Senior Sudanese geneticist behind the bars of the opposing regime | Science


World Academy of Sciences

By Linda Nordling

A leading Sudanese geneticist has been imprisoned for denouncing the country's repressive regime. Muntaser Ibrahim, who heads the Institute of Endemic Diseases at Khartoum University, was arrested on 21 February in Khartoum and has been detained since. His friends and family do not know his location. They say that Ibrahim is suffering from a heart condition that requires specialized care.

Ibrahim's colleagues and students issued a statement calling for his release on Friday. "It is deplorable that an academic like Professor Ibrahim stays in prison rather than in a classroom or a research center," reads the text.

Ibrahim has been involved in peaceful back-to-ban protests in recent months, the statement said. He was arrested twice in early January but released shortly thereafter. The third and final arrest took place while Ibrahim was planning to share with Sudan's President, Omar Al-Bashir, suggestions for national reform elaborated by himself and other speakers of the day. University of Khartoum. "Professor Ibrahim and his colleagues really believed that their initiative could be a satisfactory way out of the crisis, but the dictatorial authority has seen the opposite, hence its repeated incarceration", reads in the unsigned declaration.

Ibrahim is one of Sudan's most distinguished living scholars. He is studying the genetics of malaria, cancer and other diseases, as well as genomic diversity in Sudan, and has contributed to international studies on human genetic variation in Africa. He is a founding member of the National Academy of Sciences of Sudan (SNAS) in Khartoum and a member of the World Academy of Sciences in Trieste, Italy.

"[Ibrahim] is a leading scientist in genetics, a supervisor for many students and a member of several scientific associations in the country and abroad, "said Suad Sulaiman, parasitologist and SNAS member. "His imprisonment will deprive science and research of his contributions."

The arrest of Ibrahim is damaging to the morale of scientists living in Sudan, said Dia-Eldin Ahmed Elnaiem, a Sudanese parasitologist based at the University of Maryland, Princess Anne. "It has made only a simple objection against human rights violations and a peaceful appeal for democratic change in the country." This also discourages scientists who wish to work on the issues. Sudanese, says Elnaiem, who regularly returns to his country to conduct a field survey on leishmaniasis, a parasitic infection transmitted by sandflies.

The statement urges international scientists to rally behind their Ibrahim release campaign.

Sarah Tishkoff, a geneticist from the University of Pennsylvania who has published articles with Ibrahim, says she is "shocked" at the news. "He is a top scientist in the country," as well as "a kind and gentle person who does not deserve this treatment," wrote Tishkoff in an email. "I hope the Sudanese leaders will recognize his important contributions to their country and release him."

The International Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB), also headquartered in Trieste, says that Ibrahim has been "extremely active and active in ensuring our success in Africa" ​​while serving on the Board of Scientific Advisers of the center from 2004 to 2013. "The ICGEB believes that science has no boundaries or political color and that freedom of expression is a basic human right. "

In mid-December 2018, the cost of living increased sharply in Sudan, especially with the price of bread. Youth, women and children took to the streets to demand change and often faced brutal reprisals from the government of al-Bashir, who came to power following a coup d'etat. 39 Military State in 1989. Some demonstrators died.


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