الجمعة، 25 نوفمبر، 2016

They call it awareness, I call it child abuse

Eariler this month, the Sudanese government announced the implementation of new economic measures including increase in fuel prices and freeing the official exchange rate for Sudanese pound. This has led to enormous decrease in the value of Sudanese pound. As a result, prices of consumables increased but most dangerously the prices of medicines went up to 100-300% overnight. Economic hardship ignited public anger among the Sudanese public, which is expressed mostly online. Additionally scattered and small scale protests took place in several locations in Khartoum and other cities over the past few weeks and it is getting bigger gradually.

News about high school kids in Bahri protesting the new economic measures have filled my Facebook news feeds this morning. Videos and photos followed, showing the police intimidating those kids. People in my timeline (mostly members of political parties and movements) were cheered up by the news, sharing those photos and videos with revolutionary slogans.

I have been into the debate about ethics of using children in politics for a while now. Below I am going to narrate some incidents before explaining why I find it morally unacceptable to celebrate the participation of minors in the regime change.

Few years ago, I was involved with a protest movement. We were discussing tactics of maximizing our community outreach in contrast to the risks. A fellow activist, who is also an opposition party member testified that he gives pamphlets to children in his neighborhood and asks them to distribute it. This was his strategy to stay safe and get more pamphlets distributed in his neighborhood. Regardless of the dangers that might face those children or whether they have the ability to agree/ disagree with the messages on the papers they carry and distribute. This might be an isolated incident, but involving children in politics is practiced and defended among some activists

In 2014 I met with an activist who was involved in September 2013 and got detained for almost a month. While we were analyzing September uprising, I said that the masses were not led or motivated by any political entities. He protested my statement and claimed that even the school kids were led by a political entity that was part of the coordination committee for the Sudanese revolution forces. He proudly said it! Regardless the causalities among children and minors that took place in September. Regardless the moral chenanigans of putting kids in the frontlines.

But high school students organized those protests themselves!
Many claimed that high school kids who are mostly aged 14- 17 years old, organized those protests themselves. This might be the case but the question is how did those kids manage to skip the classes and leave the school before the classes end. I assume it is the responsibility of the school administration and teachers to keep them in the classrooms. They are the ones who bear the responsibility over their safety while in school.
 
But adolescenta at this age have already developed political awareness, we cannot deprive them from expressing their opinions!

Some minors have developed political opinions. I think it is important to encourage them to express their opinions. There are ongoing academic debates on the engagement of adolescents in policy formulation. However their participation in peaceful protests is way much beyond political participation. It is about endangering their lives and well being. The regime has the history of killing, arresting and torturing minors who protest and openly oppose it. Defending high school kids protests as a mean for political participation is an underestimation of the consequences.

So its ok if they died at 19?

It is definitely not OK if any peaceful protester got killed while exercising their right. Having said that, it is equally important that people who join those protests are able to make informed decisions, and take the responsibility over their actions. Here rely the difference between adults and adolescents. They are not fully responsible for their actions, legally and morally.

Some kids mature early, 18 is just a number!
I am surprised by the argument that 18 is just a number and some kids mature early. It reminds me of the argument that peadophiles use to justify sexual abuse also known as "early marriage". Therefore if we agree that childhood/ adulthood should not be specified by age then we might need to agree on a certain physical and psychological standards, which I found very random, inconvenient and dangerous.

I was a minor when I started to be politically active and that was ok!

May be it worked for you, but it might have negative consequences on other minors. We cannot leave it to chances and we cannot deal with your amazing childhood political experience as a mainstream case. Again here the issue is not only political participation but rather engagement in dangerous activities, and the responsibility of school administrations from the safety and wellbeing of students.

Who am I to criticize anything under the current circumstances?

I must be affiliated with NCP.
I must be benifiting from the existing regime.
I must be living on foreign funds that are going to stop if the regime changes.
I must be kind of retarded and my political awareness didnt develop from an early age.
I must be an "obstacle" for the approaching revolution.
I must be relying on books and training workshops to gain my knowledge but not from a genuine political experience.

All forms of accusations and passive aggressive comments are welcome.
Spoiler: I wrote this post in English to let non Arabic speakers jump into the discussion.

The regime has killed minors in peaceful protests in Nyala in July 2012, school children were shot to death in September 2013. Regime change is not the duty of minors and children. It is our duty as adults to protest and face the state authorities. It is our duty to work toward improving the environement that they grow up in.

Ironically, no political entity has publically called on their members or the general public to protest the economic measures recently. If we excluded the premature public speeches that led to the arrest of two thirds of Sudanese Congress Party leadership.

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