'How can we celebrate Eid?' Sudanese expats in UAE fear for families living in terror amidst crisis

They can barely sleep as they worry for the safety of their loved ones who live are too afraid to step out of their homes to buy food and basic necessities


Afkar Ali Ahmed

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Published: Thu 20 Apr 2023, 6:03 AM

Last updated: Thu 20 Apr 2023, 1:49 PM

Ahmed Adam's cousin, a doctor, was shot dead while on her way to a hospital to save those injured from the fighting. Asmaa Al Makki said many people in her neighbourhood in Northern Khartoum were just walking to grocery stores and mosques when stray bullets hit them. They died, too.

Sudanese expats in the UAE couldn't hold back their tears. They mourned as they watched a deadly conflict rip their home country apart on the blessed days of Ramadan, just a few days ahead of what was supposed to be a joyous Eid Al Fitr. They worried as their friends and families lived in terror, fearing for their lives.

"It is heart-wrenching to see the death toll of civilians rising. The death of my cousin was tragic but we can only just keep praying for our loved ones' safety," said Adam, who came to spend the holy month of Ramadan in the UAE.

At least 270 civilians had died in five days amidst the ongoing violence between Sudan's regular army and paramilitaries, according to a statement issued on Wednesday by embassies in Khartoum. More than 2,600 people have been injured in the fighting, and many are in need of urgent treatment, according to the health ministry.

Al Makki, an expat in the UAE, could barely sleep as her family, including her little daughters aged 6 and 9 years, remain stranded in Khartoum.

"My family couldn’t move to get their daily essential needs, as they fear the stray bullets that spread out in the sky like flies. Many people in our neighbourhood in Northern Khartoum got hit by bullets while walking around to go to groceries or to mosques," she told Khaleej Times.

Her friend Namareg — who also lives in the UAE with her mother — lost her brother after getting shot accidentally as he was going to the Arabic market.

Stranded travellers

The expats wished they could fly home to be with their loved ones, but with all flights suspended, they could do nothing but pray for better days.

Some who had made plans to travel for the holidays are unable to leave. Those who came on visit visas are extending their stay with no option to go back. With flight cancellations to Khartoum extended, authorities in the UAE have offered help to those who are stranded.

Expat communities are coming together to support those who have lost loved ones in the conflict.

"My heart breaks for brothers, family, friends, and neighbors who died of thirst, hunger, and fear," said Sudanese expat Wael Obaid.

‘’A tear fell from my eyes and was followed by a violent sigh. [Five days] have passed, and the blood of my people is still flowing in various parts of the city," he lamented.

'Stench of death' in Khartoum

Isam Ali, another UAE resident, said he couldn't imagine how, during Ramadan, the stench of death filled the air in Khartoum.

"My sister told me over the phone that uncovered dead bodies were scattered on the streets for long hours as no one was able to go out to bury them," Ali said.

"There are many innocent people whose lives were lost because of the gunfire. Our families don't have water and electricity. Fear had filled children’s eyes. We cannot sleep and celebrate Eid, we only pray for our beloved country to overcome such a devastating situation."

Sara Al Amin said she was also in close touch with her sister, but eventually, they lost contact, as their phones ran out of battery and the electricity was cut off.

“Last time I spoke to her, she went out in search of milk, eggs, and bread every store and bakery was out of them. She said the children were crying due to hunger and lack of air-conditioning, as the main electricity net has been hit," Al Amin said.

Rushing those injured to hospitals had become a nightmare, Al Makki added, as the nearest clinics were forced to shut down and others no longer have healthcare staff to take in patients.

''The situation is devastating," she said. "When they announced the truce, I felt happy because it meant my mum and brothers could go out to bring food supplies and enough medicines to store at home. Still, unfortunately, the fighting parties refused to commit to the ceasefire, so residents have not been able to move freely."

'How can we celebrate Eid?'

The escalating military tension had deprived the Sudanese nationals of their Eid Al Fitr.

Abdullah Mustafa said he had just transferred funds so that his brothers could buy clothes and sweets for Eid, "but God has other plans".

Amidst the conflict, there was no way his family could get the money from the bank as they couldn't leave home out of fear.

"I told my children here in the UAE not to wear the new clothes that I bought for them for Eid Al Fitr, in solidarity with my brothers and our people in Sudan," Mustafa said.

Amal Ibrahim said she was shocked she had learnt how bullets were no hitting people in their homes.

"With the situation, who would have an interest in decorating their homes for Eid or even wear nice clothes? I, my husband, and my son had, instead, prayed harder and turned to the holy Quran, praying for the safety of our families in Sudan," she said.

Ishraga Khalid said: "My tears never stop as I see the situation in my city, Khartoum. Can't express my sadness and grief, I refused to go to the salon for henna and decorate my home or even buy sweets for the Eid celebration."

Mysam Al Abdulkhalig said his dad bought him new clothes for Eid, but he will not be wearing them in solidarity with his cousins and all the other children in Sudan who are spending their days in panic and fear.


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