In between a very hectic genocide schedule, Khartoum still finds time to wage jihad on alcohol. “Booze blues for Sudan women under sharia,” from AFP, July 27:
HALFAYA, Sudan (AFP) “” Zakia is a Muslim woman living under Sharia law, stigmatised as a criminal for brewing and selling illicit alcohol to feed the family that her father abandoned outside Sudan’s booming capital.
It is a simple recipe and one cooked up by thousands of women in the squalid camps and impoverished neighbourhoods of those who fled years of war across southern, western and eastern Sudan.
Zakia puts financial independence and business ethics above religious dictums about not indulging. Besides she does not drink, perhaps wary of turning into one of her drunken, layabout customers.
“It’s just a trade,” she says, denying any pang of conscience in profiting from what the Koran forbids.
But it’s a dangerous business. Police raids are frequent. Around 90 percent of inmates in the women’s prison were arrested on suspicion of selling aragi. They complain of beatings, fines, ransacked homes and confiscated booze.
Community workers say police hide behind the cloak of Islam, running alchol rackets with what they confiscate to supplement poor pay. They talk about women sinking into prostitution and sexual favours in return for protection.
That may well be, still, it doesn’t change the fact that, if sharia did not forbid alcohol in the first place, these officers would not be able to “hide behind the cloak of Islam.”
Chol Sakina, a Christian from the south, has been in Khartoum for more than two years. The poorest of the poor [as only a Christian living in Sudan can be], she does not know how old she is and cannot afford to go home. She is too frightened to talk about alcohol.
She lives with her one-eyed aunt in a mud hut. They say they have not worked since police threw their equipment into the river four months ago.
The biggest country in Africa, Sudan is run by an Arab elite looking to the culture and Islam of the Arab world.
But most Sudanese see themselves as African, from a tribal culture in which fermented, or alcohol drinks, are perfectly acceptable.
Indeed many alcohol sellers list policemen, civil servants and middle class professionals among their customers.
“Fermented dates are a culture all over Sudan. It’s not a crime. All over Sudan traditionally people make sherbet, fermented. Boiled dates with herbs. They especially make it for weddings. It is an alcoholic drink,” says Ali.
“We have all the culture of Africa but since independence (from Britain in 1956) we have been ruled by a government with an Arab culture. They try to impose things that are not African,” she adds.