How the death of a pharmacist in Sudan has fueled anti-government protests

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Marco Werman: I'm Marco Werman, this is The World. I wonder if Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir regrets his decision to cut oil subsidies a couple of weeks ago. That decision almost doubled fuel and food prices in Sudan, and lead to two weeks of protests like this one. [demonstrators chanting] Some of the demonstrations have ended in violence and at least 50 protestors have been reportedly killed by security forces. One of those killed was a pharmacist named Salah Sanhouri. His name has become a rallying cry for Sudan's antigovernment activists. Journalist Isma'il Kushkush is in Sudan's capital, Khartoum, he says Salah Sanhouri came from a prominent Sudanese family.

Isma'il Kushkush: He was born and raised outside of Sudan in the United Arab Emirates, studying pharmacology in Pakistan, and came to work in Sudan. He had been in Sudan for the last three years. We know that he had no particular political affiliations, but Sanhouri went out on a protest about 10 days ago, a Friday that was called the Friday of Martyrs, and had prepared with his friends that the protests should be peaceful. He had advised all his friends with him not to throw rocks, not to use foul language, not to burn tires or anything like that. The protest that he went out in was met by police and teargas, and then security forces started using live ammunitions, so many of the protestors started running into different alleys, from what I was told. As he attempted to run into one house to get away from the bullets he was shot and fell, so his friends took him to a hospital, but the surgeons, they were not able to save his life. That Sanhouri comes from a really prominent family, that he was a nice guy, he was handsome, I think sparked great interest. Some folks compare him to Mohamed Bouazizi, which set himself on fire and ignited the Tunisian revolution.

Werman: And like Bouazizi, was there anything indicating that Sanhouri is now kind of ushering in a long term demonstration against the government of Sudan?

Kushkush: I think with many of the youth groups, the death of Sanhouri and the death of scores of youth, most of those who have died in these protests are age 15 to 25. Even if the protests are not in the same numbers that they were the first days, just the anger at these young people dying, the government has lost whatever support it had within different sectors of the Sudanese society. And there was a sector that saw the government as being the less of evils. I think the government has lost even that kind of support.

Werman: And Isma'il, the last time we spoke you said you were still kind of putting your finger on it, but you said there was something different about this round of protests. Do you still feel as if this is different this time than the protests in 2011 and '12?

Kushkush: I do. The average person this time lead the protests and the opposition on the youth groups followed. In the past it was the opposite. You know, the government has lost really whatever political capital it had with the average Sudanese person. Too many people have died in these protests and the prices of basic good, of fuel have skyrocketed. They've tripled in prices since I first got here two years ago and that just makes like difficult for the average Sudanese person.

Werman: I'm just curious, Isma'il, before we go, what's the one thing you use on a daily basis that's gone up the most since you've been in Khartoum?

Kushkush: Well, taxes. The prices of fares have gone up out of control. The prices are out of control, but also I mean goods like milk, sugar, you know, buying coffee outside on the street, everything has gone up. But I think with me it's just traveling around town and using cabs, prices are out of control at the moment.

Werman: Journalist Isma'il Kushkush, he's been reporting on the protests in Sudan from the capital Khartoum. Good to speak with you again, Isma'il, thank you.

Kushkush: You're welcome, thank you.