KHARTOUM: The shouts of demonstrators carry the name of Salah Sanhouri through the Khartoum night, as they mourn a slain comrade who has become a symbol of a deadly government crackdown.
“With our souls and our blood, we are ready to die for you, Salah,” a crowd chanted outside the home of the young pharmacist who was killed during a protest Friday.
Most of the dozens killed last week during protests sparked by fuel price increases have died in obscurity.
But the name of Sanhouri, who comes from a prominent business family, has resonated.
Ordinary Sudanese know him as the “doctor” who lost his life.
His name has spread widely on the Internet and thousands turned out for his burial Saturday.
“Dead or alive – Salah you are a symbol of freedom and your death may well be the beginning of the end of 24 years of tyranny,” an activist using the name “Sudan revolts” tweeted Monday.
Last week, President Omar al-Bashir’s regime faced the worst urban unrest since he seized power in 1989 as thousands of the city’s long-suffering poor – and more well-off sympathizers like Sanhouri – took to the streets.
Authorities say 34 people have died since petrol and diesel prices jumped more than 60 percent on Sept. 23, sparking the demonstrations by people who had quietly borne two years of soaring prices in an impoverished nation.
Activists and international human rights groups said at least 50 people were gunned down, most of them in the greater Khartoum area.
On a dirt lot outside the Sanhouri family home in the Burri area, around the corner from Khartoum’s most expensive private hospital, his father, Mudather Alraya, said Monday night that Sanhouri was born in Abu Dhabi and was the second of seven children.
Alraya worked as a civilian clerk in the United Arab Emirates defense department before retiring to run a clothing business there.
Sanhouri grew up in the Emirates and then studied pharmacology in Pakistan before returning to Khartoum two years ago, Alraya said, sitting on a plastic chair surrounded by well-wishers, at the end of a bumpy unpaved road.
“He liked to work here,” and had taken a job with Al-Mashtal Pharmacy as a pharmacist, said Alraya who still lives in Abu Dhabi.
Faint shouts came from the distance as Sanhouri’s supporters held another daily march through the neighborhood.
Demonstrations against the fuel prices began in a rural area south of Khartoum before escalating in the capital, where most of the deaths occurred.
After the main weekly Muslim prayers last Friday, more rallies took place, one of them in Sanhouri’s district of Burri.
“I know that he went to a demonstration with his colleagues,” said a relative, who asked not to be named. “Most of them were graduates of the university ... and many citizens of Burri. It was a very big one. More than 1,000.”
Sanhouri, from a well-off family, was concerned about the impact of the energy price rise on those less fortunate, the relative said.
“He went just to express his opposition to this new policy because it will affect all the life of the people.”
Sanhouri had been socially active since his university days in Pakistan and was a “big shot” in the Nafeer youth group formed about two months ago to help victims of severe flooding in the Khartoum region, those who knew him said.
The shouts of about 200 demonstrators grew louder as they returned from their tour of the neighborhood to rally at the lot near Sanhouri’s home.
“I think it is a sort of spring wind,” said the relative. “A Sudanese spring.”
In 2011, “Arab Spring” revolts toppled longtime rulers in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen.
Moments before his death, Sanhouri had urged other demonstrators not to light a protest fire, according to a cousin.
“This is peaceful,” Sanhouri told them just before he was shot through the back, said the cousin who witnessed the wound.
The government says it has arrested hundreds of “criminals” and had to intervene when crowds turned violent.
Information Minister Ahmed Bilal Osman has said, however, that “innocent” people died last Friday and an investigation is being conducted.
“They are denying that they are shooting them,” the relative said.
On a nearby street, riot police stood by in their truck.
“Shahid [martyr], shahid, ya Salah”, the crowd chanted.
“Not only Salah,” the relative added. “So many Salahs have been killed or injured.”