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On 6 January, professors and students from Khartoum University, the oldest and most prestigious university in Sudan, joined anti-government protests for the first time since their outbreak. The demonstrations against President Omar al-Bashir, who seized power after a coup d’état in 1989, started last December in different cities as a result of people’s resentment over the government’s socio-economic policies leading to severe inflation and unemployment. The current demonstrations are posing the first serious threat to al-Bashir’s government in all these years of ruling.
Sudanese security forces prevented some professors from Khartoum University from joining the protests by blocking around 100 of them in a campus building from nearly three hours and arresting at least eight, as local sources and eyewitnesses reported. According to Amnesty International, 37 people were killed by security forces during the protests, including at least five students. Other students were injured during fights at Khartoum University. Student demonstrations sparked also at other university campuses, including the Omdurman Islamic University, the National Ribat University and Sudan University of Science and Technology, which is the largest public university in Sudan. It is reported that the Sudanese Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research suspended lectures in all HEIs in Khartoum State from 22 December onward. Other universities outside Khartoum also announced their temporary closure.
As protests continue across the country, becoming more violent and widespread, with children and medical staff among the victims, various human rights groups and organisations, including Scholars at Risk, expressed their concern over security authorities’ use of force to disperse protesters and repress the exercise of fundamental rights such as freedom of expression and academic freedom.
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