Dania Atabani, a member of the resistance committee in the Maamoura neighborhood of Khartoum, is part of the recent citizen mobilizations against the military rule in Sudan.
After participating in the protests that led to the fall of dictator Omar al-Bashir in April 2019, the 23-year-old student opposed the rise of army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and his lieutenant Mohammad Hamdane Dagalo, aka Hemedti, head of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF). During their joint putsch in October 2021, resistance committees in different neighborhoods of the capital organized weekly demonstrations that were often met with violence. Many of Dania’s friends died.
She did not believe in the civil-military agreement of Dec. 5, 2022, according to which the two generals were supposed to hand over power to a civilian government. Instead, on April 15, the men turned on each other to seize control of Sudan and its resources, setting off a conflict that continues to rip apart the country of 45 million people."It was expected," Dania said on the first day of the war, recounting the clashes near her home. Bullets flew through the ceiling of her family's apartment. Faithful to her commitments, the young activist volunteered with the Maamoura resistance committee to provide medical care and evacuation routes for Sudanese families left to their own devices in a city transformed into a theater of war and deserted by diplomats.
Dania, for her part, did everything she could to remain in the country for which she had fought so hard. But on May 9, when the fighting became too life-threatening, her grandparents and her mother decided it was time to leave. On the bus that took her to the Egyptian border, between a paramilitary and a regular army checkpoint, she wrote this text for L'Orient-Le Jour.
Everything is a blessing.
This war has taught me so much, all the details whose importance I wasn’t aware of. But actually, it was the colors that gave life its true meaning … some small details that I never thought I would miss.
I miss my friends, I miss my family, I miss the grocery store guy who would always greet me and ask about my family and start a random conversation and then he make fun of me.
I miss going to the gas station and asking about fuel prices and arguing about how life is hard and trying to share the suffering of the people even though I’m in a way better economic situation. I miss complaining about the hot weather and how the sun in Sudan feels like it’s walking next to you, and then joking with my friends about the hot weather, telling them if I was a popcorn I would’ve popped.
I miss negotiating the prices of vegetables and telling the seller that I won’t accept that price, I miss coming across teenagers playing football, I miss nagging about how people don’t know how to drive, I miss the kindness of my people, I miss how a complete stranger would tell me a joke when they find me crying or sad.
I miss my life, I miss the protests, I miss the water tanker that chases us and the jokes we made about it as our defense mechanism. I miss the smell of tear gas; I know this is a bit sadistic, but I enjoy it.
This war taught me that everything I once had was a blessing. It taught me that I should never take life for granted or think that what we have in life is imperishable, even the things and people are hate … But the worst part is that life taught me this lesson the hard way. Life made me lose an entire home, lose a whole cause, lose many people in many different ways and, most importantly, lose my own self.
It’s really hard to see yourself fighting so hard to live happily and safely in your country … to watch your friends dying in front of you for this cause and then, in a fraction of a second, everything you ever fought for turns into ash.
But this war taught me a very precious lesson: Hope is what keeps us alive.
I hope that, one day very soon, I will get back home. I will rebuild every broken wall and heal every wounded soul. I will fix it because that is what I and all the people who were ever out in those streets were fighting for, standing bare-chested in front of death for that freedom. We’ve promised to mend this country and we will keep that promise.