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Oct-06-2012 22:11printcomments

Scars of Torture No Match for Spirit of Intrepid Oregon Peace Activist

A struggle to survive torture in Sudan ends in a living reward for Rudwan and Nancy Dawod.

Rudwan and Nancy Dawod's little baby girl
Rudwan and Nancy Dawod's baby girl.

(EUGENE, OR) - It has been a few weeks since we updated the story of Rudwan Dawod who left Oregon during midsummer to visit his native Sudan, only to be arrested for 'terrorism' while taking part in a peace demonstration.

Among the peace-oriented goals of the group Rudwan is affiliated with, GIRIFNA Nonviolent Resistance Movement, was the rebuilding of a Catholic cathedral destroyed by the country's military which is known for a distinct lack of tolerance for non-Islamic faiths.

As Nancy reveals in her interview below, officials in Sudan were also unhappy over Rudwan's success with human rights work in other parts of Africa.

Things began well for Rudwan when he returned to Sudan in early July 2012, but that quickly deteriorated when officials intervened and arrested Rudwan and another activist named Ahmed Kawarty, for terrorism.

These native Sudanese peace advocates and activists were calling for a peaceful change from the Al-Bashir regime in Sudan— which reached power through a military coup against an elected government.

Both were on trial for attempting to overthrow the government by force and it was announced at the time of the arrests, that they might face the death penalty.

The accusations were based on leaflets found with them upon their arrest. The leaflets called for peaceful demonstrations to overthrow the government and did not advocate violence.

Tim King: Nancy, for the sake of orienting our readers, and because you are the best person to ask, who is Rudwan Dawod?

Nancy: Rudwan Dawod is someone who has taught me how to live and love with a forgiveness and tolerance I never knew before. He is the kindest and most compassionate person I have ever met and he lives his life for something so much larger than himself. Rudwan is sure to be a future leader in Sudan. He's become an icon for the non-violent revolution because of his humanitarian work, imprisonment and his commitment to peaceful change. I recently had an international reporter share this with me: "I am not young Nancy. I have worked for 20 years in Africa from RDC to Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Ivory Coast, Rwanda genocide etc. I must confess I hardly met anybody so brave and so strong. He is an idealist. And there are no idealists today in this world. I am thoroughly impressed."   I'd be remiss not to add that he's an amazing husband and father!

Tim King: What was it like to see Rudwan arrive?

Nancy: It was almost as sweet...maybe sweeter, than the day he arrived in Portland in August 2010 to spend the rest of his life with me! I was so happy and relieved to have him home safely. There were lots of hugs and tears of joy!

Tim King: It seems like such a heavy experience and he was gone for so many weeks, can you talk about Rudwan's health?

Nancy: He has a few physical scars but his health is great and his mind and spirit are stronger than ever.  His brother, Sefian, however, is suffering a lot and still needs medical care from the trauma of the torturing. This has put a real strain on Rudwan's family since Sefian was the main bread-winner for all 18 of them living together in their family home in AlHaj Youssef area in North Khartoum.

Tim King: Nancy, you wondered if Rudwan would be back for the birth of your child, can you talk about this side of things; there can not be too many challenges larger than this for a young family.

Nancy: We struggled to get Rudwan home safely, but it was even more of a challenge to get him home in time for this incredible moment in our lives! He has loved this baby girl since the day we found out I was pregnant and it was Rudwan that had wanted a girl so badly. I couldn't imagine going through delivery without him and I'm so thankful to God that she was greeted by her daddy on Monday, September 17th, just 12 days after he returned home to be with us! She was placed in his arms first, just like I promised him.

Tim King: As we know the torture of political opponents is a massive problem in this world... has Rudwan shared details of the treatment he received?

Nancy: He has shared some things with me that I hadn't known before and it was very difficult to hear about all that he endured.  His focus and concern has been more on the situation in Sudan rather than what happened to him personally.

Tim King: I think there was clearly a point when no one knew exactly what the outcome of this story was going to be.  Sudan obviously responded, is there any one particular reason that you guys believe the government ultimately did the right thing?

Nancy: We believe it was the support from the US Government as a result of a national outcry that ultimately lead to Rudwan's release. Many political prisoners were released for Eid al-fitr, but Rudwan's charges were more serious than any of the others and the National Intelligence Security Service had really wanted to punish him for his connection to Darfur and South Sudan, even if he was completely innocent and only involved in humanitarian efforts. They even beat him more severely because he opposed the burning of the church in Khartoum and assisted with the church-building project in South Sudan.

Tim King: The story seemed to gain quite a bit of media coverage, particularly as time passed, did the press do enough?

Nancy: I believe what they did helped to save my husband's life and we are eternally grateful for all of the radio, newspaper, and television coverage we received.

Tim to Rudwan: What is the biggest message that you are getting from this long, difficult and drawn-out experience?

