Hunted in Sudan


Based on Philip Cox’s original article: “Hunted in Sudan,” recently printed in the Guardian…

It may not be apparent from the international community’s recent pacification of Khartoum, but Al-Bashir’s government has not ceased in its brutality. British journalist Phil Cox and his Darfuri translator and producer Daoud Hari witnessed this brutality first hand in an attempt to document reports of chemical weapons strikes in the Jebel Marra region. Before they could get to their destination, they were arrested, beaten, and tortured in Kobar Prison, Khartoum.

Perhaps naively, Channel 4, the British cable news station who commissioned the report, never thought that they would fall victim to the same human rights abuses the journalists were trying to expose. They claim that Cox and Hari had been briefed of the dangers that could await them; they knew the consequences. These two men had seen the horrors first hand over a decade ago. Cox covered the conflict in its infancy and Daoud Hari, born and raised in Darfur, fled his home in Chad after being tortured in 2006. He voluntarily served as a translator for wartime journalists in order to expose the atrocities on the ground.

The journalists began their journey at a Darfuri refugee camp in Chad. Some of the first footage they shot was of Darfuri refugees who told them that even though they had escaped Bashir, they were still afraid. Too afraid to even gather wood for their fires. So afraid that they had begun to build permanent homes because most had given up the thought of returning home. Some also expressed that the international community, after all of our fervor a decade ago, had forgotten them.

They entered Sudan in a three jeep caravan with armed guards but they soon learned, by listening in on militia radio, that Cox had a $250,000 (US Dollars) bounty on his head. Helicopters were circling above. All routes in and out of Sudan were closed. They decided that they had no choice but to trust their mission to smugglers that could get them into Jebel Marra.

It was not long after they began their trip with the smugglers that they were stopped, beaten and chained together. Cox believes that it was a rogue, Sudanese government affiliated, Rapid Strike Force militia that had captured them. They spent the first few days chained to a tree in the hot sun. The captors softened after a few days and wanted to play with Cox’s camera. During this time he pretended to teach them how to use the camera while secretly taping them. It was this footage that would be the cause for torture and imprisonment. After a few more days, Daoud and Cox were told that Cox would be sold to the government and Daoud would be let go. They left Daoud on the side of the road, in the middle of nowhere with one cigarette and a bottle of water. He did not run, he stayed close to the road and that is where they found him the next day. The militiamen put them both in an airplane and told them they might be thrown from the sky. The two journalists begged for their life. It would not be the last time.

Daoud and Cox reached Kober Prison in Khartoum. This is where they were interrogated beaten, and electrocuted. Cox was also on the wrong end of a mock execution. In prison, they met regular people; businessmen, students, and workers who had been jailed for as little as sharing a text message deemed ‘subversive’ by the government. Cox spent 40 days in jail before being released because of international diplomatic pressure. Daoud was released a few weeks before him.  They did not see receive access to council for a week and neither was charged. After all of the abuse, Cox was able to hold on to that footage.

Both Daoud and Cox choke with emotion when speaking of their experiences. All I can think about are the thousands of people that experience and will continue to experience this kind of treatment and much worse every day in Sudan. If the international community continues on its path of pacification and apathy,  the violence will not end until every voice of the opposition is silenced and every man woman and child who stands in the way of Khartoum’s greed and lust for power are gone.

I’ll leave you with this quote from British journalist Phillip Cox:

“Daoud and I experienced first-hand the lengths that the Sudanese government will go to stop any independent reporting on what is happening in Darfur. Our time in prison gave us a terrifying insight into the brutal tactics of the Sudanese security forces, and it also revealed the arbitrary and heavy-handed way any perceived opposition or anti-government criticism is dealt with.”

A Call To Action

Daoud, an American citizen, and Cox, a British citizen, were lucky enough to receive intervention on their behalf. But who will intervene for the people of Darfur?

I urge our readers to share this story and tell the world that the people of Darfur are still being attacked, imprisoned, tortured and worse as witnessed by Daoud Hari and Phillip Cox. Much worse has happened and will continue to happen if we do nothing.  

We urge our leaders not to abandon the people of Darfur who are systematically oppressed and terrorized by their own government, and we need your help!