Story appeared front page on The Peninsula
They’re about to loose their homeland. Some even say it’s not home anymore. If home is a place where someone feels comfort, security, equality and freedom, they are not feeling it. Tension, terror and conflict engulf this home. It’s browbeaten, aggravated and divided. Many face prejudice, frustration and isolation. It’s a crisis⎯social, economic, and political⎯that will soon transform into a catastrophe. And that’s what it is for many of the 35,000 Sudanese who live in Qatar. The political turmoil that’s tearing their homeland apart is estranging them from their country to the point of no return.
“I will never go back to Sudan,” said Mohamed Osman, a 61-year-old medical biochemist who has been living in Qatar for around 16 years. “There is lack of security, a low standard of living, and a nonexistent secular government.” He states that the government fails to satisfy a multi-cultured country by forcing the religion, Islam, on all its citizens. Sudan, being one of the world’s most ethnically diverse countries with a population of 41,087,825, is 70 percent Muslim, 25 percent indigenous beliefs and five percent Christian. Fifty-two percent are Africans, while 39 percent are Arabs.
Sudan, the world’s geographically largest African and Arab country, may split if the people in the south vote in a January 2011 referendum to separate from the north, and form the world’s newest state. The north and the south have been battling each other since independence in 1956, which has left approximately 1.5 million Sudanese dead. This referendum is shaking the Afro-Arab’s stability. If the south decides to secede then both regions will reach economic stagnation. Much of Sudan’s six billion oil barrels lie in the south but the distribution network is in the north, which makes the two parts of the country economically interdependent. The referendum is highly emotional for both northerners and southerners that could drag them into war again because of the lack of clarity on the status of citizenship, wealth sharing, borders and the oil areas. The severance of the south from the rest of Sudan could be the grounds for other regions in Sudan to ask for separation too. Regions like the Upper Nile, Abeyi, Southern Kordofan, and Darfur and the rest of the western region, like the South, have been criticizing the Sudanese government for decades for being negligent of them and discriminatory.
“The majority think that the south will go, and that Sudan is going to war,” said the counselor of the Embassy of Sudan in Qatar, Emad Hijazi. The views the Sudanese community in Qatar reflect the views of their fellow countrymen in Sudan. “People are not very optimistic. People feel that the south will go and this regime will be shaken by the problems it causes,” said Amin Mekki, a Sudanese lawyer, political analyst and human rights activist, who currently lives in Sudan. “You go everywhere, a house where there’s a wedding or a funeral, or just when people are sitting talking with friends, that’s all they talk about⎯the misery. They are talking about leaving the country. To get out of it.”
To leave Sudan is the question the people in Sudan are asking themselves now, but for the Sudanese people in Qatar, it’s about whether they should return to their motherland. “I think we should forget about Sudan,” Mohamed Al Sharif, a 31-year-old Sudanese engineer. “We shouldn’t go back.” In his eyes, Sudan needs stability, a democracy, and proper infrastructure and education. Al Sharif also believes that Sudan lacks security. “I can’t be sitting at home and feeling unsafe. That’s not home,” he said upsettingly. Although Al Sharif doesn’t see Sudan as home, he doesn’t see Qatar as home either, though he has been living in Qatar for approximately 18 years. “I think I’ll go back to the UK…I can be free. I can do whatever,” he said. However, his family members do not hold British passports and they don’t like the idea of letting go of their nationality. “My brother says we have to go back [to Sudan] because it’s our home, our motherland,” said Al Sharif. “My father says he’s going back to Sudan, maybe in five years. It’s his home.” Being the youngest in his family, Al Sharif’s mindset differs. His generation and the ones that come after his are witnessing the darkest days of Sudan. “Our generation is gone,” he confessed. “We’ll never experience a better Sudan.”
Although Al Sharif and Mekki are generations apart, they both see the young generation as the lost generation. “There is no inspiration for the young people. The young people are lost. Our children are now miserable. They don’t know what to do…they don’t feel a sense of belonging,” articulated Mekki.
“It’s a state that is vanishing and disappearing…it’s a gloomy picture! We’ve gone from civil war to gradual decay of the state,” Osman believes about Sudan, and the country’s condition after the January 2011 referendum. “I don’t know what’s going to happen but it will be a catastrophe.” After living in Qatar for almost two decades, Canada is his next destination because he holds the passport, and his three sons will probably follow in his footsteps.
Al Sharif akin to Osman foresees a future of uncertainties. They both paint the darkest picture for Sudan. “We don’t know what’s going happen,” said Al Sharif. “It’s going to turn ugly even in Khartoum itself. Years ago, civil wars were only in the south but now, there’s a war everywhere.”
Mekki’s words too are despairing of Sudan’s imminent days. “It’s a long struggle. It’s a long way…things have to get worse before they get better,” he concludes. Sudan’s future is ambiguous. A failed state it is indeed, but is it descending to a collapsed state? The path Sudan is grasping on to isn’t unconventional. It could just be the next Somalia where tens of thousand have parted from their homeland and found a new and better home someplace else.
Publishing this story was probably the best and worst thing that has happened to me and my sources. Days after this story was published I was meant to travel to Sudan but couldn’t because the Embassy of Sudan warned me that I might be in danger. According to the people who’re anti-the-article, I’m defaming my country. According to the embassy and my father, I’m blacklisted in Sudan. I was told that the article reached the security department in Sudan, and my sources and I have been filed (If that makes sense). It’s not just me who’s in trouble but also the people whom I interviewed in my article. They are the ones I fear for. The only fault I think I made is speaking to people who knew my father therefore, when I interviewed them they didn’t consider that it was a formal interview. I even made a mistake that I should have said “many of the 35,000” so people have been mislead. But as you continue to read the article I emphasize that I mean “majority of the Sudanese population in Qatar” are not thinking of going back to Sudan especially because of Sudan’s political climate. The counselor from the Sudanese embassy also knew my father (That’s how I got his number-pretty sure my father won’t make that mistake again). After the article was published, he completely denied the interview and said that I “clearly have prejudice.” Until today, I haven’t been to Sudan (Haven’t had the opportunity too). Honestly, I am scared but it’s not going to stop me from going back. I don’t believe I’m “blacklisted,” and probably, people have moved on and forgotten about it. They have much bigger problems to deal with.
Read how my article was confronted http://www.thepeninsulaqatar.com/qatar/138177-most-sudanese-in-qatar-support-government-stance.html