Dozens of Sudanese men detained for wearing dreadlocks and turbans
Over 100 young men have been detained in Sudan's East Darfur State since the beginning of this month for traditional hairstyles, wearing traditional clothes, or carrying symbolic knives.
Rapid Support Forces, the former Janjaweed militia headed by Mohamed Hamadan Daglo, carried out a mass arrest campaign in Addian, Alfirdous, Abujabra, and Bahar Alarab counties.
Dozens of men were jailed for wearing the 'kudmol' turban and dreadlocks, or for carrying traditional knives which form an integral part of local culture.
The men were given fines of 100,000 Sudanese pounds ($162) and threatened with six months in prison if they failed to pay.
Dozens of young men are still behind bars for failing to settle the financial penalty.
"It feels like when the judges in this town run out of money, they send the troops to arrest the young men... they actually get a lot of money out of this campaign," one man who preferred to remain anonymous told The New Arab.
His brother was one of those detained for wearing a local turban and carrying a knife and was only released after paying a 30,000 pound fine ($53), a huge sum for many in the neglected region.
Militia fighters, many from outside the region, often misinterpret the use of the knife, which is more a symbol of culture than a weapon.
"Carrying a knife is part of my culture, it's not like you want to attack somebody or you want to kill people with it, it's part of your outfit as a man and when boys turn 16 they start carrying it," he explained by phone from Addaien.
"If a woman calls you on the streets to help her with slicing a chicken and you say you don't have a knife, she will put a fine on you, culturally, for failing to help with that small act. So young men here carry knives with good intentions and the government isn't sensitive about people's culture and the judges are taking advantage of that insensitivity."
Sudan recently re-introduced public order laws after they were frozen by the transitional government following the overthrow of former President Omer al-Basher following a public uprising in 2019.
A coup by army generals in late 2021 ended the democratic transitional government after two years in power and since then over 120 people have been killed and thousands detained for protesting the military takeover.