On the last night of the sit-in, a number of homeless children gather around a tailor inside one of the tents of the mass protest camp outside the military headquarters in Khartoum. Some of the protesters had invited the tailor into the camp so that he could make them white galabeyas, which many in Sudan wear on the first day of the Eid al-Fitr holiday.
“We will all pray Eid together in the square, and you must wear these. We want to turn the square all white,” says a protester to the boys who had joined the dusty square.
Beside the protest encampment’s tents for daily cultural salons and civil society functions, protesters had built a tent to house the homeless children, who are fed by the camp’s kitchens.
This is around 1:30 am on Monday, according to Ahmed Saber, who is present when people start circulating news that the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and the police were mobilizing to disperse the sit-in.
Saber chooses not to flee the square, even as fear intensifies after opposition forces confirm the news on social media, urging citizens to join the protesters as a last-ditch effort to stave off a potential attack. Warnings are broadcast over megaphones on the ground, and the sit-in radio spreads the message to the surrounding area. As he moves through the tense atmosphere, Saber’s mind stays fixed on the homeless children who went to sleep happy with the new mattresses protesters had given them and with the promise of white galabeyas for Eid prayer.
Saber’s worry rises as tension between the protesters escalates. He walks toward the children’s tent with a friend just before 5 am to wake them, so they would not be attacked as they sleep. He doesn’t expect the assailants to make distinctions between adults and children.
But Saber quickly realizes he is too late. He can hear the sound of gunshots in the not-too-far off distance, which are a prelude to hundreds of soldiers storming into the square. He climbs atop a water tank. From his perch, he watches the massacre unfold.
The sleeping children are not spared from the violence that would leave over 100 people dead. RSF soldiers storm into tents and open fire at protesters. “I watched the children’s tent. Some escaped, and the others, I heard them scream, but I don’t know what happened to them,” Saber says.
On the night of the dispersal, Mido al-Sirr is assigned to guard one of the barricades leading to the well-known eye clinic at Khartoum University. At 5 am, the whistle that calls volunteers to reinforce the barricades washes over the sit-in, as the RSF approaches the protest site and surrounding roads.
Sirr waits for backup from the protesters, staying to watch the area for a while. He is surprised, however, to see foot soldiers approaching the barricade. Protesters pick up rocks and begin trying to repel the RSF, who throw rocks back at the camp. This all ends when another group of RSF soldiers arrive and begin shooting at the protesters, immediately killing two people, according to Sirr.
“There was a relentless sound of gunfire,” says Sirr. “Protesters were being shot. The sit-in was being stormed from several entry points. And the RSF had near-total control of the scene. I tried to escape with a group of friends in the direction of Nile Street. Once we got there, we decided to take refuge in an abandoned student housing building. We made it inside and closed ourselves off in one of the rooms. We were five people, and we watched from the windows as the soldiers searched through the building and rounded up detainees outside.”