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EU urges Sudan to allow protests against rising prices

By AFP - Jan 11,2018 - Last updated at Jan 11,2018

Migrants mostly from the Darfur region of western Sudan warm up by a fire under a highway bypass where they have been sheltering from the weather as they prepare to attempt to cross the Italian border into France, in the Mediterranean coastal town of Ventimiglia, northern Italy, December 3, 2017 (Reuters photo)

KHARTOUM — The European Union on Thursday called on Sudan to allow protests that are being held against rising food prices, saying it was closely monitoring the demonstrations and detention of political leaders.

Sporadic protests have erupted in parts of Sudan since last week as angry students and citizens took to the streets against soaring bread prices on the back of a jump in the cost of flour.

Anti-riot police have swiftly broken up the demonstrations using tear gas against protesters, many of them university students. A student was killed on Sunday during a protest in war-torn Darfur.

On Thursday, the EU said it was closely monitoring the protests.

"We consider it crucial that people are permitted to exercise their right to freedom of expression, including freedom of the media and of political participation," the EU said in a statement.

"At the same time, we urge those exercising their fundamental rights to express their opinions peacefully."

 Sudanese authorities have detained several senior members of opposition groups who had called for anti-government protests, while security agents have confiscated entire print-runs of some newspapers.

Protests erupted after the cost of flour jumped to 450 Sudanese pounds ($25) for a 50-kilo sack, from 167 pounds last week.

Similar protests were held in late 2016 after the government cut fuel subsidies.

The authorities had cracked down on those protests to prevent a repeat of deadly unrest that followed an earlier round of subsidy cuts in 2013.

Dozens of people were killed in 2013 when security forces crushed large street demonstrations, drawing international condemnation.

A video showing the dean of a prominent Sudanese women's university beating female students protesting against high food prices has gone viral, sparking outrage on social media Thursday.

The footage showed Qassim Badri, dean of Khartoum-based Ahfad University for Women, walking into a crowd of female students on campus and slapping one and beating another repeatedly.

More students then surrounded him, with one even hitting him as others shouted slogans with their hands raised, the video showed. 

The incident occurred on Wednesday when the students were demonstrating against high prices of food items sold at a cafeteria on campus.

The video went viral after students and activists uploaded it on social media networks like Facebook and Twitter, sparking an outburst of anger against Badri, himself an advocator of women's rights in Sudan.

"Qassim Badri must apologise in a press conference and clarify what exactly happened," wrote women's rights activist Amal Habbani on her Facebook page.

"This campaign is also an attempt to create awareness about violence against women."

 Badri hails from a prominent family known for pioneering women's education in Sudan.

The Badri family is credited with starting the country's first private school for girls decades ago before it launched Ahfad University, which has gained respect not only in Sudan but also abroad.

"The video tells only one side of the story," family member Balkis Badri, a professor at the university, told AFP.

She said the incident occurred when the dean approached the students to talk to them as some protesters called for setting university buildings on fire.

"He was trying to calm them down when one student who had a stone in her hand kicked him," she said.

"It was this student he went after and beat her. He later apologised to her and even kissed her head but the video does not show this."

 He even told the students to stop eating from the cafeteria if it was too expensive as the university does not own the eatery, she said.

Sporadic protests have erupted in some parts of Sudan since last week against soaring prices of bread and other food items.

 

On Sunday, a student was killed in a protest in war-torn Darfur.

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