Report and main picture by Nadia Awad
The Sudan Solidarity conference, organised by the MENA Solidarity Network, was held in London’s Hamilton House on September 30. It brought together trade unionists and activists from Sudan, Britain and beyond for a full day of meetings and workshops to discuss anti-war efforts and anti-racist activism.
The Sudan Solidarity conference brought together delegates and members from organisations, including the MENA Solidarity campaign, Sudanese Lawyers’ Democratic Front, Stand Up to Racism, Sudanese Engineers’ Union (SEU), Sudan Doctors Union UK, the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), National Education Union (NEU), and the Sudan Uprising Support Group.
The conference emphasised solidarity between activist groups in Sudan and British trade unionist efforts. References were made to the importance of solidarity and collaboration, given the new wave of anti-immigrant rhetoric expressed by Suella Braverman, the UK’s Home Secretary.
John McDonnell, Labour MP for Hayes and Harlington, was due to attend the conference but was unable to do so, instead sending his “thoughts and solidarity” to attendees.
A message was delivered from El Sadig Ali Hassan, the acting chairman of the Darfur Bar Association’s board of trustees and director of the Sudan Institute for Democracy.
In his message, he emphasised that “the entire region is affected by the war, especially Western Darfur.” He stated that should the situation in Sudan worsen, “Darfur will become a window for conflict and cruelty, as well as a threat to international peace and security”.
Alaa Gilgal, a member of the Sudanese Engineers’ Union (SEU), discussed the vital role of Sudanese engineers in aiding doctors and monitoring infrastructural damage. A fundraising initiative was later held by the SEU.
Othaylat Suliman, journalist and chairperson of the Sudanese Journalists Forum UK, mentioned the current political polarisation Sudanese journalists have faced in their reporting. Suliman discussed this in relation to the proliferation of social media discourses on the war and sent her solidarity with her colleagues in Sudan, many of whom are facing unemployment.
Three separate workshops were held. ‘Safe Passage Now’ discussed the campaign for safe and legal routes for those fleeing the war in Sudan, and sought to build support for a parliamentary petition calling for a family visa scheme for Sudan.
The ‘Health services on the frontline’ workshop was chaired by Anna Livingstone from Doctors in Unite, and Sarah Richard from the Sudan Doctors Union UK. Discussions touched on the physical and psychological damage of war, and the work of the resistance committees and unions in Sudan in providing healthcare and infrastructural support.
The ‘Education and Cultural Heritage under Fire’ workshop delved into the impact of the war on Sudan’s educational and cultural institutions. A video report was presented from the Sudanese Teachers’ Committee, followed by talks from Ismail Hamid of the Sudan Heritage Protection Initiative, and Dr Abdelmutaal Girshab, the former dean of student affairs at the University of El Gezira.
The conference ended with a plenary session where feedback and summaries were offered from all three workshops. The following declaration was agreed upon by delegates to the conference, and posted fully on their website:
“We stand in solidarity with the struggle for democracy and civilian rule. The revolution which erupted in 2018 was an inspiration to millions around the world, as it showed how ordinary people could bring down a corrupt dictator through mass strikes and protests. We urge trade unionists and activists to support the efforts of Sudan’s resistance committees, trade unions, demand-based campaigns and other popular revolutionary forces to continue that struggle to rebuild Sudan.
We condemn the shameful record of the British government in relation to Sudanese refugees, and call for the establishment of the same scale of support for people fleeing war in Sudan as was extended to those fleeing the devastating conflict in Ukraine, including a Sudan Family Visa scheme. We express our solidarity with all refugees and migrants whether they are looking for safety because of war, climate change or poverty and reject the toxic, racist rhetoric of Conservative ministers such as Home Secretary Suella Braverman.
We will continue to work together for the goals of the conference to:
- Stop the war in Sudan
- Build solidarity against racism and defend refugees and migrants
- Expose the crimes committed by the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces
- Demand that the British government and other foreign powers stop fuelling the conflict through arms sales, funding and diplomatic support”