Detained in Sudan: One Blogger's Story
Editor’s note: Maha El-Sanosi is a Sudanese blogger-journalist selected as a recipient of a 2012 International Activist BlogHer Scholarship. She was to have come to BlogHer '12 in New York this August to share her work. Read below to learn why an exit visa is not an option for her this summer, and why we look forward to honoring her in 2013. -– Polly
In my dream, I was inside a tunnel. The tunnel was jammed with cars, and I was in one of them. I was alone in the taxi, and the driver was frustrated with the heavy traffic. The tunnel seemed endless, and I asked the driver to roll down the windows because I could slowly feel myself running out of breath. My claustrophobia started to kick in, and the long queue of cars both ahead and behind me gave me a strong sense of uneasiness. The windows were now open, but I couldn't feel any air gushing in. I poked my head out of the window in an attempt to find where the tunnel ended… to figure out if freedom was near. The tunnel was a long, endless spiral. I was trapped and there was no way out. Stepping out of the car was not an option; there was no sidewalk inside the tunnel. Death was near; I began preparing myself for it.
Much like what I went through with my multiple detentions a week or so ago, the trauma I suffered during this dream felt real. While I was waiting for death, my mind took a stroll down memory lane and imagery of friends and loved ones began popping in my head. Soon enough I woke up… and I thanked god for the gift of freedom which I have been blessed with to an extent. Sudan isn't free yet, but at least I am sleeping in my own bed, I thought to myself. I felt tears streaming down my cheeks at the thought of friends and loved ones being held in detention for days now, some even weeks.
During the distressing times that I faced over the past few weeks, I developed my own method of dealing with things. As cheesy as it sounds, I got to know myself better. In fact, for the longest time I thought I was the nervous, panicky type. This was proven last year when my sister was pregnant. My niece decided to arrive in this world two weeks ahead of schedule, so we rushed to the nearest hospital. My sister gave birth while she was in a wheelchair ... the baby refused to wait. I saw it happen and I completely flipped. I was pacing around in circles, yelling at the staff, asking them to do something. I cried and I screamed and my own sister had to calm me down. I was only okay after I held my niece in my arms. I knew since that day that I was unfit to deal with stress -- until I was proven otherwise.
Salma Elwardany, an Egyptian journalist for Bloomberg, is not only a friend. She is also family. Whenever she's sick, she calls me and I take her to the hospital. Whenever I'm stressed, I call her and we meet over tea. She offers me valuable advice. We talk about boys, makeup and politics. One day, we went to a protest together at the University of Khartoum. Security officers in civilian clothes intercepted my car while we were in it. They confiscated our phones and her laptop, but I managed a final tweet giving a heads up that we'd been stopped. We were kidnapped and taken to the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) offices in Khartoum North. They separated us upon arrival. They held me for four hours, and Salma for five hours. When they told me I was free to go, I was ordered to cut all ties with Salma. They wouldn’t even let me wait for her. A few days later she was deported. At the airport, they wouldn't let me say goodbye.
During my first detention, I faced four hours of emotional abuse. One interrogator said to me: "Take a good look at the window; this will be the last time you ever see the sun." Another told me that I was going to be transferred to women's prison without anyone so much as looking at my file. That's how dangerous they deemed me to be.
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