The security authorities in El Gezira cancelled a seminar by the No to Women’s Oppression Initiative on Saturday. The initiative criticised the move but expected that the seminar would have been attacked.
The seminar was entitled ‘Land of Weapons’ and was scheduled to be held at the Lawyers House in the state capital Wad Madani.
Tahani Abbas, a leading member of the women’s initiative, told Radio Dabanga that a security force arrived at the Lawyers House in three vehicles and ordered the seminar to be cancelled shortly before it took place.
The organisation had submitted requests to the Alumni House and the National Umma Party (NUP) to hold the seminar at their offices, but the authorities refused and prompted those parties to decline.
Abbaw expected the seminar to be attacked by parties seeking to demonise the No to Women’s Oppression Initiative and mobilise public opinion against the initiative. She did not expect such attacks to be prevented by security authorities.
Progressive legal organisations criticised the move. The Emergency lawyers condemned the security authorities’ decision to ban the seminar in Wad Madani. The Darfur Bar Association (DBA) also declared its solidarity with the No to Women’s Oppression Initiative.
In a statement, the Emergency Lawyers considered this a new development that “showcases a return to a previous era in which voices were muzzled, the right to expression was denied, civil society activity dried up, and public space was militarised”.
The lawyers pointed to a significant decline in public freedoms and an increase in the frequency of restrictions and prosecutions of civic activities and actors since the outbreak of the war on April 15.
They warned the de facto authority in states under the control of the armed forces that the consequences of infringing on public freedoms, narrowing and closing the public sphere, and banning freedom of expression and association will be added to their records of human rights violations.
In her interview with Radio Dabanga, Abbas also responded to allegations that the women’s initiative failed to condemn the ongoing rape crimes and said that these were “cheap extortion” as the organisation issued several statements on the violations and provided support services to victims.
Regarding the recent campaigns against tea vendors in Wad Madani, the initiative has contacted both the authorities and tea vendors. Abbas said that the authorities in the locality are legalising their situation.