On Friday, September 16, opponents of the Sudanese regime will gather in front of the United Nations in New York City to call for its downfall. President Omar Bashir has been indicted for his campaigns of genocide, and he has promised to transform Sudan into a Sharia state where Islam is the only law of the land. The regime is an ally of Iran and Hamas, and it is time to start supporting the West’s friends that seek to topple it while preventing a Muslim Brotherhood takeover.
The five-hour press release states that over 85 percent of the population is oppressed, and the organizers call on the international community to help overthrow the regime. The activists say they need help to start “paving the way for a democratic, peaceful transformation and bringing justice, equality, and the rule of law, as well as fully recognizing and respecting the ethnic, religious, and cultural diversity of Sudan.”
The demonstration comes as Sudan is becoming even more unstable, even though South Sudan has officially seceded. President Bashir declared martial law in Blue Nile, and replaced the governor with a military appointee. The elected governor was opposed to his regime, and was part of the opposition group, Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N). In South Kordofan, an SPLM-N candidate withdrew in the governor’s race because of the regime’s vote-rigging. Now, Bashir has officially banned the SPLM-N. Being a member of the opposition group is now a crime that you can be put into jail for.
The regime became more aggressive in crushing dissent because of the Arab Spring. Students around the country, including in Khartoum, demonstrated against the government and were jailed and attacked, often with knives. Female activists struggling for women’s rights were quickly arrested as the frightened regime acted to prevent an uprising. A 2008 U.S. embassy document has been released by Wikileaks that reveals that the top businessman in Sudan has turned on the regime, saying “A lot of people feel it is time for this government to go.” Bashir declared that he will not seek another term as president, but that still leaves him in power until 2015.
He has also tried to blame his domestic problems on South Sudan, and is threatening war with the newly-formed country over the oil-rich Abyei region. The U.N. is demanding a halt to air strikes on civilians in South Kordofan, where there is a large Christian population and churches are being burnt to the ground. Brad Philips of the Persecution Project Foundation says 70-90,000 people may die in the next two months because the regime has cut off aid to the area. The SPLM-N is asking the U.N. to impose a no fly zone, a position supported by Vice President Joe Biden when he was running for president in 2007.
The Bashir regime also poses a national security threat to the West. Sudan allows the Iranian Revolutionary Guards to run an arms pipeline to Hamas through its territory, resulting in Israeli airstrikes in the country. The Interior Minister admits that supplies for Hamas comes through the country, but says this is the work of “gangs.” In April 2009, members of Hezbolllah that were arrested in Egypt for planning to attack Israeli targets said they were going to send operatives for training in Sudan. In June 2010, a newspaper editor was arrested after disclosing that Iran has a weapons factory in Khartoum used for arming Hamas, the Houthi rebels in Yemen, and Somali extremists. The regime may also be looking into nuclear weapons, as it plans to construct a reactor by 2020. In 2006, Ayatollah Khamenei was in Khartoum when he declared Iran’s intention to share its nuclear technology with Islamic allies.
The Bashir regime deserves to fall because of its savagery and alliances with Iran and Hamas. However, like in all of the other countries affected by the Arab Spring, the Muslim Brotherhood could replace it. In an effort to please his Islamist opponents after allowing South Sudan to become independent, Bashir announced that he’d make his country a true Sharia state. Arabic will be the only language and Sharia will be the only legislation. This appeasement failed, as Brotherhood leader Hassan al-Turabi, is still advocating Bashir’s overthrow.
Turabi has been a major Islamist spiritual leader, working to bring together Sunni and Shiite extremists into a grand alliance. He was the one who invited Osama Bin Laden to come stay in Sudan in the early 1990s. Protests immediately erupted this year when the Bashir regime arrested him, resulting in his release. When Osama Bin Laden was killed, 1,000 Sudanese chanted “Death to America.”
Faith McDonnell of the Institute on Religion and Democracy and a speaker at the September 16 rally, told FrontPage that “The only way the Muslim Brotherhood would come to power is if the Obama Administration and the rest of the west, UN, etc. obstruct rather than support the SPLM/A-North and the great leaders of that movement.” She also said that the situation is different than in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.
“We have a lot more reason to believe that we will see true democracy (secular, not Shariah) and religious freedom for all, emerge in Sudan because almost 90 percent of the population of Sudan is comprised of marginalized, black, African people groups…We even have seen an exciting and very brave movement for freedom and democracy among young Arab Sudanese in the Khartoum area,” McDonnell said.
On September 16, the voices for a free, democratic Sudan will be heard in New York City. The West should listen. There may be concerns about a policy of regime change, but there is no excuse for not reaching out to the West’s allies seeking to combat both dictatorship and radical Islam.