speech and incitement, without capitulating to the military's manipulation of these phenomena.
1. Incitement to discrimination, hostility and violence in Red Sea State, East Sudan, January 2022
Author: Head of Justice & Equality Movement (FB following of 5,000 friends and 400+ followers)
Incitement Against: Pro-democracy defenders, Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) Inciting: Pro-military (pro-coup) protestors, and galvanising the armed forces and police
Timing: On the day of a pro-military protest
Concern level: High
#Millions_March_To_Support_Army_Forces_And_security_Forces “ I call upon the people of Sudan, especially the people of eastern Sudan, to come out and support the armed forces and the police forces because they are the shield of Sudan and without them the intelligence agencies of other countries will prevail. To the eastern Sudanese, you were and still are the protectors of Sudan. You are the skin that protects Sudan from the germs and microbes - the Forces for Freedom and Change, the Intelligence and their internal operators. So stand together- your armed force is our fort so do not allow anyone to break it, if your fort falls the nation will fall.”
- Abuthuma Oushek
Significance? This was a post on Facebook allegedly by the head of the Justice and Equality Movement in Red Sea State on 14 January 2022 - the day of planned nationwide demonstrations supporting the military in Sudan and the 25October coup. The targets of the hate speech were pro-democracy activists and politicians of the Forces of Freedom and Change– they are referred to as “germs” and “microbes”. In the aftermath of this post, on 17th January 2022, 7 civilians were killed by live ammunition of security forces during anti-coup peaceful protests, according to the Central Committee of Sudan Doctors (CCSD). This was the second deadliest day since the coup began.
2. Incitement to rape women pro-democracy protesters, Khartoum, January 2022
Author: University Professor
Inciting against: Women pro-democracy defenders Inciting: Male pro-military protestors Timing: Following a protest by women activists against sexual violence committed against them
Concern level: High
“If those men don’t rape you, there are two possibilities : Either they are not virile enough or they are just feminine and Tomorrow you’ll say you were shot or raped while your women were asleep”
- Prof. Ahmed Bushara Abu Seleiman
Significance? On 1 January 2022, University Professor Ahmed Bishara Abu Suleima
(Department of Psychology and Social Sciences at the Meroe College of Technology) called for the rape of female revolutionaries in an atmosphere of chaos and systematic violence against them by the security forces. The author cites a revolutionary song – in the original, one of the lyrics is “they kill us while the girls are asleep”.
The statement was posted on Facebook in the wake of the Women’s March of 23rd December 2021, which women activists organised to protest against sexual violence committed on 19th December during anti-military protests outside the presidential palace in Khartoum. The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) received 13 reports of rape and gang rape committed by security forces during the protest, although the real numbers are believed to be higher.
3. Incitement to violence by pro-democracy protester, Khartoum, November 2021.
Author: Pro-democracy protestor Inciting against: Security Forces Inciting: Pro-democracy movement
Timing: In response to the killings of pro-democracy protestors on 17 November 2021 Concern level: Low-medium
“There’s no indulgence at all, and anyone that has said this in the past I respond to them by saying, "No, we want blood on the streets." They dared to kill, knowing that they will be forgiven. I believe that when justice falls the first thing we need to do is walk to their homes, and wipe them out without trial or delay. They already know, because they know and we know of their crimes and we know they will be executed. We will kill them quickly and this will be true justice instead of trials and delays in time. The killing will have to be in the most horrible way. Not a quick death. Not a Merciful death Not a painless death.”
Significance? The target of this speech is the security forces. It was published via a Facebook post on 17 November 2021 by a pro-democracy protestor. It was in reaction to the use of excessive violence against pro-democracy protestors - including the killing of 16 protesters by the security forces in Khartoum on 17th November 2021. Whilst this case study posed no imminent threat according to the six-point test laid out in the Rabat Plan (for example, the speaker’s position was not one of influence), it nonetheless contributes to escalating levels of hate and polarisation in Sudanese society. In January 2022, Sudanese pro-democracy protestors were accused and arrested on the grounds of killing a police general (Brigadier). The image above shows a banner at a pro-democracy protest on 6 January 2022, which says: "We are coming to stop the long term violence on us. We are coming to cut your hand that stretched to kill us, to loot our resources and rape us."
4. Inciting violence against pro-democracy protesters, Khartoum, January 2022
Author: Abd Alrahman Amasaib, loyalist of former regime (over 10,000 followers on Clubhouse and just under 8,000 followers on Facebook)
Inciting against: Pro-democracy protestors
Inciting: Army and Security Forces
Timing: January 2022 in an atmosphere of increased violence towards pro-democracy protests Concern level: High
“When people came out in December, the end was overthrowing Al-Bashir through the coup. We told them that getting the teenagers [youth protestors] to return to their homes is very difficult, and it will cost a lot of bloodshed. You will need the bloodshed of thousands to make protestors return to their homes, so that the police regain their prestige, and the streets return to normality. Al-Burhan has not, so far, done what needs to be done. It is a very difficult decision, but it is what distinguishes a leader from a president, and a Marshall from a colonel…It is similar to al-Bashir’s decision, who understood that the presence of South Sudan in Sudan's 1956 map would ruin both the North Sudan and the South Sudan. Al Bashir took decisive action to free North Sudan of 11 million South Sudanese, who would been a heavy burden due to the new Sudan and the Africanaisation projects."
