You wouldn’t think an impending massacre in Sudan would be something you can joke about, but that’s pretty much the standard for Hasan Minhaj’s Patriot Act by now – its ability to make unpalatable subjects entertaining, not by trivialising or making fun of people in difficult circumstances, but by doing the opposite. I’ll give you an example:
"“Now, you probably know best Sudan for two things: The genocide in Darfur, and white saviour movies.”"
And that doesn’t take away from the gravity of the situation in Sudan right now. Having felt brief euphoria when the country’s strongman for three decades, Omar al-Bashir, was overthrown in a military coup, the Sudanese people now realise they are fighting a junta that refuses to hold elections and opens fire on peaceful pro-democracy protesters.
"“I know coups in Africa are like trailers for Marvel movies... it just comes up and you’re like, ‘Another one?!’”"
After a brief riff on the history of Bashir’s time in power...
"“Bashir has been in power for 30 years... that’s a whole Taylor Swift ago! Yeah, it’s a whole different kind of ‘bad blood’... it broke the Geneva Convention.”"
Minhaj got to the meat of the issue, that mirrors what is happening in so many countries around the world as we speak: Majoritarianism.
But he pointed out what was interesting about the Sudanese uprising against Bashir – the fact that the Arab majority joined the various oppressed minority ethnic groups and led to his ouster.
Capitalising on the pro-democracy protests, the military overthrew Bashir – only, it has since refused to hold elections, and cracked down hard on the peaceful pro-democracy protesters who once again hit the streets.
Highlighting the central role women played in the pro-democracy protests, Minhaj interviewed a Sudanese national living in New York, who had some awesome tips to share about dealing with tear gas:
"“People would share the tricks, like ‘what do you use for tear gas?’ We thought Pepsi is the best, but now we know it’s not the best [...] It’s yeast water. You put some yeast and water in a spray bottle, spray it on your face, and it helps with the tear gas.”" - Marine Alneel, Sudanese National, Protester
I’m sure that’s a tip the Hong Kong protesters could use right now too.
As always, Minhaj covers the topic’s geopolitical significance in a way that isn’t usually seen. So here’s Sudan’s strategic importance:
- Transitional Military Council Vice President ‘Hemedti’ (a holdover from Bashir and allegedly involved in the Darfur genocide) has reportedly sent thousands of Sudanese child soldiers to help Saudi Arabia out in its Yemen War. In return, Saudi Arabia has pledged huge amounts of aid directly to the Council.
- America might have washed its hands off Sudan, but the EU hasn’t – the EU reportedly gives Sudan more aid money in return for the Military Council making sure no Sudanese immigrants flee towards Europe, through the Khartoum Process.
Despite all this though, the episode ends with an uplifting quote from Marine Alneel:
"“It’s difficult to be hopeful when you’re seeing this level of violence... but at the same time, it’s amazing to see how defiant and committed people are to that. Even though it might take a long time, and more lives might be lost in the way, there will be a peaceful transition to a civilian government.”"
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