In 2011, South Sudan gained independence, ending Africa’s longest running civil war; However, in 2013, a renewed conflict erupted, leaving millions displaced and in desperate need of basic necessities. Despite a peace deal in 2018, factional violence persists, affecting communities across the country.
Critics of the British government have pointed out the insufficiency of support provided by the UK in addressing the Sudanese refugee crisis. Despite assurances, the absence of concrete action has left vulnerable individuals in desperate situations. The call to replicate the Homes for Ukraine scheme for Sudanese refugees highlights the government’s failure to address the pressing humanitarian needs of those escaping persecution and violence, and the inherent bias behind the scheme.
In the heart of a humanitarian crisis, pregnant Sudanese refugees in Chad are facing an unimaginable ordeal as they give birth without adequate shelter or medical support. SCREENSHOT sat down with Mariam, a 29-year-old Sudanese mother hailing from Khartoum with family in the UK, who delved into the struggle of expecting mothers in Sudan, as well as highlighting their resilience amid dire circumstances. Her account of the hardships endured by her community is enough to send shivers down your spine.
Mariam told us that she lost her cousin, “We couldn’t even bury her, they threw her in a massive grave with other bodies inside. We found that out almost three months after her death. Our lives are meaningless for many, they can’t see or hear the bombs, they can’t see the death, so it’s better sometimes to close your eyes—at least until the enemy comes knocking on your door.”
This tragic story sheds light on the urgent need for assistance and draws attention to the plight of pregnant refugees who are navigating the challenges of giving birth in the middle of a war zone.
Amid the turmoil in Sudan, was a pregnant British woman who, alongside her family, found themselves stranded in the war-torn country, fearing she could give birth at any moment. Their story, along with the accounts of other women, further underscores the urgent need for safe routes and equitable assistance for refugees coming from the country.
Dr Krish Kandiah, director of the Sanctuary Foundation, which was instrumental in matching many British hosts with Ukrainian refugees, is now imploring the British government to extend the scheme to Sudanese refugees.
Thankfully, when it comes to the solidarity of other British citizens, there are still those who desire to do good. Speaking to The Guardian about Kandiah’s initiative, Cathy Ashley, a charity chief executive, and Mohammed Amin, a Sudanese refugee, both advocated for the establishment of safe routes for refugees from the Northeast African country.
Ashley explained that she previously hosted a young Ukrainian woman and now wishes to extend the same offer to Sudanese people, recognising the gravity of their plight. “I’ve enjoyed having her as part of our home and I want to be able to make that same offer available to those fleeing persecution in Sudan, because their need is as great,” she told the publication. “Without these safe routes, people are forced into terrifically desperate situations.”
Amin appealed for support for his sister and nephew, trapped in dire conditions in the country’s capital. Algaly Saeed, a long-time Sudanese resident in Britain, shared the same plea, yearning to reunite with his adult son. “All we ask is for the British people to help us like they did Ukrainians,” he said.
Kandiah’s proposal calls for an equitable method of assisting refugees. It is crucial to extend the same generosity of spirit and open hospitality to Sudanese people, in light of the 173,500 refugees who have successfully been hosted in people’s houses through the Homes for Ukraine scheme.
Stories like the ones of Mariam, Ashley, Amin, and Saeed remind us of our shared humanity and the transformative power of opening our hearts and homes to those in need. By embracing the opportunity to assist Sudanese refugees, Britain can demonstrate its commitment to humanitarian values.
As the voices advocating for the Homes for Sudan scheme grow louder, it’s essential for the UK government to work towards establishing safe routes and visa programmes that facilitate the integration of Sudanese refugees into our society.
You may have seen the hashtag #BlueforSudan trending on Instagram and Twitter, or perhaps you’ve seen people changing their profile photos to the colour blue. Sudan was in a blackout, while the world watched.
Earlier this month, Sudan’s military leaders have reached an agreement with the opposition alliance to share power until elections can be held. Until then, however, the country has faced deadly political unrest and since the military ousted President Omar al-Bashir in April, Sudan has been in turmoil. On 3 June 2019, what started as a peaceful protest resulted in the Khartoum Massacre (over 100 people killed and 70 raped). The internet in the country was almost completely cut off and censored, not only making it difficult to estimate the exact number of people killed and injured, but also making it almost impossible for the people of Sudan to share the hardships they were facing. Internet access has only been partially restored this week.