Significance? This was posted on Facebook in late December 2021 by Abd Alrahman Amasaib, a loyalist of the former regime. He campaigns for the Nahr (River) Movement) which calls for Arab tribes to unite and have their own State within Sudan purely for Arab tribes. His Facebook page is full of discriminatory, hateful and inciting posts (often against those who are dark skinned or from an ‘African’ ethnic background) and has almost 8,000 followers.
In referring to the ‘Africanisation’ programme, Amasaib is referring to the SPLM’s objective (before the secession of South Sudan) of a New Sudan, in which there would be no discrimination on the bases of race, ethnicity, culture, religion or gender. This was perceived negatively by some who saw it as a project aimed at ‘Africanising’ Sudan by enabling people of African ethnic background to rule Sudan.
The post was circulated widely on WhatsApp groups (including being shared in a WhatsApp group of former regime members of the National Congress Party) and was also reposted on Facebook in January 2022. Abd Alrahman Amasaib has a following of over 10,000 followers on Clubhouse (a social audio app where users can communicate in audio chat rooms that accommodate groups of thousands of people).
5. Inciting violence against former Transitional Government, Khartoum, October 2021
Author: Unknown (pro-military protestor) Inciting against: Former member of the Transitional Government Inciting: Pro-military protestors Timing: Around 16-17th October in the lead-up to the coup and at a time of high tension as pro-military protesters demanded the dissolution of Sudan's transitional government
Concern level: High
“Ibrahim Elshaikh, we will slash his face like the Shaigi with a knife or blade and then fill it with hot chilli…and after that we will cut him up into pieces and throw his body parts all over Sudan. The people in these places will burn his body parts and I will eat his liver.”
Significance? The speech was delivered by a woman during a sit-in in front of the presidential Palace in Khartoum, organized by a splinter faction of the Forces for Freedom and Change called the “National Accord Group”, which is made up of armed movements and others who were in opposition to the transitional government. At the sit-in, they called on the military to dissolve the transitional government. This pro-military protest began on 16th October 2021.
Ibrahim Elshaikh was the former Trade Minister and Leader of the Sudanese Congress Party (SCP) who were part of the Forces of Freedom and Change, which was part of the former transitional government. The SCP, and all the political parties in the FFC coalition, were accused by the military of not allowing other political parties to share power during the transitional period – military leaders and their supporters spread this view to advocate for the dissolution of the transitional government. This view was echoed by Burhan during his speech on 25 October 2021.
Ibrahim Elshaikh is not from the Shaigyah tribe, but the violence being incited against him refers to the traditional tribal marking custom of cutting three horizontal lines with a heated knife on the cheeks of Shaigyah people (now a dying custom). The Shaigyah tribe are from northern Sudan.
The phrase “I will eat his liver” has significance in Islamic history from the era of the Prophet Mohamed, namely narrations of the Battle of Uhud and the martyrdom of Hamza bin Abdul Muttalib (the uncle of the Prophet Mohamed). Hamza was killed by a man called Wahshi bin Harb, who slit his stomach and brought the liver to Hind bint Utbah, a woman who wanted revenge as Hamza had killed her uncle. She chewed Hamza's liver then spat it out, before mutilating Hamza and making anklets, necklaces and pendants from his body, and brought him and his liver to Mecca. In this context, then, the phrase “I will eat his liver” means to kill someone and mutilate them with much revenge and hate. It is possible that by addressing the crowd, this woman was inspired by and modelling herself on Hind bint Utbah, who is said to have climbed a rock and “shrieked at the top of her voice”: “I have slaked my vengeance and fulfilled my vow”.
This speech caused an imminent threat to pro-democracy politicians, journalists and civil society. In the aftermath of the sit-in, on October 23rd, a group of 50 protesters, armed with batons, attacked the Sudan News Agency (SUNA) headquarters, ahead of a scheduled press conference for the FFC. The agency building was located close to the sit-in at the Republican Palace. The FFC issued a statement, saying that “Members of the remnants of the ousted regime and the Republican Palace sit-in protestors stormed the Sudan News Agency (SUNA) to prevent a press conference for the Forces of Freedom and Change. The freedom for which Sudanese people paid for in blood will not be taken away by coup gangs.”
 Ibn Ishaq, Sirat Rasul Allah. Translated by Guillaume, A. (1955). The Life of Muhammad, p. 385.