Sudanese artists jailed

Hajooj Kuka

Five Sudanese artists, including the filmmaker Hajooj Kuka, have been imprisoned for two months on public nuisance charges. They say their detention is politically motivated.

The sentencing follows a raid on 10 August on a cultural centre in the Al-Zuhour neighbourhood in Khartoum where Kuka and a group of artists, actors and activists were rehearsing a performance work. Authorities claim they were acting on noise complaints. However Kuka says he and colleagues were attacked with sticks and stones by ‘Islamist instigators’, angry over the political nature of the play, and that police failed to intervene when they were assaulted.

Kuka was imprisoned alongside Duaa Ahmed, Abdel Hamdan, Ayman Ahmed and Ahmed Hammad.

Duaa Ahmed

It has also been claimed that Duaa Ahmed, who is the manager of Khartoum’s Civic Lab cultural centre, was slapped unconscious by a police officer when she told him not to take pictures of her on his personal phone.

While longtime Sudanese autocrat Omar al-Bashir was toppled in April last year after months of protests, the judiciary system in the country is yet to be reformed. Kuka, best known for his documentary Beats of the Antonov (2014) and comedic film aKasha (2018) and who was admitted to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences earlier this year, has long been a critic of the previous regime as a member of Girifna, a non-violent resistance movement in Sudan (the name translates as ‘we are fed up’ in Arabic.)

The artists in a cell

In total eleven people were taken into custody – the remaining six are yet to go to court. Video posted on social media shows the artists in a bare cell chanting in protest at their treatment.

A statement from the Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa notes: ‘The judiciary system continues to be heavily influenced by the militant Islamist ideology of the ex-regime, which criminalized freedom of association and arts and undermined the existence of women in the public sphere.’

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