Rudwan: I learned that when people work together and join their efforts they'll achieve what they're fighting for and we should never give up hope, even when faced with strong adversity or death. I knew the charges were very serious against me, but there were great people surrounding and supporting me.

Tim King: Will you return to Sudan in the future?

Rudwan: Yes, definitely!

Tim King: Do you believe you will be more safe or less safe in the future as a result of this experience?

Rudwan: As long as the current regime remains in power it will be risky, but in order to see my family and help those struggling for change, I cannot stop myself from going back some day.  Right now I am focusing on my family in the US and our new baby girl.  However, I am still involved in activities to support democracy, human rights and freedom in Sudan.

Tim King: Were there times in captivity that you thought of Manute Bol, your friend who was so amazing in the NBA; does his legacy give you strength politically and/or spiritually?

Rudwan: Manute Bol is an idol and real hero for many people in my generation in Sudan. He has always been on my mind since he died in June of 2010. He taught me so much about reconciliation and forgiveness. For this reason, his legacy gave me strength while I was imprisoned and I was able to forgive those who were torturing me.

Tim King: What is your thought on the future of people in Sudan with regard to Human Rights?

Rudwan: The younger generation in Sudan is much more educated and has a good opportunity to make effective changes in regards to Human Rights. The future of the people will depend on continued education regarding peace, reconciliation, equality and justice. We need to fight against the racial, tribal and religious prejudices that currently shape and plague our country.

Tim King: Are you more optimistic or less, after this period?

Rudwan: I know that it will take time for us to reach our goals, but I'm very optimistic that we can achieve what we set our hearts and minds to accomplish.

I would like to thank Rudwan and Nancy for sharing their time and allowing us to know more about this challenging episode in the life of two dedicated human rights activists.

Related articles:

Aug-16-2012: Rudwan Dawod Has Been Released! Salem-News.com

Aug-16-2012: US Urges Sudan to Free Oregon-Based Activist

Aug-13-2012: NISS Rearrests Rudwan Dawod Before he Leaves Court Premises - Salem-News.com

Aug-01-2012: Rudwan Dawod's Wife and Friend Share Candid Thoughts on Sudan Arrest and Possible Death Penalty - Tim King Salem-News.com

Jul-31-2012: Oregon Aid Worker Faces Death Penalty in Sudan - Tim King Salem-News.com

Jul-31-2012: U.S. Aid Worker Faces Death Penalty in Khartoum - Salem-News.com

Jul-27-2012: U.S. Resident Could Face Death Penalty in Sudan - ABC News


Tim King: Salem-News.com Editor and Writer

Tim King has more than twenty years of experience on the west coast as a television news producer, photojournalist, reporter and assignment editor. Tim is Salem-News.com's Executive News Editor. His background includes covering the war in Afghanistan in 2006 and 2007, and reporting from the Iraq war in 2008. Tim is a former U.S. Marine who follows stories of Marines and Marine Veterans; he's covered British Royal Marines and in Iraq, Tim embedded with the same unit he served with in the 1980's.

Tim holds awards for reporting, photography, writing and editing from traditional mainstream news agencies like The Associated Press and Electronic Media Association; he also holds awards from the National Coalition of Motorcyclists, the Oregon Confederation of Motorcycle Clubs; and was presented with a 'Good Neighbor Award' for his reporting, by the The Red Cross.

Tim's years as a Human Rights reporter have taken on many dimensions; he has rallied for a long list of cultures and populations and continues to every day, with a strong and direct concentration on the 2009 Genocide of Tamil Hindus and Christians in Sri Lanka. As a result of his long list of reports exposing war crimes against Tamil people, Tim was invited to be the keynote speaker at the FeTNA (Federation of Tamil Sangams of North America) Conference in Baltimore, in July 2012. This is the largest annual gathering of North American Tamils; Tim addressed more than 3000 people and was presented with a traditional Sri Lanka ‘blessed garland’ and a shawl as per the tradition and custom of Tamil Nadu

In a personal capacity, Tim has written 2,026 articles as of March 2012 for Salem-News.com since the new format designed by Matt Lintz was launched in December, 2005. Serving readers with news from all over the globe, Tim's life is literally encircled by the endless news flow published by Salem-News.com, where more than 100 writers contribute stories from 23+ countries and regions.

Tim specializes in writing about political and military developments worldwide; and maintains that the label 'terrorist' is ill placed in many cases; specifically with the LTTE Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, where it was used as an excuse to slaughter people by the tens of thousands; and in Gaza, where a trapped population lives at the mercy of Israel's destructive military war crime grinder. At the center of all of this, Tim pays extremely close attention to the safety and welfare of journalists worldwide. You can write to Tim at this address: tim@salem-news.com. Visit Tim's Facebook page (facebook.com/TimKing.Reporter)

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