SALT LAKE CITY — The same day Sudan’s army warned protest leaders of violence during planned rallies amid political chaos, refugees in Salt Lake City gathered Saturday to bring attention to suffering in that country.
"So it seems as if it was yesterday that me and 4 million of my people were displaced," said Elvis Amin, who came from South Sudan.
"As we ran, bodies fell to the floor … we ran with blood and tears as our brothers, mothers and sisters fell dying. We didn't ask for this, but this is what we went through," Amin said.
His people endured persecution because of their religion and their skin color, according to Amin. He expressed frustration that they did not receive enough media attention as they suffered.
Because of that, he said he and about 40 other protesters, many from different African countries, met on the state Capitol steps to speak out for the Sudanese people. Meanwhile, the country’s pro-democracy movement has been calling for a demonstration across Sudan on Sunday, according to the Associated Press.
Sunday's planned protests are meant to mark the 30th anniversary of the Islamist-backed coup that brought Omar al-Bashir to power in 1989, toppling Sudan’s last elected government, the AP reported. Earlier this month, Sudanese security forces cleared a protest camp in the country's capital — at least 128 people were killed during that clearing.
"You know, we've seen many of our relatives die and not have the opportunity that we have. And now we cannot sit in silence," Amin said.
Like Amin, Adoula Biar, a refugee from South Sudan, said she could relate to the people of Sudan.
"As a first-generation South Sudanese refugee, and like a lot of the South Sudanese living in the United States, our families, our grandparents and now us have escaped the same onslaughts of oppression that have been going on through Bashir's regime," she said.
"It is our duty now to take the resources that we have in the United States that we are blessed to be here and to give voice to the people back in our own country that do not have it. As a South Sudanese citizen, it is hard to see this injustice happening in Sudan, but it's also hard to know that this same onslaught happened in Sudan for many, many years, and the world stayed quiet," Biar explained.
"We stand in solidarity with Sudan because we have seen the same things happen to us. … Why do I care? Because I am Sudan, I am Somalia, I am Syria, I am South Sudan, and so on," she said.
Christelle Gatoro echoed those thoughts.
"Because of the lack of proper education that I had when I was a young kid in Africa, not only do I not know much about my own country, I also don't know much about Sudan. But as a refugee and a former citizen of the Democratic of Congo, I can understand the struggle that we all face here. I can understand the horror and violence that is happening in Sudan," she said.
Though she hasn't been through the same things, she said, we all have a duty to speak out against injustices around the world "so that everybody here will understand and also know that this bubble that we live in does not apply to everyone else around the world."
Protester Daud Mumin called for people to research the subject. Changing a social media profile picture is not enough, he said. People can do more by donating, signing petitions and raising awareness, he said.
"As someone whose best friend is of Sudanese family, I cannot imagine their pain. … It is horrible that people are going through this. There are people being raped, murdered, killed," he said.
"Sudan's a beautiful country with beautiful people."