KHARTOUM (Sudanow) - Despite the loudspeakers and the thunderous slogans chanted by the crowds in the sit-in, that resonate everywhere, yet there was a voice which was more impressive, though so different from all that clamor. That voice was coming from a tent accommodating a group of youngsters, street kids, who moved to live in the sit in zone where they found shelter, food, clothing and education. Shouting and merrymaking were the norm. The sound and laughter of the kids became higher as they eyed the new clothes brought for them ahead of the Muslim Feast of Eid Alfitr.
All children feel happy when they see the Eid clothes. But the happiness of these kids was different: This is the first time they would celebrate the Eid with new clothes and new footwear. Generally, none had cared for them nor for their shabby clothes that can barely cover their bodies. Nobody had cared for their bare feet that bled from the tough ground they walked or ran on. Nobody had noticed their presence when they watched youngsters their age who put on new clothes and received Eid gifts from relatives and friends. None of them could remember to have received a piece of sweets or candy on the Eid Day. They would just pry over the public parks fences to see other children riding wooden horses, or cars, or playing different games. They would just wipe their tears and keep their distance until the place becomes empty and the guards call them for clean up against small sums. But before they would sweep the place clean, they would scavenge in the garbage for food leftovers and toys dropped or forgotten by the park visitors, on holidays in particular.
But now it was different. A few minutes ago, the first stage for the preparation for the Eid came into conclusion: A group of voluntary youths working within the group” Just Tidying Up ” came in, launched a make-shift barbers shop and made the hair of all the children in the tent . They also gave the kids perfumes, crèmes and soap. Girls also had their hair made and received gifts of necklaces, earrings, bracelets and crèmes. Every one of the kids started to look in joy at his/her image in the mirror. Then came the turn for the new clothes. Shouting raised higher and the kids expressed their happiness in many ways: Some danced, some jumped and some ululated. Some refused to take off their new shoes and pranced amid the happy cries of joy for the coming Eid. Each of them received his clothes and his other gifts. But it became difficult to stop the clamor and everyone understood that. The kids then began to plan for the Eid visits. Some wanted to visit their teachers and present sweets and candy to them. Some wanted to go to the park. Demands started to pour in, the demands they always dreamt of.
That scene was on the 29th of the holy fasting month of Ramadan (the 3rd of June), hours before the sit-in was to be attacked and harshly dispersed in a manner no sound heart would accept. The place of the scene was a group of tents set for street kids by the NGOs “We Are For Them”, “It Is Our Hope”, “Innovators” and “Ahmed Khair Initiative”. May be the reader can remember an earlier Sudanow report in which the kids were happy to receive a lot of care and attention from the sit in protesters that included healthcare and education and, further and above, a hope for a better future when the popular revolution is to triumph . The kids had considered themselves an original partner in the revolution that calls for freedom, justice and peace. They had stayed there all through the sit-in strike, which some considered needlessly long. But for them it was an opportunity for happiness that may never come again.
Each one of the kids received his clothes and other gifts and stayed awake for so long, in expectation for the happy Eid morning. And when they at last fell asleep, they all of a sudden woke up to the noise of gunfire. Their hearts were about to stop out of fear. They understood nothing, but they heard a voice they were used to. That was the voice of Mr. Maysara, their teacher. He was calling for them to wake up, not to panic and to hold each other by the hands. They started to move amidst the cries of fear that filled the place. All of a sudden Mr. Maysara asked them to run East in the direction of Burri neighborhood and never to look back. “Run.. Run .. and escape with the others,” he kept shouting to them. They could understand nothing. They had slept waiting for the Eid Day and woke up as if it was doomsday.
They were part of the multitudes of protesters who ran away on that sad dawn. They rushed with the crowds to the nearby hospital or entered homes on their way. What matters is that they felt they were part of that mass of people. They belonged to them as if they were their kin.
Later they started to look for their teachers and their supervisors. And they did not lose contact with them. At the heat of the moment the teachers were keen to write their (teachers) phone numbers on the children’s clothes. But, very sadly, the children could not take the Eid clothes and the Eid joy with them.
Indeed they had spent good days at the sit in zone. But that joy was hijacked by those who started the fire.
Happily all of them, 150 kids, had escaped the killing. After he recuperated from a bullet wound in his foot, Mr. Maysara said all the kids were all right and most of them were in contact with their teachers and supervisors.
Mr. Maysara said he was with them the night before and when the rain started to fall, he took some of them to a room in the nearby Nusayba hostel of the University of Khartoum. The rest stayed in the tent with some of their teachers. He said he made sure that all of them had quit the sit-in zone towards Burri.
“The three months the kids had stayed in the sit-in grounds had created a noteworthy change in them, starting from their general look and the skills they have acquired. Those registered in the tents were 123 kids, including 12 girls between 7-13 years old,” said Mr. Maysara.
He said a whole team of volunteers had worked with the kids, including psychology, sociology, public health and nutrition experts. The list of volunteers also includes teachers, dramatists and plastic painters who are keen to keep giving the kids what they were deprived from, said Mr. Maysara.
After that horrific night the kids became more fearful and sensitive. They became eager to have a home. They became needier for kind hearts. But for Adam and fellows his age, and after they absorbed the shock, they silently dragged their feet towards a nearby ravine and lay down on its sticky, stinking, muddy ground. After the shock they had received and after they had lost their safe haven, they became tougher. They are strangers in their own country. They are without a name or address or national ID.
They were part of the sit in, always present therein. And now they ask whether the coming interim civilian (or democratic) government could change their conditions.
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