Mob Attack of Brother Ismail in Darfur

This is an email I received from a long time friend of mine named Ismail Kemal who is a well-known activist in California and the DC area currently living in his native Sudan. He plans to write  a more detailed version of the event and I will keep you posted insha’Allah

I am writing to you from Khartoum, after spending nine days in Darfur and surviving a mob attack in an IDP (internally displaced persons) camp.
I flew out to Darfur on Sunday, December 7, 2008 (Dhu al-Hijja 9, 1429,the Day of Arafa) to accompany an American journalist and photographer as a translator. I was also planning to write a story about Eid in an IDP camp.
On Monday morning December 8, the first day of Eid al-Adha, I went to the Abu Shok IDP camp with one of my colleagues near the city of El Fashir. I met an imam in the camp, who welcomed us warmly, and explained to him what I was seeking to do, and he agreed. All I needed was a few pictures of people performing the Eid prayer and listening to the following sermon (khutba), and a couple of interviews with people in the camp explaining how they were coping with “celebrating” Eid despite their tragic situation.
The Eid prayer was to be performed in an hour from the time of my arrival, so I decided to take a few pictures of the mosque in the camp and did a quick interview with the imam. My colleague decided to go back to the city, so I remained in the camp on my own.
An hour later, after the prayer, I stood up and took a few pictures, then sat in the back to listen to the sermon. Then, a young man came up to me and requested to speak to me, and pulled me out of the sermon. He asked about the reason for my presence and I explained to him that I was a journalist writing about Eid in the camp and that I had spoken to the imam. I showed him my press card. Another man then approached and took away my card. I told them I could call my colleagues who had a press permit and could clear up any confusion.
This did not work, as I was not allowed to use my cell phone. More young men started to gather around me angrily asking me questions about who I was and my nationality (they did not believe I was Sudanese). I asked them to call the imam. At this point, the number of young men around me rose to nearly thirty, all shouting at me at the same time. Suddenly, a few them yanked away my bag and then the assault began.
I was struck on the head by a large stick from behind, then hit by a large rock to the side of my face. Punches, kicks and rocks followed and I fell to the ground. My nose and mouth spilled blood and two of my front teeth were gone. Surprisingly, I did not feel any pain, for I was in a state of total shock and disbelief. At the moment, I was convinced that I was likely to die and said my prayers.
I was then taken to a near by house and put in a room, with a mob of nearly fifty now following close behind. Three of my “interrogators” spoke among themselves in a local language so I had no idea what was being planned for me. One of them slapped me in the face and knocked me off the chair I was told to sit on.
But then, a degree of sense perhaps, got to the minds of the men holding me. While the mob was outside the house waiting to get hold of me, one of the men slipped me out of the house through a narrow alley into a “main street” in the camp. I could see the mob, but behind them was a United Nations/African Union patrol, (UN AMID). I was taken to the UNAMID patrol, with the mob following behind us. The soldiers were from Indonesia and I explained to them what had happened. Another UNAMID official from Maritius, I believe, came and also asked me questions. I was then taken aboard a UNAMID patrol truck to an office to be questioned.
Afterward, I was taken to a hospital and to the local police to report what was stolen from me. My face was a bloody mess and my shirt and pants were torn. My bag, camera, digital recorder, wallet, passport, several IDs, mobile/cell phone were all gone.
When I returned to the guest house where I was staying, my colleagues tried to cheer me up by telling me stories of similar incidents that happened to them. I am grateful to have survived this. It could have been worse.
I intend to write a more detailed account of this incident. In the mean time, I ask for your prayers.

3 thoughts on “Mob Attack of Brother Ismail in Darfur

  1. Umar,
    Several years ago I wanted to join a humanitarian team traveling to al-Fashir to assist in the IDP camp. My husband considered it too big a risk. Those who went came back with heartbreaking stories. Instead, the next year I traveled to Darhan, Mongolia and did two weeks of humanitarian relief: the first week along the banks of a river in two traditional yurts set up for us, the second week, in a clinic setting. The steppes of Mongolia are breathtakingly beautiful, and the people both friendly and grateful for the care. The lack of infrastructure and years of civil war in the Sudan allows for a mob rule.


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