Updated: Mar 12
Thousands of Sudanese students have entered their second day of protests following the death of a student in North Kordofan, central Sudan.
Abubakar Hassan, 18, was killed on Monday at Kordofan University by a gunshot wound to the head after intelligence agents opened fire on students taking part in a peaceful march.
The students were walking to the student union building to nominate proopposition candidates for their campus elections, said Amnesty International. A further 27 students were reported to be injured after the clashes, five of them seriously.
“We gathered at 5 AM to submit our candidates then suddenly they fired live bullets at us,” said Mohammed Shaga, a 24-year-old medical student at the university. Another student told Amnesty that he saw the intelligence agencies arrive in 15 pickup trucks armed with AK47 rifles and start shooting at the crowd.
“The students fell down one-by-one. Among them was Hassan,” Shaga added.
By Wednesday, students from the universities in Kordofan and Khartoum took to the streets to protest against Hassan’s killing and show solidarity with his family.
The following day, students at the Red Sea University in east Sudan and the University of Nayala in South Darfur state marched in protest, calling for the Sudanese government to conduct an investigation into the incident.
In an attempt to quell unrest, the authorities cancelled classes and used teargas on protesters. Samir Abdulaziz, a student at Red Sea, said the protesters had to take shelter on campus after being bombarded.
Last week, in an unrelated incident, students at Khartoum University went on strike after hearing that the government was planning to relocate their university.
According to political analyst and author Fathi El Daw, more than 100 students have been killed at Sudanese universities since the country’s authoritarian leader, Omar al-Bashir, seized power in an Islamist-backed military coup 27 years ago.
Daw said the government had the worst record for cracking down on students in modern Sudanese history. Bashir keeps students repressed because of their potential role in disrupting government, he added. “Students overthrew two dictators in Sudan, in 1964 and in 1985,” he said.
Daw’s book Spider House, which chronicles the harsh treatment of students at the hands of the authorities, has been banned from the country.
Since January, the government has used extreme force against students in Darfur, Khartoum and Kordofan. One student was killed at El-Geneina University in West Darfur.
“The government has to solve the students’ issues [by engaging in] dialogue with them, otherwise the students will overthrow it, as they have done before,” warned Haj Hamad, a political science professor at El Zaeem al Azhari University in Khartoum.
Amnesty International has called for an immediate investigation into Hassan’s killing.
“This violent attack is yet another shocking episode in a series of human rights violations against university students across Sudan and underlines the government’s determination to put out the last vestiges of dissent,” said the rights group’s regional director, Muthoni Wanveki.
*This article originally appeared in The Guardian Newspaper.