Spring in Khartoum?

Protests against government austerity measures have been spreading rapidly throughout Khartoum today, with Reuters reporting at least seven separate demonstrations in the Sudanese capital throughout the day. The number of protesters have grown substantially since yesterday, when Egyptian journalist  Salma Elwardany reported a crowd of about 200 outside the University of Khartoum.  400 to 500 protesters took to the streets after Friday prayers in one suburb alone.

Elwardany was detained by security forces, as was activist Maha El-Senosy (who has been tweeting under the handle @MimzicalMimz) of the youth movement Girifna (@Girifna), or "Fed Up." Both have since been released.  IRIN News reported that at least 100 people had been arrested in connection with the demonstrations as of June 20.

According to Reuters:

"The police fired tear gas and then used batons as they clashed with the protesters, who threw rocks. Witnesses said men in civilian clothes also attacked the demonstrators."

Rumors that Internet will be cut off have been circulating among the protesters via Twitter, under the hashtag #SudanRevolts, as activists attempt to circulate instructions for accessing social media via mobile phone.  Other protesters have uploaded pictures that appear to show protesters blocking the streets with burning tires. Reuters reported that smaller protests have also broken out in Bahri, a suburb of Khartoum, but that they were quickly dispersed by heavy security presence.  

Sudan currently has a budget deficit of about $2.4 billion, and inflation reached nearly 80 percent in May. Bashir's austerity measures include devaluing the Sudanese pound by nearly 50 percent, removing fuel subsidies and cutting back government by up to 50 percent. Austerity measures were implemented in order to cope with the loss of 75 percent of Sudan's oil production after South Sudan seceded in July 2011, taking the majority of the region's oil fields with it.

Despite calls by opposition groups for an uprising, Sudan has avoided the kind of demonstrations seen in neighboring Egypt and Libya last year.... so far.



Spend your summer vacation shooting fake terrorists

Have you ever wondered what it's like to be a terrorist-shooting sniper? Thanks to a program run by Jewish settlers in Gush Etzion, you too can spend a day beyond the Green Line learning how to take down extremist militants. As Yedioth Aharanoth reported recently, the experience allows tourists to "hear stories from the battleground, watch a simulated assassination of terrorists by guards, and fire weapons at the range." Sharon Gat, who manages the Caliber 3 shooting range, calls the opportunity a "once-in-a-lifetime experience" that was "created due to popular demand," and demand is certainly high among families. Enter Michel Brown, a Miami banker who brought his wife and three children to this warfare summer camp:

Upon entering the range, his five-year-old daughter, Tamara, bursts into tears. A half hour later, she is holding a gun and shooting clay bullets like a pro. "This is part of their education," Michel says as he proudly watches his daughter. "They should know where they come from and also feel some action."

By the end of the day, his trigger-happy son Jacob is confident that he can stop terrorist operatives with the best of them:

"This is an awesome experience. I learned how to stop a terrorist and how to rescue hostages. Now, when I find myself in distress, I will know how to deal."

Tourists receive a certificate at the end of the experience, and Gush Etzion Regional Council president Davidi Pearl hopes that the program will turn the Gush into "a world-famous ‘tourist gem.'"

If the program continues to be successful, we may have a small army of child counter-terror operatives on our hands.

Uriel Sinai/Getty Images