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: April 03, 2019

Attack Types: Imprisonment

Institution(s):University of Dongola

Region & Country:Northern Africa | Sudan

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On April 3, 2019, state authorities reportedly detained five University of Dongola students in apparent retaliation for their participation in a strike.

Starting in December 2018, students have figured prominently in a series of nationwide demonstrations against Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir in response to rising food prices. Throughout the demonstrations, Sudanese authorities used violent force against and detained an unknown number of students in crackdowns on protests that took place on and off campuses across the country. In an apparent attempt to curb students’ participation in the protests, Sudanese authorities temporarily ordered many of the country’s universities closed in December 2019 (see report).

In Sudan’s Northern State, the University of Dongola resumed studies on March 31, 2019. That day, students reportedly began demonstrating against the “dire” situation of education at the university and later instigated a “strike” by refusing to recommence their studies. On April 3, Sudanese authorities reportedly stormed the University of Dongola, detained five student protesters, and transported them to the offices of Sudanese intelligence services in Dongala. As of this report, there is no additional information on the whereabouts of the detained students.

Unconfirmed reports suggest that police arrested as many as 28 students in connection to the strike and a subsequent demonstration held on campus later that week.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the detention of students in connection to the nonviolent exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly — conduct that is expressly protected by 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. While state authorities have a responsibility to maintain order and security, they have an obligation not to interfere with the peaceful exercise of these rights so long as they are exercised peacefully and responsibly. The use of detentions as an apparent measure to restrict peaceful student expression undermines academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and democratic society generally.