Download the PDF of the letter here.
March 11, 2014
Dear President Obama,
Since your first term in office, I have followed your foreign policy with admiration and hope. I was inspired by your true enthusiasm that the world can be better by reaching out and listening to the people, not the leaders. Your strong stand against atrocities and heinous crimes of the regime in Sudan made me, and many people, believe there would be a stronger U.S. foreign policy on Sudan, a country I came from as refugee.
I was happy that your administration in 2009 discouraged communication with senior figures in the Sudanese regime who were directly responsible for the killing and torture. However, recently there were some news reports about Nafie Ali Nafie and Hassan al-Turabi that made me fearful of a return to the deplorable policy of “dealing with powerful figures in the regime.”
A former envoy to Sudan from a previous Administration had the gall to stand up in front of Sudanese refugees in the U.S. to say that he trusted working with Nafie Ali Nafie, then President Omer al-Bashir’s advisor. This Nafie, known to Sudanese as Professor Torture, is the founder of the government-operated torture system in Sudan that is infamously known as the Ghost Houses and continues to be one of the key persons controlling the country. Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and other human rights groups published many reports on the horror of the Ghost Houses and the official policy of torture introduced by the current regime. Nonetheless, in April 2013, the State Department extended an official invitation to Nafie to come to the U.S. I was glad to see that, after widespread criticism, that invitation was subsequently cancelled.
As one of the many victims of torture of the Sudanese regime, I witnessed first-hand many horror stories and received many more accounts from families of those who could not make it out alive from this web of terror created by the Sudanese regime.
After being arrested at a peaceful human rights action and taken to a Ghost House, I was subjected to horrendous methods of torture including sexual torture as one of more than 30 different methods introduced by the Islamist regime. While my colleagues and I were suffering the worst types of torture, the head of the regime announced in a televised speech that, “the talk about torture and Ghost Houses is just a nonsense and not true.” I, along with 170 detainees, was being tortured at that moment. The guards mocked us saying, “The President gave us free reign because you no longer exist, as he announced to the world.”
At the same time, the ideological and de facto leader in control of Sudan, Dr. Hassan Abdalla al-Turabi, was repeating the same lie at a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa. In May of 1992, in a response to a question from Congressman Wolpe (D-MI) about torture and secret detention in Sudan, Dr. Turabi denied the allegation, just as President Bashir did. In January of 2014, Turabi was invited to visit the U.S. by former president Carter “to meet with influential figures and decision makers in Washington.” I fear that the State Department supports this visit, but sincerely hope that this proposed visit does not take place.
Seeking guidance from leaders who torture their people is a fearful sign of regression in the U.S. foreign policy.
The regime in Sudan has been committing crimes against humanity for the past 24 years. The U.S., along with many other countries, has become complicit by its inaction or indifference. Genocide continues in the South, Nuba Mountains, Darfur, and the Blue Nile region. The Ghost Houses system has spread all over the country from “Nyala to Kajbar, and from Juba to Port Sudan” as one Sudanese-American musician sings.
A change in the U.S. policy toward Sudan needs to be considered that is based on a political solution that addresses all of Sudan. This policy should include:
Access to humanitarian aid, especially those caught in conflict zones like Darfur, Nuba Mountains, and the southern Blue Nile region.
Efforts toward peace and justice by providing accountability for crimes committed in Darfur and other parts of Sudan and refraining from dealing or negotiating with those directly responsible for the human rights crimes.
A broad-based sanctions system that targets key individuals of the regime responsible for the government of Sudan committing serious human rights abuses.
Democratic reform that is based on separation of religion and state and the promotion of human rights.
The crimes of the regime leaders have been clearly outlined in the indictment of President al-Bashir and his cabinet by the International Criminal Court (ICC). Torture, crimes against humanity, and genocide were just few. Your Administration should be pressing other Security Council members to support the arrest warrants issued by the ICC against suspects and to introduce targeted sanctions against them.
As a human rights advocate, I completely understand the role of negotiation as a policy you adopted to engage many regimes for a better world. However, invitations to the U.S. to Turabi, Nafie Ali Nafie, and their like in the Sudanese regime is an insult to the torture survivors who took refuge in the U.S. and a complete disregard to their suffering. The minimum you can do, Mr. President, is to stop negotiating with those whose hands literally are stained by my blood.
Mohamed I. Elgadi
A U.S. Citizen and Torture Survivor