Education unions raise alarm as Sudan military and militias beat and detain protesting teachers

Teachers protest against military rule 21 October 2021 – image Sudanese Teachers Committee via Facebook

Unions representing tens of thousands of workers in higher and further education have joined the calls for action in solidarity with the Sudanese popular uprising against military rule. Britain’s University and College Union (UCU) wrote to Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, condemning the military coup and calling for immediate action by the British government to stop arms supplies reaching the Sudanese army generals and militia leaders who have seized power and are trying to crush mass strikes and civil disobedience by force.

We call on all governments, including Western governments and regional allies [to] immediately cease all forms of military and diplomatic cooperation with the Sudanese military and Rapid Support Forces. Protestors in Sudan have stressed it is crucial not just to condemn the coup leaders, but to highlight the role of their regional supporters (especially the UAE and Egypt). In this context we note that the UK remains a major supplier of arms to both the UAE and Egypt and call on the UK government to end its military support for regional allies of the Sudanese coup leaders


The military crackdown has gathered pace in recent days in Sudan, with reports emerging on Sunday of up to 100 teachers arrested after the military attacked a protest organised by the Sudanese Teachers’ Committee outside the Ministry of Education in Khartoum. According to the Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors, the Rapid Support Forces militia, whose leader Hemedti was appointed to the Transitional Government despite carrying a massacre of protesters in June 2019, was also involved in the attack on the teachers’ protest. According to the Sudanese Teachers’ Committee Facebook page, military and militia forces have stepped up violence in other areas besides the capital: on 8 November, military forces stormed the Secondary Education Department in Karray in order to install a new, pro-military management.

Anne-Marie Harley, Vice-President of the EIS-FELA union which represents Further Education lecturers in Scotland, told Middle East Solidarity that the union’s executive is “very concerned about the situation in Sudan.”

At our recent executive meeting we passed an emergency motion to extend our solidarity to Sudanese people and trade unionists … Teachers were in the forefront of the movement through the Professionals Association that brought an end to Al Bashir’s dictatorship. And the latest news from Khartoum shows that they continue to play that role in demanding democracy and civil rights for all Sudanese. We extend our solidarity to their struggle, to all Sudanese trade unionists and the civilian population who are simply demanding their human rights.

Anne-Marie Harley, EIS-FELA

Other education union leaders have also spoken out in solidarity with the protests in Sudan – Kevin Courtney and Mary Bousted of the National Education Union wrote to condemn the coup on 25 October.

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