Libya: A Precursor
I didn’t know it yet, but this would be my first taste of the Libyan revolution.
With such sensitivities around protests in Sudan, it was with a healthy dose of trepidation that I drove over to the Libyan embassy in Riyadh, Khartoum’s rich, eastern district. I had got word that some people would be demonstrating about the events unfolding in Libya, and was curious to see what would happen.
Arriving at the embassy, there was no-one but a few heavy-looking security officials at the door. This was not a good sign, and being a khawaja with a camera, one tends to stand out a lot in Khartoum at the best of times.
After more driving around, wondering if I would catch sight of a group marching Libyans, I returned to the embassy as a handful of Egyptians arrived, print-outs of slogans in Arabic taped to their chests. It was Egyptian tricolours that they held, not the green of Qaddafi’s flag.
Photographing them as they stood on the pavement opposite the embassy, one o the heavies crossed the road to come and speak to us. “This is it”, I thought. But he seemed relatively uninterested in my gear as I prepared to show my Press Pass from the ministry.
And then I was bundled into the back of a pick-up truck with some of the protestors. With my limited Arabic, and their limited English, I knew not where we were headed, and I questioned how I could explain my association with them if we were stopped by Khartoum’s heavy-handed police, en-route.
And then we arrived outside the main building of the Sudan Students’ Union and a large crowd had formed. I have never seen anything like this in Khartoum.
“Today this demonstration is called for by the Sudanese and Egyptians to support the Libyan people to help remove Qaddafi and his government.”
This, as one of the student leaders told me, was what those assembled were risking their freedom for. They wanted to demonstrate their belief that Qaddafi should not “kill Islamic people, the important thing for humans is freedom”. Freedom. An interesting concept for those living under the Khartoum regime.
“We are annoyed that he [Qaddafi] is using planes and helicopters to kill people” they told me, and that they are wish to show that “all the Arab nations are with the Libyan people and their struggle against Qaddafi”.
And then it all melted away. Students piled into mini-buses, cars drove away, flags hanging out of windows, and I was left in another empty street in Khartoum, with my camera, some photos and my freedom.