As the Sudanese now sort out the country’s future, I am posting some of my coverage of the just-ousted regime. I was one of five or so Western journalists issued a press visa to report from Sudan following overwhelming condemnation by the United Nations in late 1992 regarding human rights violations there.
Omar al-Bashir, Sudan’s now overthrown leader, had seized power in 1989 and was officially installed as president in 1993. The Western media had purposely been kept out of Sudan, and getting into the country required pulling strings at the highest unofficial level.
Southern Sudan was in the throes of not only an invasion of troops from the North, but regional factional fighting as well as an ongoing missionary invasion. But Khartoum was also treacherous.
At the time of my visit to Khartoum in January 1993—three of history’s most successful terrorists were apparently operating there: Carlos the Jackal, Abu Nidal, and Osama bin Laden.
Bin Laden’s construction company, not far from my hotel, was assisting the Sudanese government in rebuilding the country’s infrastructure (1991-1996)—providing a convenient cover for his military ambitions.
One night while in Khartoum I received a telephone call at the Hilton from a woman who said she was a human rights advocate I’d met at the recent national assembly. She asked if I would please come to her home and spend the night. She wanted to talk to me.
The Khartoum Hilton was swarming with agents, security and otherwise. I possibly missed an opportunity to learn of important developments but declined her invitation.
The following year, for instance, I got a call from one of the Gulf State ambassadors—an old friend telephoning out of the blue, someone I had not spoken with for many years—urging me not to get on the plane to Algiers to do a documentary there.
“They can get you whenever they want to,” he told me.
I took his advice.
While in Khartoum I did a video interview with Sudan’s de facto leader, Hassan Turabi, at his home, also not far from my hotel. Excerpts of which follow.
After my return to the US from Sudan, I was invited as a guest on McLaughlin and Charlie Rose to discuss the conflict in Sudan. I submitted the Turabi video to their producers for use in the two broadcasts. Both programs refused to air any portion of it.
I also reported for Newsday‘s Sunday editorial pages.
In recent months, I’ve posted the Turabi interview on YouTube where it has been getting substantial traffic. I am reposting it here now that Sudan is in the thick of another upheaval.
The announcement that Sudan was being put on America’s terrorist list was made during the McLaughlin program by John McLaughlin’s other guest, US Rep. Harry Johnston, then-head of the House panel on Africa.
Khartoum had been the CIA’s most important outpost in Africa for a long time and Hassan Turabi had a history with the CIA, most visibly through Operation Moses. Was it a coincidence that bin Laden and “other Arabs” were there in Khartoum?
Turabi told me this in our 1993 interview—
“the Palestinians [in Sudan] were created from Beirut from the United Nations and United States Command. They are brought into the Sudan and they are now camped in a few places in Eastern Sudan. . . But there are Palestinian soldiers who were evacuated from Beirut when Beirut was dealt with many, many years back. And they’re now there. That’s the only non-Sudanese military personnel in the Sudan. . . But other Arabs came to the Sudan without visas. And some Palestinians who were thrown out of Kuwait, who couldn’t go back to Egypt or to Israeli-occupied—or to Jordan, some of them came to the Sudan.”
As for the roughly two million Sudanese who were uprooted by the violence in the South and were living in refugee camps without sanitation on the outskirts of Khartoum, Turabi told me that they were “better off” in the North.
Following are excerpts of my video conversation with Hassan Turabi:
Suzan Mazur: Dr. Turabi, six main training camps have been cited from which your regime is said to export terrorists to Egypt, North Africa and the Gulf States. Three camps are supposed to be on the East Coast in the Red Sea region at Arous, Gebeit, and Port Sudan. One in Kassala in the Eastern Province and another at El Jaili, north of Khartoum. And another at Wadi Seidna, about 12 kilometers from where we now sit. What is your response to this?
Hassan Turabi: This is an open country. This is an absolute lie. Believe me. There isn’t a single Iranian military personnel in this country, not even a military attaché at the Iranian embassy itself.
And there are no camps in the areas that you mentioned, at all. This is an open country. These are not closed areas only for the military. There are a few Palestinians—
Suzan Mazur: Hamas is represented here.
Hassan Turabi: No, no, no, no. The Palestinians were created from Beirut, from the United Nations and United States Command. They are brought into the Sudan, and they are now camped in a few places in Eastern Sudan.
Suzan Mazur: I spoke with a representative of Hamas myself last night in the Hilton hotel.
Hassan Turabi: And he has absolutely no military personnel here. Hamas, there are very few Palestinians who are Hamas supporters. Mostly they are Farah supporters. The Palestinians. Only 200-300 Palestinians in the Sudan.
But there are Palestinian soldiers who were evacuated from Beirut when Beirut was dealt with many, many years back. And they’re there, I mean. That’s the only non-Sudanese military personnel in the Sudan.
Suzan Mazur: And there are reports that the Abu Nidal people are here in Sudan.
Hassan Turabi: This is an absolute lie because Abu Nidal himself applied for a visa entry to the Sudan when we had visa entries and he was told we have two precedents here in this country of attacks against hotels and against embassies and we’ll never allow a Palestinian of your group EVER to come to the Sudan. But other Arabs came to the Sudan without visas. And some Palestinians who were thrown out of Kuwait, who couldn’t go back to Egypt or to Israeli-occupied—or to Jordan, some of them came to the Sudan. Very few of them came to the Sudan.. . .
Suzan Mazur: When will your regime allow the Nuba to return to their land. It’s said that about 40,000 are displaced and that you’ve forced 4[,000] to 5,000 families into Kordofan Province because you’re pursuing a policy of ethnic cleansing.
Hassan Turabi: No one is forced either to move from his area to another area or back to his own area if he’s displaced by natural phenomenon like desertification or by war or such things.
These Nubians used to be farmers, in the country farmers. But they couldn’t stay in their own farms because there were security problems over there. So they flood into the town. And they were told they could have plenty of farms elsewhere. And they said we don’t mind going there and growing our, that particular—. They went there. But they are free to go back to their town. If there is security there, they can either stay on wherever they were or go back. It’s absolutely free.
Suzan Mazur: Your president has said in his address before the national assembly, “We want to expose the dangers of a new world order, saying he will open embassies in Malaysia, Korea, Central Asia, Mali, Southern Africa, and strengthen ties with Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Jordan. What does he mean, “expose the dangers of a new world order”?
Hassan Turabi: Most people here realize that the new world order is an order of domination. Of course, we are ex-colonial people. We know that Europe, even when it withdrew its colonial forces, continually by remote control, controlled our economic development. Tried to force our culture. And so on and so forth.
We don’t want a new order that is based on injustice. We love a human order, which is very fair. Where there is a revision even of the United Nations itself. Because it’s not very democratic, the United Nations. It doesn’t represent in fair proportion the population of the world.”
And McLaughlin on Sudan: