Behind the trending #ReleaseTheArtists Story

Story by: Muhanned Bedawi

Edited by: Hadeel Mohammed

On Thursday 10th of September 2020, a group of artists have been arrested amid a play rehearsal. These artists are a part of the “Civic Lab” also known as “FEED Arts”, an independent cultural and artistic scene that works to document the events of the December Revolution that overthrew the government of Omar al-Bashir. Ms. Duaa Tariq, Mr. Abdel Rahman Mohamed Hamdan, Mr. Ayman Khalaf Allah Mohamed Ahmed, Mr. Ahmed Elsadig Ahmed Hammad, Mr. Hajooj Mohamed Haj Omar have been physically assaulted by their neighbors followed by their immediate arrest by the police. None of the neighbors were arrested!

Feed arts group during a performance

On the following Sunday, the Khartoum Central District Court sentenced the five members of the “Feed” Art Center to two months in prison; alongside paying a fine of 5000 sdgs, on charges of “disturbing public peace” and “public nuisance,” articles 69 and 77  of the criminal code, for chanting pro-democracy slogans whilst being held at the police station. According to the judge in the defense team, an appeal can be made against the verdict within 15 days after its issuance.

This case has captured wide attention as it highlights the abusive tactics that are still used by police and security officials amid the new era Sudan has entered. At the police station, an officer assaulted Duaa Tarig when she objected to him recording the arrests on his phone. Duaa filed a complaint of harassment by a police officer amid arrest, but authorities have yet to take action! Sources also confirmed that Hajooj Kuka, an internationally-acclaimed filmmaker and activist, was also physically abused by the police, and even cut part of his hair – a well-known humiliation tactic under al-Bashir’s government, which authorities used during the government’s bloody crackdown on protesters in Khartoum in June 2019.

A previous complaint was filed against “FEED Arts” on the 10th of August; by residents of the Zuhur district in Khartoum, over the auditions they conducted at their headquarters and the violation of the ban imposed by Covid-19.

The five convicted artists are currently serving their sentence in a prison in Omdurman and appealing the ruling. The court is expected to render its verdict on the remaining six this week.

The Art community has joined in support of the artists demanding the release of the artists and dropping of all charges against them!  Authorities should address the longstanding problem of police brutality, investigate abuses, and hold those responsible to account. They should introduce safeguards to prevent authorities using vague “disturbing public peace” and “public nuisance” provisions to restrict freedoms of expression and assembly.  

#RELEASETHEARTISTS

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