Hawa Suleiman: Student Subjected to Severe Torture During Detention in Khartoum
Published: 25 Nov 2014
There is considerable concern about the well-being of Hawa Suleiman , a young activist and a student at Alzaiem Alazhari University arrested during the eviction of Zahra Women’s Dormitory in Khartoum by the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) forces during Eid al-Adha holiday (5/6 October 2014). Suleiman was arrested along with 17 other student activists, yet remained in detention for the longest period of all detained during the raids.
On 11 November 2014, after spending more than a month in detention at Omdurman Women’s Prison in Khartoum, Suleiman was finally released. She is in a critical physical and psychological state.
As confirmed by her colleagues and friends present during the raid, Suleiman was singled out during the eviction and raid process and received the most beatings. Some of those present at the initial raid were also detained at the same time as Suleiman; the fact that other detainees were released prior to Suleiman being released is additional evidence that Ms. Suleiman was directly targeted during the raids. During her initial abduction by NISS forces from the dormitory, Suleiman was beaten with batons and kicked in the head and other parts of her body. A security agent ripped off her toub (traditional Sudanese clothing) as she was forced to get into the truck with only her night gown covering her.
During her detention, Suleiman was exposed to violent beatings. She was often unable to stand due to injuries inflicted by prison and security authorities. Eye witnesses said that she had severe bruising across her body, bruises resulting from throttling/choking around her neck, and verified that her leg was actually fractured during her incarceration. Additionally, particularly on her hands and arms, there is significant skin abrasion/loss, and legions across her head showing that her hair had been ripped from her head. Finally, regularly throughout her incarceration, Hawa was forced to swallow unknown substances, in pill and liquid form, something which was attested to by other former detainees who received similar unknown ‘medications’.
Hawa had been the target of NISS brutality and arrest before, often in the context of student-led protests against practices of the Government of Sudan in violation of known human rights norms. Hawa was also active in supporting peaceful protest against university policies (e.g. dorm prices, hikes on food costs) that caused education, already restricted to many in Sudan, to be more difficult to attain. Most recently, Hawa was a leader in Darfuri-student led protests in March 2014 motivated by the deteriorating condition in their home region. When one student activist, Ali Abakr, was killed by Sudanese security forces during the protests, Hawa was also instrumental in initiating protests by students at the brutality which was applied in quelling the broader protests.
The level of brutality this student woman activist has experienced throughout her detention, as well as the apparent targeting she suffered due to her known profile as a peaceful activist, is an outrage. Suleiman is currently in a dire condition, both physically and psychologically. She is in urgent need of broad support from both local level and international human rights actors. While immediate medical, psychological, and security-oriented care is clearly called for in this case for both Suleiman and others detained from the Zahra Women’s Dormitory raids last month, a well-coordinated response on the part of the broad human rights community is necessary to ensure that these crimes are documented and that parties responsible for the torture of Suleiman are held accountable for their crimes.