- The Washington Times - Monday, October 10, 2005

JOBORONA, Sudan — Having just ended a 21-year civil war that divided Muslims and Christians, Sudan has a new government and a new interim constitution guaranteeing religious freedom. But for Marko Mayoren, the new deal exists largely on paper.

“Forty-five lashes for being drunk,” the man said bitterly, raising his shirt to show crisscrossed wounds on his stomach, some still red and tender.

Mr. Mayoren, 50, had been released a day earlier after a night in jail and a brief trial that convicted him of breaking Islamic law by drinking alcohol.

The new constitution took effect in July, promising less stringent application of the rules on alcohol and women’s dress.

But Mr. Mayoren said he was taken to a veranda of the Muslim Court of Conduct and lashed front and back with a leather whip, then ordered to pay a fine of about $20.

Mr. Mayoren’s comrades swapped nearly identical stories as they sat on low stools and dipped a wooden bowl into a bucket of a fermented orange drink called, for reasons unknown, “Internet.”

These refugees are from the war-ravaged south, where Christianity and traditional African faiths are the main religions. Now 400 to 800 miles from home, they sat at an improvised outdoor bar in Joborona, one of several camps for some 2 million southerners that have sprung up around Khartoum over the past two decades.

The men know the law forbids alcohol. They just don’t think it should apply to Christians.

They’re right, said Ghazi Suleiman, a Muslim lawyer and parliament member. He notes that the constitution says “Sudan is a diversified nation” and guarantees respect for all practices, traditions and religions.

But the capital is still an Islamic city, where most women wrap head and body in flowing robes, and all shops and the one Western-style mall close for Friday prayers.

The new constitution has given Christians a slight sense of reprieve. Christian women have been quick to discard scarves and long-sleeved garb, though they still report women being roughed up when alone and cornered by a cop.

Law-enforcement agencies have been officially ordered not to harass non-Muslims and not to detain drinkers unless they are disturbing the peace.

Jacqueline Khamis, a 23-year-old Christian who lives in Joborona camp, has short, uncovered hair, wears a T-shirt and long skirt. She said “there’s been a great change” since the government and southern rebels signed a peace deal in January that made rebel leader John Garang first vice president — the only Christian ever to hold the post.

Until peace was signed, “almost every girl I know has been physically harassed for the way she is dressed,” Miss Khamis said.

Mr. Suleiman said such incidents decreased considerably, but harassment returned after the death of Mr. Garang in a plane crash in July, just three weeks after he was sworn in.

“We had a setback, but we will rectify things,” Mr. Suleiman said. “These actions will definitely come to an end soon.”

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