Rudwan Dawod is a humanitarian, and human rights activist, currently leading a reconciliation project in South Sudan for the U.S.-based NGO Sudan Sunrise. Rudwan, a student and U.S. resident living in Oregon and expecting his first child with his American wife, Nancy, has worked at his peril to deliver aid to refugees, and foster reconciliation between Christians and Muslims, and the people of Sudan and South Sudan.
In early July, Rudwan returned to his native country of Sudan to visit family and renew his Sudanese passport. Concerned for the future of his country, and dedicated to peace and democracy, Rudwan attended a peaceful protest on the Sudanese government's recent austerity policies, and a call to end the violence in the Nuba Mountains, Blue Nile, and Darfur. Subsequently, Rudwan was arrested, beaten until unconscious, and tortured.
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. Girifna reports that the NISS is targeting the Darfuri minority, especially student activists.
Sources attending Rudwan's court hearings reported the judge as saying,"Girifna is an organization that terrorizes the general public, and aims to oppose authority with criminal force." He made this statement before hearing from the defense, exposing his bias, and all but handing down a guilty verdict. Rudwan's lawyers are scheduled to bring their case before this same judge on Sunday, July 29. If convicted, Rudwan could face years of abuse and torture in prison, or worse, the death penalty.
Although this may read like a bad Hollywood script, it is a stark reality for Rudwan, and hisfriends and family in the U.S. For more information on Rudwan's ordeal, view this interview with Rudwan's wife, Nancy Dawod, and ABC's George Stephanopoulos.
The Rudwans of the world leave us humbled and reminded of the freedoms and rights we so easily take for granted here in the US. Please write Princeton Lyman, U.S. Special Envoy for Sudan, and request that the U.S. government do all in its power to ensure the return of Rudwan to his wife and unborn child. You may also contact the Sudanese Embassy to express your concern for Rudwan, and the accusations made against him.
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