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Sudanese refugees in France: “physically here, mentally there”

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Wafaa is a 26-year-old girl who looks a little sad. She arrived in Paris a few weeks after the start of the conflict between the ruling army and paramilitary forces, already responsible for the deaths of at least 3,000 people, and applied for asylum as soon as she arrived in France. Like her, more than a million Sudanese have fled their shattered country since mid-April.

Graduated in French and Linguistics, Wafa has lived in Khartoum, the capital, where she worked for the NGO Solidarités International and remotely pursued a degree in Sociology from the University of Strasbourg. She is a precocious, smiling and determined activist. “During my studies at the university, I became acquainted with my rights and the concept of social justice. I felt the injustice we experienced in Sudanshe explained. Even if I am not there, giving moral support to the people who remain in Sudan and talking about them makes it possible to participate. »

sequel after announcement

Like many Sudanese, Wafaa has already participated in the 2018 and 2019 protests against the military regime of Omar al-Bashir, which has been in power since 1989. She was even part of the resistance committee in her neighborhood of Khartoum 2, in the south of the country. City. “I was very active there. These committees have a political role and a social role in helping the residents.”, Emphasizes. On April 15, the morning of the conflict, Wafaa was awakened by a call from her sister, who heard gunshots. “When I went out into the street, I heard the sounds of shelling and saw people running, I quickly ran back home and closed my windows,” Says.

Wafaa Adam, on June 26 in Paris, at the friend’s house. A graduate of French Sociology and Linguistics, this student had fled Carthom, upon the outbreak of conflict, to join France. (Louisa Penn, “The OBS”)

Panicked, she locked herself with her neighbors in one of the apartments in her building for just over a week: “If I go out, I risk death.” when it’s 7H The floor was bombed, Wafaa and his neighbors decided to flee. Just before the war broke out, she had been granted a visa to France to take licensing exams, which had to be taken face-to-face: “I didn’t want to risk missing my university year and in Khartoum there was nothing left, and it became impossible to work there.” The journey to France began through Ethiopia. Part of her family fled to Egypt, a neighboring country.

“We thought we had to do something.”

We met her on May 29, shortly after she arrived in Paris. Then the young woman attended a ball at the Flèche d’Or, on the 20thH Paris neighborhood organized by the Sudanese Collective Against the War. The association consists of one hundred members and has set itself the task of informing the international community of the situation in Sudan and collecting funds and donations for the victims of the conflict. On stage, Wafaa translates speeches into Arabic. One by one, Sudanese refugees recount the war, culture, music and gastronomy of their country. She trusts:

“When I arrived in France, I was tired and despondent, and I told myself that such an election campaign here would not work. Now I think the opposite, I am sure it can help.”

Not far from the stage, Amar, 32, who works as a salesman, runs the crowdsourced information platform. This young man, reserved at first sight, is very active in the Sudanese trade union milieu in France: “I am a member of the Parisian Lumière du Soudan Society [qui vise entre autres, à soutenir la transformation démocratique au Soudan et la construction d’un Etat citoyen, NDLR]. Every year, in Ramadan, we organize Iftar at the Refugee House, on the 14thH Paris constituency, for all Sudanese, He says. This year, the evening of April 15th, the day the war broke out, fell. “When we met, we said we had to do something. This is how the idea for the group was born. »

sequel after announcement

Ammar, a Sudanese refugee and activist inside the Sudanese anti-war rally, at his home, June 19, in Paris.
Ammar, a Sudanese refugee and activist inside the Sudanese anti-war rally, at his home, June 19, in Paris. (Louisa Penn for “Oops”)

Ammar is from Port Sudan, a port city on the Red Sea, where he earned a degree in computer science. His face gets tense and remains fuzzy when he talks about his son who stayed with part of his family. He worked for a few years in Saudi Arabia and then, after crossing the Mediterranean on a makeshift boat, arrived in France in 2016, where he lived for several months in the forest » From Calais – in the vain hope of reaching the UK – before receiving refugee status.

Open war between generals

Sudan has faced chaos for years. In April 2019, after months of mobilization across the country, the military overthrew Omar al-Bashir. He announced the formation of a transitional government of soldiers and civilians headed by Abdel-Fattah Al-Burhan and Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo as Vice-President. Hamidti »Commander of the Paramilitary Rapid Support Forces Group.

In the fall of 2021, against the backdrop of an increasingly severe economic and social crisis, Al-Burhan dissolves the government and expels the civilians. A year and a half later, his attempt to reverse the politico-military balance between the army and the RSF led to open warfare between the two generals.

On French soil, the mobilization of Sudanese refugees is multiplying everywhere in France. Fouad, 29, is a member of the Gothic Association, based in Marseille. Originally from Nyala in Darfur, he also fought against the old regime while he was a student in Khartoum, before leaving to continue his studies in France (he is now a PhD student in political science). Founded in 2018, the association aims to help Sudanese arriving in Marseille: We know very well that most of them have problems with the French language, which hinders them in their administrative procedures. There are a lot of Sudanese who do not get refugee status because of this.” The young man is indignant. The association also started educating as many people as possible about the situation in Sudan and helping the war victims. “Even if I am not there, giving moral support to the people who remain in Sudan and talking about them allows us to participate,” Fouad explains.

Alaa Salah, the icon of the Sudanese revolution: “I am from a stubborn generation.”

Wafaa expresses her concern about her friends who stayed there. ” When I wake up in the morning, the first thing I do is call my loved ones and see if they are okay. If no one responds, panic. I am physically here, but mentally in Sudan. » The three young men still hoped the situation would improve. “This hope will never die.” “December Revolution” [la vague de protestations et de manifestations qui ont éclaté fin 2019 contre la cherté de la vie et pour le départ d’Omar el-Béchir] not finished “Amar concludes.

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