SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: January 01, 2019

Attack Types: Imprisonment

Institution(s):Al-Neelain University

Region & Country:Northern Africa | Sudan

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On January 1, 2019, security authorities reportedly detained Al-Neelain University philosophy professor Hisham el-Nour, in apparent retaliation for his alleged connections to a nationwide protest movement.

Since December 19, 2018, protesters in Khartoum and throughout Sudan have been demonstrating over food shortages and demanding the resignation of President Omar al-Bashir. Scholars, students, and various professional groups have played a leading role in the protests. Since December 2019, rights groups report at least 45 people have been killed during the protests. On February 22, President al-Bashir declared a year-long state emergency.

In addition to his professorship at Al-Neelain University, el-Nour is a member of the Executive Council of the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), a group of independent professional unions organizing many of the protests. According to family and media sources, on January 1, 2019, state authorities reportedly detained el-Nour when he went to visit a family member who had been jailed during the protests. Authorities ostensibly targeted el-Nour for his connection to SPA. Information regarding el-Nour’s whereabouts and whether he faces any charges is unavailable as of this report.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the detention of a scholar in apparent retaliation for the peaceful exercise of the rights to freedom of association and freedom of expression — conduct that is expressly protected under international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Sudan is a party. State authorities have a responsibility to refrain from restricting or retaliating against such conduct, so long as it is carried out peacefully and responsibly. In addition to the harm to the immediate victim, arbitrary arrests undermine freedom of expression, academic freedom, and democratic society generally.