Maureen Duffy: Postcards from the International Authors Forum


A Postcard from The Sudanese Writers Union: video and text

By Professor Ahmed El Safi

President, Sudanese Writers Union

Khartoum, Sudan

Dear participants in the Festival of the Arts and Humanities Research Institute (AHRI) at King's College London. This is a postcard from the Sudanese Writers Union conveying a salute message to you, and a word of gratitude to the International Authors Forum, and to writers everywhere.

The Sudanese Writers Union is a non-governmental, nonprofit, cultural group registered in 1985 under the Ministry of Culture. The SWU is governed by a General Assembly, a democratically elected nine–member Executive Committee, and a 30-member Council of Advisors.

The SWU represents writers in creative arts and applied and social sciences, and holds partnerships with unions and associations of musicians, graphic, theatrical and visual artists. Its membership is currently over 500, and is steadily growing. Branches are spreading around the globe to represent the Sudanese writers in diaspora.

The SWU acknowledges that Sudan is a blend of different ethnicities, cultures, religions and languages, and that several cultures intermingled and interacted to forge its unique present cultural reality, and that this diversity and plurality should be judiciously utilized to set the basis of enlightened cultural policy, and be cementing elements of sustainable peace, stability and national unity rather than seeds of division and war.

The SWU works to unite Sudanese writers and take care of their creative abilities, and endeavours to promote their economic, social and health wellbeing, and improve the environment under which they write and work. It has always been steadfast in defending the right of writers to be free, and in assuring the freedom of all types of cultural expression in the light of basic human rights, liberties and constitutional rights.

The SWU works to align the forces of all writers towards common understanding of the worth of writing and the progressive role of writers irrespective of ethnic, religious, cultural and linguistic diversity, political and ideological beliefs and affiliations, and irrespective of the different schools of creative writing.

Because of these same values that the SWU stands for, it has been the target of aggression by the state though it is non-political and non-partisan. On the 29th of January 2015, the SWU was dissolved and its cultural activities banned with a one-and-a-half-line message issued by the Ministry of Culture, under which it is registered.

To bring back the SWU to its rightful legal status took 22 months of litigation. On December 1, 2016, the Administrative Appeals Court ruled that the decision of the Ministry of Culture was unlawful and ordered the immediate return of the SWU to its previous legal status. The Ministry of Culture was far from being magnanimous. It appealed to the Sudan Supreme Court, which upheld the decision of the Administrative Appeals Court. Thanks to the just Judiciary System, the SWU is now functioning normally.

However, this last ban was not the first. The SWU was among the first victims of aggression by the state in 1989. Then, it was not only banned but its assets confiscated and venue reallocated to one of the ruling regime's crony organizations. In 2006, the SWU was reinstated after 16 years of inactivity. Thanks to the Comprehensive Peace Accord of 2005.

At this historic juncture, the SWU would like to thank all civil society organizations, the press and friends, inland and abroad, who showed concern and solidarity, and denounced the unlawful and unjustified bans.

We would like to thank the International Authors Forum for supporting the SWU during its last predicament, and for maintaining its membership, and initiating a barrage of messages of support from its members that were addressed to Sudan embassies in their respective countries.

The SWU would like to assure its members and friends that it would continue to contribute to the establishment and strengthening of a culture that is built on religious and political tolerance, a culture that shuns physical and cultural violence, a culture that supports mutual respect, and maintains an atmosphere that leads to peaceful interaction between all factions of society.

The SWU would continue to pursue all peaceful means to maintain the legal status that it rightfully deserves.

We would prevail, and would triumph over all sorts of oppression and intimidation.

Thank you for your support and for your time.

About Professor Ahmed El Safi

Prof. Ahmed El Safi (MB BS, DA, FFARCS, FRCA) is a Sudanese anesthesiologist, researcher and writer. He developed early in life a love for the study of the sociology and anthropology of health, and pioneered institutional research in Sudanese health heritage. He is known in Sudan as a medical biographer, and noted for his role as founder of institutional research in the history of medicine and Sudanese traditional medicine.

In 1981, he established the Traditional Medicine Research Institute in the National Council for Research, which was designated a WHO Collaborating Centre in 1984. He was founding director for both institutes up to 1989. In 2005, he founded the Sudan Medical Heritage Foundation as a non-governmental organization dedicated to health systems research, development, and conservation of Sudanese health heritage and resources.

Ahmed El Safi celebrated this year the golden anniversary of the publication of his first book in English in 1967 titled “Native Medicine in Sudan, Sources, Concepts and Methods”. He published over 14 books and over a hundred articles in English and Arabic on health systems, history of Sudanese medicine, traditional medicine, etc. His voluminous book Traditional Sudanese Medicine (1999) is a pioneering wide-ranging account of traditional Sudanese health culture. His book Al Hakeem, (2014) in Arabic is a compendium of the history of Sudanese health culture. His “A Bibliography of Biomedical Literature on Sudan in the 20th C. and Beyond”, which is running at 20,000 citations is in press.