Security agents chased down and pummeled the pro-democracy protester, who said his pursuers were celebrating as if they were “fishermen who just made a catch.”
“‘Who are you?’” the protester, Ahmed Sanhouri, recalled the agents demanding. He carried no identification or cellphone, and he insisted he was a laborer.
He is, in fact, a young doctor, but that is something that has been dangerous to admit in Sudan in recent months. Doctors have played a central role, along with other professionals, in organizing the mass protests that recently toppled the longtime autocrat Omar Hassan al-Bashir and fostered a powerful, if still uncertain, pro-democracy movement.
“Doctors had a great role, and they still have a great role, in this revolution,” said Dr. Mohamed Nagy al-Asam, 28, a leader of the movement.
In Sudan, where the government and its allied militias had committed atrocities across the country’s south and west over decades, it was not an armed group or a long-running opposition party that forced out Mr. al-Bashir. That accomplishment belongs in large part to a semi-secret alliance of doctors, lawyers, journalists, engineers and teachers organized under a bland name, the Sudanese Professionals Association.
Doctors have played a particularly striking role in shaping the protest movement. Its most identifiable leader for many Sudanese is Dr. al-Asam, and one of its most famous victims was a doctor killed while trying to treat wounded protesters.
Behind the scenes, doctors helped transform what started as protests over bread prices into a coherent movement, complete with a declaration of demands and a tightly organized protest schedule that survived months of repression. Their prominence reflects the fact that this revolution has been guided by the disintegrating middle class around the capital, Khartoum a demographic easy to overlook amid Sudan’s woes.
Before toppling a dictator, the Sudanese Professionals Association was best known for a minimum wage study it undertook last year.
Now it falls to the association and the relatively narrow demographic it represents to unite disparate opposition factions from left-wing groups to religious parties to armed rebels around a political agenda that calls for civilian rule, women’s empowerment and an end to the nation’s civil wars.
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