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"The morning has come, neither the prison nor the jailer remains." - Mohammed Al-Faitouri.


On the morning of April 15th, amidst people preoccupied with their daily affairs, without any prior warning, the sounds of gunfire and explosions erupted in the capital, Khartoum, heralding the beginning of the Sudanese people's worst nightmare: a war between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF).

News agencies quickly spread reports of escalating clashes in the capital, instilling panic and fear of the unknown in the hearts of Sudanese people. People became divided between supporters and opponents of the war, between displaced and those clinging to their homes, and between advocates of SAF and of the RSF.

Smoke billows above residential buildings in Khartoum. Source: AFP

The initial weeks of the war were heavy on citizens, but as the war entered its second month and people realized that the promised military resolution by both sides was a myth, coexistence with the war became necessary, especially for impoverished families needing daily work to make ends meet. Consequently, the movement of citizens became noticeable in the streets, and some shops and bakeries resumed operation to provide essential supplies to those remaining in Khartoum.

 People board a mini-bus as they evacuate southern Khartoum, on May 14, 2023. Source: AFP

In the Hands of the Unknown

On the 31st of May 2023, I went out to attend to some household needs. Since my family adamantly refused to evacuate, I had grown accustomed to venturing out in search of places where bread and goods were available. Gunfire sounds and heavy military presence in the streets were now routine.

I had agreed with my friend to meet near his house. On my way, a soldier from the Rapid Support Forces stopped me, demanding my ID and inspecting my mobile phone. He found messages about news and the dissatisfaction of my friends regarding the war and the warring parties. He accused me of being affiliated with the army intelligence, which I denied strongly, trying to prove the accusation false.

Our verbal altercation was interrupted by repeated calls from my friend, who had been waiting for me for nearly half an hour due to the soldier's interrogation. When I explained the situation to the soldier, he requested that I take him to my friend so he could verify my story.

RSF soldiers in Khartoum. Source:

When we arrived at my friend's place, I was surprised to see the soldier ordering both of us, without a valid reason, to accompany him to the officer in charge. Despite our efforts to explain that we were just two young men out to meet the needs of our families, he refused to believe us and forced us to get into the vehicle at gunpoint after confiscating our phones. We had no choice but to comply reluctantly.


The soldier, accompanied by a group of other soldiers, took us to a detention center overlooking one of the main streets in the capital. He ordered us to enter after we alighted from his heavily armed vehicle. We were greeted by a staggering number of detainees, including elderly, young, and even children inside the building, who, due to their massive numbers, couldn't find a place to sit.

Another soldier began recording our details on a piece of paper and confiscated our belongings, hiding them in an envelope. He said laughing, "you will receive your belongings if you manage to leave." Tension and fear gripped us as we realized that no matter how much we explain, it would not save us, and we became powerless hostages. The first night in detention was frightening with the sounds of gunfire and the moans of the sick and injured with me in the room. My only concern was my family and whether I would see them again.

Horror During Detention


On the first night in detention, all I could think about was my family and how worried they would be because I went out and never returned home. How could we communicate with them just to let them know that we were safe? It was the most persistent question that night. My thoughts were interrupted by the voice of a soldier calling us, holding a whip in his hand as he demanded that we sit in front of him.

We complied and he immediately started beating us as if we were the ones who started this war. We tirelessly pleaded with him to stop, insisting that we had done nothing to deserve such violence. Unfortunately, he paid no attention to our pleas and continued to mercilessly hit us until his hand grew tired. It was out of exhaustion that he then ordered us to return to the room we were in after our backs were bleeding.

My friend and I supported each other in extreme pain until we reached the room, which was filled with detainees who received us with relief and sympathy. They informed us that they did this for every detainee on their first day and assured us that the beating would not recur unless there was rioting.

I scrutinized the faces of my fellow detainees present in the room, and all their expressions exhibited total despair and exhaustion. I began to ask them about the reasons and duration of their detention, most of which were trivial reasons like suspicion of being government loyalists or random arrests. As for the duration, which struck me like lightning, it varied between weeks and months. Some have been incarcerated since the early days of the war and it struck me that we would not get out of there without a miracle.

On the second day, I started moving around the rooms, getting to know more detainees, among them doctors, engineers, accountants and the finest of the nation's youth. I shared my story with them, and they reciprocated with theirs.

I learned from some of them that water was limited, and I must conserve some for the long night, and that the two meals a day consisted of lentils and sorghum. They also informed me that the detention center had an underground floor where they kept military prisoners in conditions far from humane, while high-ranking officers were held on the upper floors for interrogation.

The Miracle of Being Alive and Safe

I met an elderly doctor from Kadugli city who recounted his stories since working in the Justice and Equality Movement, and how he was surprised to find his nephew with the soldiers in the detention center. Perhaps this was what spared him from being beaten, unlike others, despite their advanced age.

Hearing him say that he would intervene on our behalf if we needed anything was a big relief and a sign of hope. I requested for him to help me communicate with my family as I felt they must have been very worried about my sudden disappearance. Sure enough, a phone was brought to us, and we called our families to reassure them and inform them of our whereabouts.


Our families contacted all their acquaintances and anyone with connections to the Rapid Support Forces to get us released from detention. On the fifth day, they managed to get us out at great risk, leaving behind hundreds of detainees whose fate I cannot tell. This experience made me certain that the only loser in this war was us, the citizens who had done nothing but dream of a safe homeland.

Mohamed Abdeen

I am Mohamed Abdeen and I was born and raised in the United Arab Emirates. Like many young Sudanese from immigrant families, I returned to my homeland to finish my university studies. With thanks to Allah, I succeeded and graduated from the Faculty of Electronic Engineering at the University of Sudan. I had high hopes and aspirations to work in my field with dedication until assuming leading positions and heading departments in one of the prestigious local companies. However, that didn't last long before the war erupted, shattering all my hopes and aspirations. It seemed as though fate wanted to teach me that what goes around comes around status quo and that my homeland is on the brink of chaos.