KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Hundreds of Sudanese Islamists and others staged a rare demonstration in central Khartoum on Friday in solidarity with Syria’s anti-government protesters and called for an end to President Bashar al-Assad’s crackdown.
Large protests are rare in the Sudanese capital, and security forces have quickly dispersed the small anti-government demonstrations that have broken out after the revolts which ousted leaders in neighbouring Egypt and Libya this year.
On Friday, police surrounded the roughly 300 demonstrators but allowed them to gather and chant. It was the first protest against the Syrian government in Sudan, which has good ties with Damascus and Assad’s main ally, Iran.
“Oh Bashar, oh you coward, the Muslims are right here,” the protesters chanted after leaving Khartoum’s Grande Mosque following Friday prayers. “No to the Alawites, and no to Iran, the army of Mohammad is right here.”
Assad’s family belong to the minority Alawite sect of Islam, which some strict Sunni Muslims see as heretical.
Many of the Sudanese protesters wore the long beards favoured by some devout Muslims, shouted religious slogans, and said they were supporting fellow Sunnis against Syria’s government.
“We’re here to support Islam and the Sunnis in Syria, and to get rid of Israel,” said one 50-year old protester wearing a white robe and turban, who declined to give his name.
The Sudanese protesters were joined by a few dozen Syrians, including about 10 women in black robes and headscarfs, accompanied by their children.
Sudan’s Islamist government, headed by President Omar al-Bashir, supported the former Libyan rebels who ousted Muammar Gaddafi but has dealt swiftly with attempts to start anti-government demonstrations within its own borders.
Analysts say an economic crisis worsened by the secession of the country’s south coupled with roaring inflation could inspire further unrest in Sudan.
South Sudan took most of the country’s oil production, the lifeblood of both economies, when it declared independence in July.