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Amira Osman, a Sudanese women’s rights activist has been freed following a two-week arrest by men believed to be working for the Sudanese secret police.
Ms Osman, who is a trained engineer, member of the Sudanese Communist Party and leader of the women’s group called No To Women’s Oppression, was reportedly taken from her house in the middle of the night by men in plainclothes who were armed. This occurred on the night of 22 January 2022, according to reports.
Her arrest and subsequent detention were justified under the emergency laws declared by the new Sudanese junta following a military coup in October.
In a petition submitted by Ms Osman’s lawyers to the Sudanese Attorney General, they argued that her arrest and transfer to the women’s prison in Omdurman were illegal and still violated her rights even in the state of emergency.
Sudanese activists warn that these unlawful arrests by the secret police not just of Amira Osman but of other less known dissenting voices indicate that Sudan is returning to the fear that heralded the days when President Omar el-Bashir ran the country as a military dictator. During his time, the secret police, which was known then as the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS), was popular in the 1990s for its infamous “ghost houses”.
The arrest of women’s rights activists whether in military or democratic governments has always been intended to serve as a deterrent to other women who may want to speak up too about women’s rights. It not only sends fear to the arrested women but creates an atmosphere where abuse from the average man on the street will be normalised.
In a truly just country, there should be space for all forms of dissent and disagreement, including that given by women.