I rise today to show my solidarity with the people of Sudan, who are demanding an end to human rights abuses and violence, and a genuine transition to democratic, civilian rule. In December last year peaceful protests broke out across Sudan calling for economic reforms and an end to the 30-year rule of the dictator Omar al-Bashir. This incredible social movement saw thousands of people put their lives at risk. Hundreds, perhaps more, were killed protesting against the government. This culminated in the removal of al-Bashir by the military and a promise by the Transitional Military Council to establish a civilian-led government. But the revolution has been betrayed. On 3 June soldiers and paramilitary forces attacked a pro-democracy sit-in. There were many deaths and injuries, and shockingly widespread sexual violence and mass rape.
The militias' actions resulted in at least 118 deaths and 47 cases of rape. But many believe that many more of these crimes were committed and remain unreported. Many of the bodies were found in the Nile River, with stones tied to their legs in an attempt to hide the evidence. Shockingly, this was happening during the holy month of Ramadan.
Imam, a Sudanese Australian who was in Sudan at the time, describes these scenes. He said:
On the last day of Ramadan, the militia came into the city at around 3 am. They killed and raped women and targeted medics, especially female medics. Men who tried to defend them were also raped. The people who were able to run away ran away to the hospitals … It is a nightmare. It is a massacre.
The situation is still dreadful, protesters continue to be killed and injured by the military, the internet remains inaccessible and the Sudanese community around the world, including here in Australia, remain anxious and concerned about the welfare of their families and their friends.
Sudanese Australians have been at the forefront of the Sudanese diaspora in demanding accountability and an end to military rule. Around Australia many protests have been organised, in many cases led by the youth. Wearing blue to honour the memory of Mohamed Mattar, a protester that was killed on 3 June attempting to protect two women protesters from attack, they have openly called for an end to the repression and independent investigation into crimes—and, of course, civilian rule.
One protest in Canberra, while focused on the Sudanese embassy, was also directed at the Saudi, Egyptian and United Arab Emirates embassies over those countries' roles in supporting the Transitional Military Council, including with weapons and other support to the Sudanese military. Just on Sunday, communities across Australia and the world joined together in a global protest. The Declaration of Freedom and Change calls for a democratic and peaceful Sudan, for the empowerment of women, protection of the environment and an end to Sudan's civil wars. This is a platform put together by Sudanese civil society, including trade unions, student associations, feminist groups and political parties. There can be no delays to democracy. We cannot let the revolution be betrayed any further. There must be an independent United Nations investigation into the crimes that have happened.
Australia has a role to play in this. We can use our seat at the UN Human Rights Council to call for an investigation. To date, all Sudanese Australians have heard is silence from us, from this government, and that is just not right. The Greens will always support and speak out for grassroots democracy, peace and nonviolence.
I want to finish by paying tribute to the women of the revolution. Many of you would have seen the photo of Alaa Salah, a young woman who became a symbol of the movement when a photo of her leading the protesters, atop a car, went viral. As in many revolutions, women have been at the forefront of the movement in Sudan, even when they have had the most to lose, when the military uses rape as a weapon. I have nothing but the utmost respect and admiration for my sisters in Sudan putting their lives and bodies on the line for justice, but they shouldn't have to do so. So today I urge the government to take diplomatic action to support a democratic Sudan and to push for an international investigation into human rights abuses.