A Lane Community College student could face Sudan's death penalty for his participation in a protest calling for peace in his homeland of Darfur, according to United Press International.
Rudwan Dawod flew to Sudan to visit family and renew his Sudanese passport, according to John Zogby, who is a chairman for the NGO Dawod runs and a blogger for HuffPost. Dawod traveled from his home in Springfield, Ore. where his American wife, Nancy, is pregnant with the couple's first child.
Last month, Dawod was knocked unconscious and later arrested during a peaceful student protest in Sudan. Members of Congress, Lane school officials, press members and other activists call for his release. Meanwhile, Dawod was reportedly tortured and faces charges of "criminal organization and terrorism."
In March, 2009, the ICC indicted Sudanese president Omar al Bashir on charges of directing a campaign of mass murder, rape and pillage against Darfur's civilians. Most recently, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee to camps from northern to southern Sudan, the international community discusses the often violent military strategies used by the al Bashir's regime.
Dawod is a project director for Sudan Sunrise, an NGO that advocates for peace in Sudan and South Sudan, according to its website.
According to a New York Times blog post by Zogby, Dawod is reportedly one of thousands strategically imprisoned in Sudan since June in a regime effort to intimidate individuals protesting government activities.
Zogby details the dire circumstances facing Dawod since the protest and detailed Dawod's court testimony for HuffPost.
The protest was organized by Girifna, translated as "We're Fed Up," a non-violent youth movement in Sudan calling for the end of injustice and brutality by the Sudanese government. Girifna, like other student-led Arab Spring movements in the region, uses social media to organize and spread its message of human rights and democracy.
Rudwan faces charges of terrorism and criminal organization by a government led by Omar al-Bashir, a war criminal indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for genocide in Darfur. Rudwan, a Darfurian, testified in court this week that while detained, Sudan's National Intelligence and Security Forces (NISS) threatened him and others with rape. The NISS falsely accused Rudwan of being a CIA spy, converting to Christianity (though he is a devout Muslim), and violently condemned his reconciliation work in South Sudan.
"...I think it's just important that when someone is detained in this way that we do everything we can to raise awareness and see what can be done to bring him home," LCC President Mary Spilde told Northwest Public Radio.
In a statement to ABC, the Sudanese Embassy, which would not address Dawod's particular situation, said the protests are often a "delicate process of facilitating self-expression and maintaining public order on which some opportunists capitalize to inspire violence and chaos or smear Sudan’s image."
The statement went on to say that individuals arrested during the protests would "most certainly receive a fair and just trial." Zogby reportedly said sources who saw Dawod come before a judge heard the judge say "Girifna is an organization that terrorizes the general public and aims to oppose authority with criminal force." Zogby argues this reveals the judge's bias.
Dawod was not studying when detained. College students, however, were encouraged to avoid protests. Last November, three American college students were arrested outside of Tahrir Square in Egypt. They were released back to the U.S. but only after days of reportedly "being struck, forced to lie for hours in the dark and being threatened by guns."
Tips For Traveling Abroad
Learn About The Local Laws
Once you enter a country, you are subjected to its laws. Therefore, for your own safety, it's important to learn them before visiting. For instance, in Singapore you can be arrested for spitting in public.
Be Mindful Of The Culture
Even if the new culture's way of life is unnatural to you, you want to be respectful of it. Be aware of traditions and customs so you can pack appropriate clothes or learn basic skills like how to use chopsticks.
Learn the native language
Pick up enough phrases to help you when you get inevitably lost, or to ensure that you don't get ripped off at the local markets. If you're staying for awhile, then immerse yourself in the language fully to be able to spark interesting conversations everyday and become more of a member of the community. It's no fun having to always respond to someone with "I don't understand".
Take precautions for the worst
Just to be safe, leave copies of your passport and address/contact information of where you are going with someone at home. Also, make a few extra copies to keep in your suitcase during your trip in case the original gets lost or stolen. Furthermore, become fully acquainted with the whereabouts of the U.S. embassy in the country you are visiting.
Know what may be hazardous to you
If you are visiting a country that serves mainly spicy food and you know that won't sit well with your stomach, pack appropriate medicines and supplements. If you are visiting a country that is prone to specific bugs or diseases such as malaria, give yourself time to receive the necessary vaccinations and shots.
Watch the news
Be fully up to date with the happenings in the city you are visiting as well as neighboring countries. Don't be ignorant of potential dangers.
Be smart with your belongings
Always firmly hold your belongings in a way that they can't be snatched from you and don't dress extravagantly in expensive jewelry or accessories. Travelling abroad may turn you into a photographer but be cautious of flaunting your digital SLR camera. It's important not to make yourself seem vulnerable to robbery and theft.
Keep in touch just enough
Though you shouldn't lose touch with your family and friends at home, don't let them inhibit your experience. Consider starting a blog or sending a postcard from your travels so your family and friends can be kept up to date on your adventures. Be in contact enough so you don't lose touch with what's happening at home but also focus on your adventure.
If you're spending a more lengthy time abroad, take advantage of your location to travel. A ticket to Berlin may cost you 200 euros, but do you know how much it costs to get from the U.S. to berlin? About 100x more.
Do What Natives Do
This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Ride the elephant in Thailand, drink the snake blood in Vietnam, go sand duning in Dubai and brave through the Singaporean fish pedicure. And have fun!