Huwaida Medani lives and works in Halifax, but her mind is 11,000 kilometres away in Sudan.
Every day, she is split between two realities: her life in Canada and the fate of those back home, risking their lives in peaceful demonstrations.
But here, it seems like no one knows what is happening in Sudan.
“I start crying on the bus going home because I have to be professional and do my job at work,” said Medani. “And I stop crying on the bus coming to downtown Halifax to go to my work.”
To raise awareness and support for demonstrators in Sudan, Medani organized a rally that took place Thursday. It was attended by about 30 people, each holding signs calling for an end to Omar Al-Bashir’s 30-year rule.
Al-Bashir came into power through a military coup in 1989. Since then, he has controlled every aspect of life in Sudan, said Khalid Ahmed, a professor of African studies at the University of Toronto.
“The protesters seem to be unafraid anymore of the government, even though the government has been using live bullets to disperse them,” said Ahmed in an interview Wednesday. “People are no longer intimidated by the government.”
The demonstrations in Sudan started on Dec. 19 as a reaction to worsening economic conditions. They quickly turned into a call for the end of Al-Bashir’s autocratic rule.
Since then, 29 demonstrators have been killed, according to Sudanese officials.
‘This is my community’
For over a month, Medani has been in emotional turmoil.
“This is my community,” Medani said of Nova Scotia. “I want it to feel what I feel because I feel what this community feels.”
Medani moved to Canada in 2005. She returned to Halifax from a three-month trip to Sudan in September, mere months before the protests began. She hopes to bring the two communities together and garner even more support for the protests.
Another rally organizer, Rafeeda Khashmelmous, agrees with Medani about the need for awareness. As a Sudanese Canadian, Khashmelmous grew up in Canada but has many relatives in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum.
“Being in Canada, we want to show people back home that we also support what they’re doing,” said Khashmelmous, a fourth-year medical science student at Dalhousie University. “It feels a bit weird because you want to reach out, but you feel like you need to be on the ground in order to actually make some change.”
For some, like Sharon MacDonald, the rally was a way to support their Sudanese Canadian peers. Most of what she knows about the demonstrations came from the Facebook posts of a Sudanese friend in Nova Scotia.
“I essentially came out to support her and the community because I know it’s a serious situation there,” said MacDonald.
Medani’s ultimate goal is for the demonstrators in Sudan to succeed. But for now, she just wants some support.
“I want the Canadian government to show international leadership to stop the killing, the abuse and the aggression that is happening every single moment in Sudan,” said Medani.
“I want them to say ‘hey Sudan government, we see you, we know what you’re doing; stop doing it.’”