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Sudan Protests Update


Demonstrators in Khartoum are demanding that the military there hand over power to civilians. Months of protest in Sudan had already led the junta to oust longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir in April. But last week, the military rulers turned on the protesters and ordered a violent crackdown. NPR's Eyder Peralta is in Khartoum. Thanks so much for being with us.

EYDER PERALTA, BYLINE: Thank you, Scott.

SIMON: Fridays have been the big days of protests there in Khartoum. I wonder what you saw yesterday.

PERALTA: Yeah. We went to one of the neighborhoods that was at the heart of this rebellion, and it was a neighborhood where imams would talk politics in the mosques. And when prayers were done, people would file out and chant antigovernment slogans. So protests often grew out of Friday prayers. But yesterday we went to this very significant mosque, and the imam said nothing political. He explained how Muslims don't necessarily have to visit Mecca for hajj. And then everyone filed out quietly, and they went home. So no protests.

SIMON: So whenever this - is it a revolution? - is done, it's back to the same old Sudan?

PERALTA: You know, that's hard to tell. I think - I mean, what's happening right now is a regrouping of sorts. And people are just thinking through what's happened. I spent some time with Dr. Mohammed Alawad (ph). He's an activist. And he was on the frontlines last week when security forces opened fire on protesters. He says what he saw was carnage. And he says that he felt that the young people who went out on the streets, that they had done their jobs. But he feels betrayed by the military and even by some of his leaders.

I asked him the same question, if he thought this thing was over, if it would be like 2013, when the Sudanese government put down a protest movement. And let's listen to a bit of what he said.

MOHAMMED ALAWAD: The killing in the last days was meant to clear - a clear message to people. But, you know, people by - why - you know, they were killing us from December. And so I don't think people are afraid of dying now; some people are. Maybe I am.

PERALTA: Maybe I am - that's the tough realization there, Scott, that more protests will likely mean more deaths. And I think everyone I've spoken to thinks that there are people willing to die for a better country. But when I ask them if they are willing to die, they sigh. You know, I think they're scared. They're thinking, and they're just trying to come to terms right now.

SIMON: Is the world paying attention?

PERALTA: Yeah. I mean, Sudan is important geopolitically. So, you know, the Gulf countries have been very much involved; Ethiopia is trying to act as mediator. And this week, you know, we also saw sort of the regular world turn its attention to Sudan when celebrities started tweeting about it. People all over the world have been turning their profile pictures blue to show solidarity with one of the young protesters who was killed here.

But, you know, right now there's a disconnect in all of that because the government here has shut down the Internet completely; there is no mobile internet here. And so most Sudanese have no idea what's actually happening.

SIMON: I understand the military and opposition groups have agreed to have new talks. Is there any hopefulness about that?

PERALTA: No, I mean, we haven't gotten much progress. The junta says that they welcome talks, but the opposition says that they don't trust them after the killings. You know, they say that they will only talk to them through a mediator. And we haven't really gotten much of an update as to where those talks stand.

SIMON: NPR's Eyder Peralta in Khartoum. Thanks so much for being with us.

PERALTA: Thank you, Scott.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.