Monday, May 27, 2024

Sudan Conflicts: How Residential Areas in Khartoum Turned into “Graveyards”?


  • Ether Shalabi
  • BBC

A stray dog ​​eats part of a dead body in front of the door of the house. An image that never left the imagination of Sudanese Omar (not his real name) who participated in the burial of at least 20 people in locations that varied between the courtyards of houses and the entrances to residential areas in Khartoum.

Less than an hour before I spoke to him, Omar had completed a grueling four-day road trip from his country of Sudan to Egypt. I waited about three days before he got to the point where he could receive calls, and he told us about his experience, in a phone call, his voice filled with sadness and disbelief.

“At least three people were inside the house during my burial, and the rest were at the main street entrance of my house. One of my neighbors was killed inside his house and I had to remove the tiles. A grave had to be dug in the yard to bury him. We could not move him to the grave because of conflicts.”

Burial of the dead left behind in the war became necessary within the houses and residential areas of the capital, Khartoum, and as Jibril recounted to us, many corpses lay decomposing in the streets. And their body parts are devoured by stray animals.

“Often you open your door to find a dog biting off part of a dead body. We had to bury the dead, and many of their bodies were decomposing in the streets for a while. There are many tenements in the capital. Turned into cemeteries.”

photo comment,

As Jibril described to us, it became necessary to bury the dead left behind by the wars, inside the houses and residential areas in the capital, Khartoum.

A few weeks ago, Omar took part – along with some neighbors – in burying four people at the entrance to the “Third Stage Extension” neighborhood in Khartoum, where he lives. He says many bodies were buried “in the Sudan University area, near the Sidon gas station and in the neighborhood near Muhammad Naguib Street.”

“Burying in homes and neighborhoods blurs the facts and deepens the crisis.”

However, this method of burial has several drawbacks, which Sudanese authorities have described as inconsistent. Among its critics is Dr. Atiya Abdullah, secretary general of the Sudan Medical Association, who wanted to bury the dead in places other than cemeteries without permission, obscuring the facts surrounding the circumstances of their deaths.

“Burials in this manner are seen as hiding the facts, deepening the crisis and prolonging its duration. We know that the burials in this manner were done by the good intentions of the Sudanese volunteers, but it prevents the identification of the causes. The death, the identity of the deceased and the person responsible for his death.”

Also, volunteers to informally bury the dead, Dr. According to Attia, burial rites have many considerations and may be subject to legal liability.

“During the burial, along with taking genetic samples, there should be official authorities, prosecution, forensic medicine, Red Cross and many monitoring agencies. Also, who gave them permission to bury? Burial cannot be justified under any circumstances without documentation.”

“The important thing is to bury the dead, no Whatever where”

But Omar and others disagreed with this view, including Hamid, a Sudanese citizen living in the “Shambat al-Baraha” area of ​​Khartoum North. He was in an area where clashes are regularly renewed, specifically in the “18 Shambat Bahri” square, where he told me he found the bodies of three soldiers killed in a plane crash.

“I happened to be in the area and with a team, we removed the wreckage of the plane and took out the bodies. Some of them were burned, others were almost burned. We dug them up to bury them in the open courtyard around them. Through the residential buildings.”

Hamid’s tone changed as he recounted the moments of burying the body parts and he gradually began to cry.

photo comment,

Those who participate in the burial of the dead in places other than cemeteries are keen to clearly photograph the faces of the dead so that their identities can be identified if inquests are opened after the fighting.

Hamed seemed to agree completely with Umar that leaving corpses in the streets would make them prey for the wrong animals. One thing that prompted me to ask Dr Abdullah – once again – was the reason for his opposition to the quick burial of the dead in house yards and neighborhood gates. A Sudanese doctor assured me that burying the dead in Sudan after fighting ends in places other than graves raises many questions and contributes to the loss of rights of civilians who have lost their lives.

“Especially when the investigations start, many questions surface. How did the death happen? Who died of bullets? Who died of looting? Who died of tribal issues? All these will be buried without knowing the truth. And it may lead us to a civil war. Rights are lost.” Since many buried their relatives this way after the revolution.

Proper Burial Method and Potential Environmental Disasters

But how familiar are Sudanese volunteers to bury the dead in courtyards and at the entrances of neighborhoods? A question I had to turn to Hamid, who described doing this to me as an “act of charity” that many of his comrades were familiar with.

“Everybody knows that digging a grave must be at a certain level underground, at least one meter below the ground, and that is called the place of burial where the body is placed. The burial takes place. If the deceased is a Muslim, his body is covered facing the Qibla according to Islamic law, and he is a If a Christian, he will be prayed and buried.”

Participants in the process of burial of the dead in places other than cemeteries are keen to clearly capture the faces of the dead so that their identities can be identified after the fighting is over and investigations are launched in this regard.

“With this primitive method of burial, stray dogs are likely to dig up the burials easily. Bricks or other solid material are placed over the body, causing the dead to be buried incorrectly.”

Home burial is the only solution.

Image copyright Khartoum Ministry of Health/Facebook

photo comment,

Dr. The body of Makdolin Yusuf Ghali was found with that of his sister in their home in Khartoum.

In mid-May, video clips circulated on social media showing the moments two Sudanese female doctors of Egyptian origin were buried in the garden of their home in Khartoum’s Al-Amarat neighborhood due to difficulty in exhuming the bodies. of the region, due to wars.

I contacted the brother of the two doctors, Majdolin and Magda Yusuf Ghali, and asked him about the circumstances under which they were buried in the garden of their house. His reply was succinct: “Burial indoors is the only solution now.”

He was silent for a while and cried, “I never expected…I never expected. They buried me in the same pit.”

I stopped the interview for a few minutes and did not ask any questions to the brother, who did not stop crying. He paused for a moment and then came back to me to resume the conversation: “They died inside the house 12 days ago and no one knew it. Neighbors complained of a foul smell coming from the house. So some went and found that they had been shot dead in an armed attack.”

It took more than two days to write down the details that the brother of the deceased told me, assuring me that “many people in Sudan are now forced to bury their loved ones indoors.”

Image copyright Reuters

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A soldier’s body is found lying on the street in Khartoum on April 15, 2023.

Photographing and counting bodies before burial

Official organizations, particularly the Sudanese Red Cross and Red Cross, have been working to remove the bodies of the dead from the streets and bury them in cemeteries. We spoke to Hasan, one of the dead body management staff at the disaster and emergency department, who told us that his job involves handling citizen reports of dead bodies being dumped in neighborhoods and roadsides.

“I go to where the body is. I take photos from several directions and record in a file whether the deceased has any belongings or not. If he died recently or the body is rotten, I put the body in plastic. Prepare a bag for it, count it and bury it.

All these details are kept in a file, which Hassan says will make it easier for authorities to access future facts that may emerge in the context of investigations conducted after the wars are over. Horizon at the present time.

Nadia Barnett
Nadia Barnett
"Award-winning beer geek. Extreme coffeeaholic. Introvert. Avid travel specialist. Hipster-friendly communicator."

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