Australia

Missing friends, sleepless nights: Sudanese-Australians protest blackout back home

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Decked out in blue and banging drums, hundreds of people have rallied in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne to raise awareness about the military crackdown in Sudan.

Members of the Australian Sudanese community say they've been left sleepless, frustrated and worried because they haven't been able to reach family members back home thanks to a communications blackout imposed by the Sudanese military.

Dozens of protesters gathered in Sydney’s Hyde Park in a peaceful protest on Saturday to raise awareness about the deteriorating situation in Sudan, where a brutal military crackdown on June 3 is believed to have led to the murders of more than 100 protesters in Khartoum. 

Sydney protesters ink their hands in red and stamp it on a banner to show solidarity with the Sudanese people.
Sydney protesters ink their hands in red and stamp it on a banner to show solidarity with the Sudanese people.
SBS News

In Melbourne, more than 100 people protested outside the State Library calling for an end to military rule, and for the UN and African Union to reconsider pulling out peacekeeping forces at the end of June.

A rally was also held in Brisbane, with an estimated 150 people attending. 

Protesters rally in Brisbane for Sudan.
Protesters rally in Brisbane for Sudan.
Supplied

Sudan has been under an internet blackout for three weeks, frustrating worried family members in Australia.

For Yousif Ali, from the Sudanese Revolution Committee, it’s been a desperate wait for news about family members, who all reside in Sudan.

He says the blackout has left him sleepless.

Yousif Ali, from the Sudanese Revolution Committee.
Yousif Ali, from the Sudanese Revolution Committee.
SBS News

“It’s very hard for me to have a good sleep since they blocked out the internet,” Mr Ali told SBS News on Saturday.

“Whenever I get any call in the middle of the night the first thing that came (sic) to my mind is I have lost my friend or one of my family. It’s very hard.”

Sydney-based Azza Elssaid says some of her friends have gone missing.

“I’m very worried about what is happening to them,” she said.

“We don’t know what is happening inside Khartoum and inside Sudan - not only family, even friends.”

Sudanese Australian Azza Elssaid has been unable to reach her friends.
Sudanese Australian Azza Elssaid has been unable to reach her friends.
SBS News

For Giddo Ishag it’s not just the internet that appears to be blocked – he’s also having trouble with the phone lines.

After trying several times over the week to get through only to realise the line had been disconnected, he finally was able to briefly speak to his father on Friday.

“It was only for a few minutes. So that’s really very sad,” he said.

“I’m very worried because (it’s) the only (way) I can get into contact my family.

“Every morning I check my phone … but there is nothing there.”

Ali Elgalad from the Sydney Sudanese Youth group says the blackout has not just made receiving news about family members difficult, but appears to be a ploy to prevent news about the military crackdown from spreading overseas.

“It’s made it very difficult for information about what's happening on the ground to be shared internationally as well.”

Protesters in Sydney called for regime change and an independent investigation into the military’s actions against protesters on June 3.

Protest organiser Amalia El-Achrafi said what was happening in Sudan was a global issue not just a national one.

“We have a humanitarian crisis,” she said. 

“This isn't a fight for the Sudanese. It's a fight for humanity. Everybody needs to get on board." 

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