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: October 20, 2019

Attack Types: Killings, Violence, Disappearances

Institution(s):Alzaiem Alazhari University

Region & Country:Northern Africa | Sudan

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On October 20, 2019, pro National Congress Party (NCP) students reportedly attacked students of an opposing political group at Alzaiem Alazhari University. Twenty-seven students were reportedly injured.

On October 20, classes resumed at Alzaiem Alazhari University for the first time in the eleven months since the government ordered the indefinite suspension of activities at higher education institutions in the country during nationwide protests (see report). Starting on December 19, 2018, students, academics, professionals, and activists launched the protest movement which ultimately led to President Omar al-Bashir’s ouster, which was followed by a military takeover of the government on April 11. Protesters faced ongoing attacks until a peace deal was reached between the military and civilian leaders signed on August 17.

On September 11, the Ministry of Higher Education announced universities would re-open on October 1, at the university presidents’ discretion. In the weeks before the universities were scheduled to reopen, Sudan’s government attempted to disband student organizations connected with the NCP, al-Bashir’s political party, at several universities. The government also replaced over sixty pro-NCP university administrators, at the request of the Sudanese Professionals Association, a key organizer of the protest movement.

On October 20, pro NCP students reportedly gathered on campus to give a public address when they were confronted by students affiliated with the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC), a group that was involved in the protests against al-Bashir. The FFC students allegedly chanted over the NCP students, demanding that they leave the university. The NCP students reportedly left campus and returned shortly after in larger numbers armed with metal bars, machetes, and tear gas. They stormed the campus and attacked the FFC students. Clashes reportedly broke out between students from the opposing parties. Police reportedly arrived and dispersed the students using teargas. Twenty-seven students were reportedly hospitalized due to injuries from the clashes.

Alzaiem Alazhari University administrators suspended classes for the remainder of the day.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about violent clashes between students during a campus demonstration. While students have the right to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, they have an obligation to exercise these rights peacefully and responsibly. Such incidents endanger members of the campus community and undermine institutional autonomy and democratic society generally.