When an entire country has no means of communication to the rest of the world, and when every piece of information is censored, this inevitably leads to a delay in precise reportage from global news and media outlets. In this particular case, when the world failed to immediately report on a major crisis, social media used its power to take this story and make it go viral. If you’ve wondered why everyone’s Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter accounts suddenly turned blue, this was to pay tribute to all those who died in the disputes—including 26-year-old Mohammad Mattar, who was killed in the Khartoum Massacre. At the time of his death, Mattar’s profile picture was blue, what soon became a symbol of solidarity with Sudan.
Suddenly, the hashtags #BlueforSudan, #Sudan and #TurnTheWorldBlue all went viral, urging Western media and people to pay attention to the conflict happening. Sudanese New York-based beauty and lifestyle influencer Shahd Khidir played an active part in raising acknowledgement for this by using her platform. She has posted a powerful photo of herself crying, asking everyone to raise awareness and share on the atrocities happening—having to break from her regular scheduled brand posts. Speaking to Screen Shot about how brands have reacted to this, Shahd says that while some were understanding, others pulled out of campaigns not wanting to work with her again—”But I am not upset it was important for me to raise awareness about the Sudan revolution and in essence I don’t really need to do business with brands that don’t support me”. Shahd has taken on the role of a reporter to speak out on these issues when the civilians in Sudan had no way of doing so. Through her persistence and determination, she spoke for those who couldn’t have a voice.
“I definitely feel that social media has been effective in the Sudanese revolution”, says Daad. Daad, a make-up artist and beauty influencer from New York is also one of the Instagram personas whose activism was prominent in bringing recognition and believes that social awareness impacts and educates the public. It’s also important to note that social media bringing awareness also leads to the donations of funds and resources.
But whose responsibility is it really to share and raise awareness? Most importantly, as social media users, we are often judged for being too political or not enough. In that light, do we owe it to always use our voice, no matter how big or small? Selective empathy comes to mind. The immediate reaction to the Notre Dame fire was, rightfully, heavily criticised and compared to the Sudanese crisis. Yet, the most difficult aspect of this all is the fact that politicians all over the world shared messages of solidarity for a building but failed to do so for citizens of a suffering country. And, if we must choose somebody to blame for the lack of awareness, who better than those paid to stay on top of current affairs but who decide that these issues are not significant enough to report on?
As this is the internet after all, when a story begins to circulate on a scale as large as #blueforSudan, trolling, fake news and exploitation is inevitable. By now, you must have seen clickbait posts on your social media, promising that for every follow, like or repost, a meal would be provided for the “starving Sudanese children”. The now-deleted Instagram account @sudanmealproject managed to gain over 1.7 million likes on such a post. While we question how 1.7 million users fell for this idea, we also need to question the logistics of this and how a like can provide physical resources needed to help. Newsflash—it cannot.
How do Instagram accounts such as @sudanmealproject benefit from this? @exposinginstascams is an Instagram account that sheds light on fake news and accounts circulating on the platform. It has successfully exposed accounts attempting to exploit the Sudan crisis. Screen Shot spoke to the 14-year-old account owner—preferring to remain anonymous— who managed to get @sudanmealproject to confess that their intentions are certainly not in Sudan’s best interest, but for self-profit. “Lots of people changed their profile picture to blue to raise awareness, but they didn’t understand they weren’t really helping”, said the @exposinginstascams account-owner, adding that others were just trying “to gain followers and likes”. With substantial engagement, these accounts can gain from advertising and selling on their account. And unfortunately, it doesn’t end here. Just type in ‘Sudan’ and ‘meals’ into your search engines on Instagram and look at how many accounts come up.
Social media has helped bring awareness to the conflict in Sudan. It also presented us with fake news and fake charities trying to benefit from this, which took away credibility from the real issue. “I think that some people are always going to be opportunists and there’s not much we can do but remain concentrated on the bigger picture”, says Daad. And since it is impossible to put an end to the exploitation of people in crisis, we must remain focused on the mission of helping wherever we can.
Sometimes it takes a little more than updating our profile photos or Facebook statuses, but we can use our platforms for the greater good when needed, the same way millions of Instagram users have managed to help bring awareness to Sudan.