- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 4, 2012

A Sudanese man who traveled to South Sudan in May to help rebuild a church and ended up being arrested, tortured and charged with terrorism while on a trip north to Sudan, says his countrymen are mobilizing to topple the regime in Khartoum and desperately need U.S. support.

“In just a few days from now, we are going to have another strong uprising, we are going to have another strong revolution … the people are not going to stop,” Rudwan Dawod told The Washington Times on Tuesday.

“We just really need the international community, especially the U.S. government, to help us by any way to get rid of this regime,” he said. “We have a great hope that change will happen through nonviolence.”

The Girifna movement, a nonviolent, student-led opposition group, will be on the front lines of the protests, he said. Girifna means “we are fed up” in Arabic, which is spoken in Sudan.

Mr. Dawod is a project director with Sudan Sunrise, a group that facilitates reconciliation among Christians and Muslims in South Sudan.

He returned to the U.S. last month after spending 44 days in the custody of Sudan’s notorious National Intelligence and Security Services.

He met lawmakers in Washington Tuesday and was scheduled to meet U.S. special envoy for Sudan and South Sudan, Princeton Lyman, at the State Department later in the afternoon.

Earlier, speaking at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Mr. Dawod said the Sudanese government is trying to divide the Sudanese people along regional lines in order to weaken the opposition.

“We need to let the people know that our goal is the same … to overthrow the regime,” he said.

A big challenge facing the opposition in Sudan is its inability to broadcast its message via TV, radio or newspapers, all of which are controlled by the state, said Mr. Dawod. “It is difficult for us to fight against the government propaganda,” he said.

Mr. Dawod said the Obama administration should use sanctions to trigger regime change in Khartoum.

“It is the right time to take strong action,” he said. “With this regime we will never see peace, we will never see reconciliation between our people.”

South Sudan became independent from Sudan in July 2011 following 22 years of civil war that left more than 2 million people dead. Its population is predominantly black and Christian or animist.

The majority of the population in Sudan is Arab and practices Islam.

In May, Mr. Dawod traveled from his home in Springfield, Ore., to South Sudan to direct a project in which Muslims are rebuilding a Catholic cathedral burned down by Sudanese forces in the town of Torit.

He later traveled to Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, to meet family and renew his passport.

Mr. Dawod was arrested by Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services on July 3 after he attended a peaceful protest in Khartoum against President Omar al-Bashir’s government. He was tortured for several days, beaten until he lost consciousness and charged with terrorism, an offense that could have led to the death sentence.

The Sudanese security service “agents are responsible for most cases of arbitrary and incommunicado detention, torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment,” according to Amnesty International.

On Aug. 13, a judge found Mr. Dawod not guilty of most of the charges against him, including that of terrorism, but he was promptly arrested again.

Mr. Dawod eventually was released Aug. 16 following pressure from the Obama administration and international advocacy groups.