Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Sincere Gratitude to #FreeUsamah!

Protesters during a solidarity protest with #SudanRevolts
in July, London, UK. (Photo credits: Sanna Arman/Facebook)

When I was arrested during an anti-regime peaceful protest at Burri neighborhood in Khartoum last June, I didn't have the slightest idea for how long I was going to be detained. Having been arrested by agents of the notorious National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS)— the state's security apparatus tasked primarily with the unlawful mission of crushing domestic dissent, I knew that exceptionally tough times are ahead of me.

Nonetheless, I considered arrest and subsequent imprisonment a contribution one must pay to pave the way for the freedom we all aspire to. I hoped that the impact of my arrest, if any, help break the early media blockade on #SudanRevolts as we all strove to spread the news about the events as they unfolded on the ground. Lasty, I knew that my family, relatives and friends would all be extremely worried about my well-being and will be faithfully keeping me in their prayers.

Being relatively active on social media, more specifically on Twitter, I was certain that my friends there will miss and remember me; it's what good people do when a fellow goes missing. And they indeed are a unique gathering of good fellows! I was also certain they were going to campaign for my release. I couldn't know however, whatsoever, what exactly was going on in the outside. It is the deliberate policy and established practice of NISS to strike an all-out information blackout upon political prisoners in detention. During all my days of imprisonment, TV, radio, newspapers, Internet and basically any type of communications were strictly forbidden. Even when my family visited me for the first time a month after my arrest, instructions were explicit to keep the talking within family matters or risk immediate termination of the visit!

Only following my release mid August was I able to catch up with all that was happening while I remained behind bars in Kober Prison. In all honesty, I stand unable to express my feelings as I was going through it all! The outreach and sheer volume of support my case has received was simply stunning. Friends and fellow tweeps, Sudanese and non-Sudanese alike, fiercely campaigned for my release since the very first hours to my arrest! Hundreds of people across Twitter and Facebook changed their profile pictures to a picture of mine in solidarity. A Facebook page campaigning for my release was created. Thousands upon thousands of support tweets were written using the hashtag #FreeUsamah. Petitions by human rights groups demanding my release were signed. Signs with my picture on were held at solidarity rallies with #SudanRevolts worldwide. T-shirts with my picture on were worn by people demanding my release. 
I even had friends gotten arrested and imprisoned for demanding my release during solidarity sit-ins with #SudanRevolts detainees in Khartoum.

It is with sincerely heartfelt gratitude and appreciation that I would like to thank all of you who campaigned for me since my arrest and during my 55 days of detention. I could not have imagined such a massive campaign with all the enthusiasm and dedication displayed. It feels great to realize that an action one had decided to take once has been met with high approval. I'd like to think of that as a reminder that freedom is a universal demand, and yearning to it is a universal sentiment.

Before concluding, I'd like to pay special tribute to a few people.

Nobody probably have had learned about my arrest and detention in the past couple of months without coming across Maha El-Sanosi! Maha, or @MimzicalMimz on Twitter, is a dear friend of mine. Not only is she a brave-heart activist who has always been at the heart of events in Sudan, but also an intelligent, energetic and extraordinary resourceful person. In her result-oriented resolve, Maha outstandingly campaigned for my release since the very beginning. Later, she also wrote a poignant piece highlighting my ongoing detention, which is just a reflection of her transparent and passionate self. I'm honored to have known Maha, and proud of her as a friend, a Sudanese and a woman, or in the newly phrased lingo of #SudanRevolts, a kandake!

I also would like to specially thank my friend Sara, or @SaraGSaad. Without saying much, Sara showed exceptional support at a critical time for me and my family. Were it not for her, things couldn't have been the same for all of us. My family and I sincerely are grateful and indebted to her. Sara, you showed me how a friend in need is a friend indeed.

Mo Elzubeir, or @elzubeir, is a dear friend of mine. Mo is a successful young entrepreneur yet one of the most honest, humble and down-to-earth guys I've known. I enjoy his insight, unique perspective on things and immensely trust his judgement. When am seeking concrete advice or just need to vent out, he's about the only one I turn to. Besides relentlessly campaigning for me on Twitter, Mo, with persistent help from my friend Muhanad, used his leverage as a media professional to launch a spot-on campaign to free citizen journalists in Sudan, with focus on my arrest case as demonstration of the importance of citizen journalism and dangers associated with exercising it in Sudan. Although the campaign's end output didn't see the light since I was released before final production, the campaign's outreach was huge by all means. I am thankful, grateful and forever indebted, Mo!

I've come to know that among people who submitted videos to Mo's campaign are my friends Ali Abunimah of the Electronic Intifada and Nasser Weddady of the American Islamic Congress. Among others was Jon Hutson of the Enough Project. To all of you guys, I am sincerely thankful, your support messages have already been heard.

Khalid Al-Baih, or @khalidalbaih, is an award-winning Sudanese cartoonist. He's that typically big-hearted, joyful Sudanese with a tinge of subtlety that can be manifested only in a fine artist. Touched by my arrest, Khalid crafted a brilliant illustration of myself, which was used by many as their profile picture while media outlets used it whenever they recounted my arrest's story. I am humbled by Khalid's use of his talent to raise awareness to my case. Thanks, Khalid.

Tina Lekas Miller, or @lekasmiller, is an elegant American graphic designer with whom I've been a long-time mutual follower on Twitter. She created these beautiful and captivating designs in solidarity with me. Oh Tina, I'm humbled by your kindheartedness. Thank you!

Thanks again, everyone.


  1. What a lovely piece of writing. You were at the center of my daughter Anna's (@agoodcuppa) and my thoughts during the time you were imprisoned. We live across the country from each other but had the same reaction when we learned you were free. Tears of gratitude and happiness.

  2. Very little news about this, only hearing about this now. Good luck.

  3. حمدالله على السلامة يا سمسم