Two months ago, on the 3rd of June, tragedy struck. Pro-democracy protestors in Khartoum, who were calling for a majority civilian controlled interim government, were brutally cracked down on by the military, leaving 100 people dead and 500 wounded.
The violence, essentially large-scale pre-meditated murder, was carried out under orders of the Transitional Military Council who had took over after Sudan’s long-time president Omar al-Bashir. Figureheads of the TMC include General Burhan and General Mohammed Hamdan Dagolo (widely known as “Hemedti”). These are men whose accolades include leading the Janjaweed militia during the Darfur genocide in the early 2000s and supporting the Saudi war in Yemen by providing Sudanese soldiers – some reported to be children – in exchange for financial assistance.
Risibly, the crackdown was claimed to be targeting criminal ‘rogue elements’ within the peaceful protest. In a desperate scramble to lend their narrative some semblance of integrity, the TMC blocked the internet and banned journalists from entering the city to report on the massacre. Not only were the protestors to suffer but they were to do so silently. The plight of those made to bear witness snuffed from the public forum so their cries of revolution would be choked in their throats.
Yet it did not work. Graphic videos of the massacre and witness testimony slipped through the cracks, while social media movements such as ‘Blue for Sudan’ that commemorated the sacrifice of the martyred gained traction. The voice of the protest was amplified by those among us who refused to let privilege-borne idleness, which balefully pervades our local and global communities, quash the Sudanese revolution.
Pray, a clothing brand developed by ICSM first years Enrique Monem and Mustafa Al-Zubaidy, is one inspiring example of individual action that successfully penetrated a community’s public consciousness. Their t-shirts (pictured below) carry a simple message – pray for Sudan. Through their efforts, the situation in Sudan was hauled out of the virtual and (for most of us) inconsequential recesses of our world news apps and onto our campus in a format too stylish to overlook. All the proceeds from their t-shirt sales go to Emergency Medical Aid for Sudan, a gofundme campaign set up by the Sudanese diaspora in Manchester.
Read our interview with them below:
Q: Could you please introduce us to each person on the team and what role they’ve played?
A: The pray team consists of just two people: Enrique Monem and Mustafa Al- Zubaidy.
From the design, production and advertising and selling of items, we both have equal say. Throughout our time at university we have established a creative flair together, which has/will help drive pray in the right direction.
advice and guidance we have received from countless friends around us (they know who they are). Throughout the Sudan project, they have helped model, photograph, design as well as just give advice and opinions. We can certainly say this project wouldn’t have gone as well without them.
Q: What inspired you to start this T-shirt line (anything specific sparked this)?
A: Always having an eye for fashion, we created the pray brand as a new and unique idea. We hadn’t seen a clothing brand/ company, which was also an independent charity. A company which produces and sells its own products, but also functions to donate the money made to various philanthropic organisations. As pray is a brand, it is able to be flexible with its donations and change what it supports at various times of need in different places.
With the Sudan project, we did exactly that. Due to the horrific stories we’d heard about what is happening in Sudan, as well as the attempts to silence the Sudanese people, we felt a need to not only help, but to raise awareness. We hope we achieved our goal through these shirts.
Q: How did you design and make the t-shirts?
A: Our process is relatively simple. As with all great ideas, we start with a vision (I’m sure you’ve heard that before). This includes what issue we want to tackle, how we want to do so and of course we want to achieve from the project. We then design out pieces by drawing many rough ideas and selecting the best. After refining it and making prototype deigns to see how it would look in reality, we ask some of our friends for their opinion. Once our design is picked, all that’s left is to cut out our stencils and spray!
Q: How has the response been?
A: It’s so true that word spreads like wildfire at Imperial. We had only told a few friends before orders started to come in. And from the first day, they grew and grew. Thanks to the generosity of many, we sold a good number and raised a significant amount, but that wasn’t our only aim. Through the Sudan project, pray was able to raise awareness of the issues in Sudan around Imperial and beyond and we feel extremely honoured and humbled to have facilitated that.
Q: Why did you choose the charity that you did and tell us a bit about it?
A: When selecting the charity to support, we needed to ensure that all the money we would donate would go directly to the people of Sudan. As medical students we thought medical aid would be a good area to donate to. After some research ourselves, we gathered a list of a few reliable charities working in Sudan and then asked a Sudanese friend for her advice too. We settled on Emergency Medical Aid for Sudan.
The money raised for this charity fund will be used to purchase medical supplies as well as support hospitals in Sudan which care for these people.
Q: Do you have any plans to expand or do something similar in the future?
A: Of course. Like I have said previously, pray aims to establish an independent brand which can also continuously support many philanthropic organisations. In the near future, we plan to release several items supporting many different causes as well as some pray only items.
We are very excited for the future and hope you are too!
Q: Any final notes you’d like to share with our audience?
A: It has to be said, none of this would have been possible if it wasn’t for our extremely generous and active supporters. Every share, shout out, purchase and even just spoken word – thank you all so much. From us at pray, we really appreciate the support. You have all made a difference in the lives of our Sudanese brothers and sisters.
In creating these T-Shirts and amplifying the voices of the protestors, pray has managed to combat the normalisation project that Sudan’s military attempted in the information blackout. Members of Imperial’s community are now aware of the horrors that are unfolding and have a direct means of easing the victims’ pain.
Within most communities in the West, it is rare for the suffering of those from the third-world to exceed the status of white noise. Here, the public understanding of African states and their affairs lack any significant sense of nuance or humanity. We know that their inhabitants are in a relative state of hardship, and that this is not something that has come about by accident. Indeed, we are even aware in the back of our minds that this could be prevented if we, as a society, had the will to do so. In spite of this, the majority of our daily existences fail to demonstrate any tangible guilt or inspired effort beyond a respectful silence offered for the time it takes the newsreader to finish their update of the latest preventable tragedy’s death toll. There is a pathos to this suffering, but there is a policy behind it as well – one that we all subscribe to.
“There is a pathos to this suffering, but there is a policy behind it as well – one that we all subscribe to”
Our state officials, such as minister for Africa Harriet Baldwin, have set a precedent for hollow condemnations in calling for a halt to the “barbaric attacks” while failing to provide any meaningful form of recourse that would lend such a demand political weight. No wonder the exhortations of activists fall on flat ears so often in Britain. Our culture of inaction is endemic.
By actively mobilising support for providing real medical aid within our University’s community, pray have shown us what it means to be empathetic to those living through tragedy. Feeling the pain of people with them, not for them, and working to lessen this as if it were your own. We should support and commend pray’s incredible efforts but we should also learn from them that it is our solidarity, not our sympathy, that is of real value to those who are suffering.