Johannesburg – Sudanese journalist Shamael Al Nur has become the target of hard-line Islamists in Sudan after she wrote a column criticising the Sudanese government for focusing on the way women dress and their morality at the expense of educational and health issues.
The response to Nur’s column was swift and hard with a Khartoum-based radical Islamist, Mohamed Ali Al Ghazouli, accusing her of slandering Islam and committing apostasy, the penalty for which is death in Sudan.
Nur, 36, told AFP on Sunday that she was also being targeted by radical Islamists, and a section of Sudan’s hard-line media, because she was a woman.
“In the Sudanese community it becomes a problem when a woman speaks of such issues or criticises Islamic scholars,” said Nur, dressed in a leather jacket and jeans.
She also accused Mustafa Al Tayeb, editor of the hard-line newspaper El Sina and an uncle of President Omar Al Bashir, of targeting her.
Nur has to be prevented from corrupting Sudan’s values, Tayeb wrote in his newspaper last week, urging his readers to “protect their religion”.
In the column she wrote earlier in the month for Al Tayar newspaper, Nur accused Islamic regimes of focusing on “matters of virtue and women’s dress rather than health and education issues”.
“It is easy to cut spending on health in the state budget, but it is very difficult for the ministry of health to distribute condoms,” she wrote in the column on a sardonic note.
According to Nur, less than three percent of Sudan’s budget is allocated for health and education.
The journalist added that she had written several articles criticising Khartoum but that her latest article had hit a nerve and triggered a vicious campaign against her.
However, Al Ghazouli said that Nur’s comments were derogatory towards Islam and its main virtues.
“She says that those who pray can’t build modern state. Such writings are also against Sudanese law and the constitution,” he added.
Ghazouli has filed a case against Nur and has also approached the Sudanese press council.
“They will now decide whether this amounts to apostasy,” he said, a charge which can carry the death penalty in Sudan in case of conviction.
He also slammed the journalist at a Khartoum mosque last Friday during one of his sermons. However, the daily independent that Nur works for has offered their support.
“Shamael Al Nur is a young journalist with a great future. She is active and has a strong will,” said Osman Mirgani, editor of Al-Tayar.
“She has strong views about journalism and that makes her different from others.”
The Paris-based Media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has also taken up her cause.
“We urge the authorities to do what is necessary to protect Nur and the rest of Al Tayar’s personnel and to condemn these calls for hate and violence,” RSF said last week.
Meanwhile, President Bashir on Sunday announced that he had pardoned a Czech missionary and film maker, Petr Jasek, who was sentenced to life imprisonment for allegedly “spying” against Sudan.
The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), however, accused Khartoum of an oppressive policy towards Christians.
Four days after entering Sudan Jasek was arrested in December 2015, by Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS), in possession of two bags containing a laptop, mobile phone, video camera and other documents.
He was charged with espionage, waging war against the state and inciting hatred against religious congregations.
On January 29, a Sudanese court sentenced Jasek to life imprisonment for spying against the Sudan and disseminating reports – via an "American organisation hostile to Sudan" – including alleged persecution of Christians in the country, and the bombardment of civilian populated areas in the Nuba Mountains of South Kordofan State.
Jasek’s pardon followed the visit of Czech Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek who arrived in Khartoum on Sunday for talks on bilateral relations.
However, two Sudanese Christians, Pastor Hassan Abdel-Rahim and geologist Abdel-Moni’m Abdel-Mawla, who were sentenced to 12 years for colluding with the Czech missionary have not been pardoned.