Communities in Sudan are banding together in a desperate effort to locate missing loved ones as the country grapples with escalating violence. Since the outbreak of fighting last month, dozens of individuals have disappeared, leaving families in a state of anguish and uncertainty.
One such case involves Kamal Ali Osman, who sent a distressing text message to his family indicating that he was being stopped by the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a militia group that has established checkpoints throughout the Sudanese capital, Khartoum. Moments later, the text message mysteriously vanished from his phone, and Osman has not been heard from since.
Osman, a 60-year-old resident, had been returning home after delivering medication to his father in another part of Khartoum. Through contact with an RSF source, his family discovered that he was undergoing interrogation. However, since then, they have received no further updates on his situation.
Israa Ali Osman, Osman’s 22-year-old daughter, expressed her family’s shock and fear, questioning why her father’s message was deleted. She believes that he was coerced into deleting it. It is important to note that Osman has no military involvement, and his family can find no justifiable reason for his detention.
During a search, a relative found Osman’s car parked in an area where RSF vehicles are typically kept. His daughter revealed that he recently underwent a heart operation and requires daily medication, intensifying their concerns about his well-being.
The Missing Initiative, a volunteer organization formed after the RSF attacked a peaceful sit-in demanding civilian rule in 2019, has reported at least 190 missing persons since April 15. The group has been tirelessly working to reunite families by collecting reports and conducting investigations, even as the situation grows increasingly dangerous.
Fadia Khalaf, co-founder of the initiative, highlighted the toll this work takes on those involved. The process of searching for missing individuals, along with the ongoing violence, weighs heavily on the team and the families. Khalaf emphasized the overwhelming nature of the situation, with bombings occurring indiscriminately across the city.
Despite the challenges, the initiative has successfully reunited 25 individuals with their families thus far. The sense of relief and accomplishment amid the chaos provides a glimmer of hope in these dark times.
Another individual, Siddig Ismail Mohamed Tahir, went missing after being arrested by the RSF in late April. His daughter, Sarah Siddig, residing in Manchester, initiated an online call for help. Through their efforts and contacts, including reaching out to the UK Foreign Office and the British ambassador to Sudan, Siddig’s family managed to secure his release. The emotional reunion at Birmingham airport was filled with tears of joy and immense relief.
Sarah Siddig has since been actively involved in helping others find missing loved ones, offering support and guidance. She expressed deep gratitude for the support received from the Sudanese community, noting that strangers risked their lives to assist her family.
As the violence continues to escalate and families endure the uncertainty of their loved ones’ fates, the search for missing individuals remains a perilous and challenging undertaking. The collective efforts of communities and volunteer organizations provide a glimmer of hope amidst the darkness, reaffirming the resilience and compassion of the human spirit.