When United to End Genocide co-sponsored the “We Choose Peace” rally in front of the White House this past weekend Sudanese and South Sudanese diaspora, students, and faith leaders joined together in a call for peace in Sudan and South Sudan. The mood was festive with Sudanese musicians performing, but my ears perked up when I heard the calls of “Free Rudwan!”
I had met Rudwan Dawod, a Sudanese man from Oregon, just two weeks ago in South Sudan. He was just returning from surveying the grounds for a church-building project and told me about his history of building schools with NBA-legend and fellow Sudanese Manute Bol. What was even more remarkable was the fact that Rudwan was a Muslim from Darfur. He wanted to be a part of sowing the seeds of reconciliation in a land with a recent history of war.
Rudwan and I discussed the small, but ongoing peaceful protests that have been taking place in Sudan since last month. He is a member of the Sudanese non-violent pro-democracy student-led movement known as Girifna (meaning “We’re fed up”). Rudwan told me that after our meeting he would be flying to Khartoum to take part in the protests. I remember asking him if he thought that was a good idea given the Sudanese regime’s track record for arresting protestors. He told me he fully recognized the risks, but that there was no way he was not going to show his support.
One week ago, Rudwan was detained by the Sudanese authorities for participating in the peaceful demonstrations. This week he showed up for a trial where in a quick exchange he was able to tell friends that he had been tortured. Rudwan is being charged with “criminal organization and terrorism”, a crime punishable by death.
When Rudwan told me he was heading to Khartoum despite the dangers I was impressed by his courage. Now that I have learned of his current fate, I am overcome with outrage, but also with hope.
As Tom Prichard — who was working with Rudwan at Sudan Sunrise — told me, the government of Sudan has made a great tactical error in targeting Rudwan. Members of Girifna agree. As Ibrahim Babiker, who was quoted in a Nick Krisof blog by Sudan Sunrise Chairman John Zogby, stated, “Instead of believing that protestors are terrorists, through Rudwan people will see our vision for a better future.”
For the sake of Rudwan, the over a thousand others detained and the millions more that have suffered under the Sudanese regime, I hope that he is right.