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Arrest of Darfur female activist for alleged proselytization sparks outcry

May 8, 2011 (KHARTOUM) – The arrest this week of a Sudanese woman from the country’s troubled western region of Darfur on charges of alleged “Christianization” of minors at displacement camps has elicited condemnation from Darfur lawyers and a refugee spokesman.

Photo of Hawa as it appeared on the pro-government website SMC

The Sudan Media Center (SMC), an online news agency believed to be run by the country’s security apparatus, reported this week that the authorities in Darfur had arrested Hawa Abdella, a woman identified by SMC as the first-rank operative of the military office of the Darfur rebel faction Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) led by Abdel Wahid Nur.

According to SMC, Hawa was caught as she was carrying out “extensive Christianization” of children inside camps of Internally Displace People (IDP). The website quoted an informed security source as saying that the accused was planning to carry out “new sabotage operations” in north Darfur and that she had recently held meetings with Nur while he was in Entebbe in Uganda. It also said that Hawas’s meeting with Nur was facilitated by the UN-AU Peacekeeping Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) for which the accused works as a translator.

The report on Hawa’s arrest featured a photo of her holding a copy of the Holy Bible and an ID card purporting to be from UNAMID.

Meanwhile, the SLM’s Nur faction has denied that Hawa was a member of the group. The spokesperson of the SLM’s chairman office Mustafa Tamboor told Sudan Tribune that the accusation aims to drive citizens away from her and the SLM after the series of protests the movement recently organized in Darfur.

Tamboor said that security authorities had targeted Hawa because she was trying to spread awareness among refugees.

The Darfur Bar Association was quick to react, saying that it had conducted its own investigation and concluded that the story reported by pro-government media outlets was “conflicting and inaccurate.”

Darfur lawyers further said that Hawa’s alleged deed does not fall within the category of criminal acts. They further criticized the publication of her photo, saying that such display at this early stage goes against the proper application of law and endangers her life.

An IDP spokesperson, Hussian Sharati, told Sudan Tribune that the security authorities had been targeting Hawa for a long time and that they had seized the opportunity to arrest her during the demonstrations organized by the SLM at Abu Shuk IDP camp last month.

Sharati strongly denied that Hawa had any relation with proselytization activities in Darfur, adding that Hawa learnt Quran by her father who was a known Islamic scholar administrated a Koranic school in eastern Jebel Marra.

(ST)