Yesterday I attended the cultural event TEDxKhartoum 2013 that was held in Corinthia Hotel, Khartoum, Sudan. The event was themed: ‘Knowledge into Action’, and contained topics illustrating that theme in the form of the traditional TED Talks. I enjoy these events so much, and have attended the past two events (TEDxKhartoum 2011 and 2012) and despite all difficulties I insisted (and kinda forced myself) to attend this one too, because in a screwed-up country and environment like where I am, I really need some peeks to what Life, Success, and Achievement would look like. Other than from these kind of events, I don’t think one could survive…
I arrived there less than an hour late, and was able to quickly finish the registration process and got the entrance badge, and in no time was inside the hall (Kudos to the registration team!). I’ve listened to awesome Dan Pink recorded TED talk about motivations, and then the first live speaker was on the stage, Mr. Abualabass. The microphone went off as he was talking, and the organizers apologized that there is a technical problem to be solved. We went out for a 40 minutes coffee break. The sad part is that all my friends were not able to attend, so I thought I’ll have a sad lonely 40 minutes! I turned out to be wrong. I had a sad lonely three hours! (Actually I think it is two and a half hours, but I remember it that way and can’t remember the exact timing now.. However…).
I had no idea of what was going on, but chatting with people around (which takes a lot of effort for a non-social creature like me) it turned out that there is a rumor that there was no permit from NISS (the nasty National Intelligence and Security Services, the heavily-armed secret services for the National Congress Party in Sudan). Some of the organizers confirmed that there is a problem with NISS, and that they ordered the hotel administration to shut the event up. That is what they do, they shut things and people up.
After the long pause, we were back! We were introduced to the beautiful, smart, and great Sudanese Sara (God bless her), then the great talk of Mr. Elnasri that I could deeply relate. At this point it was clear for everyone who didn’t left already that it worth the waiting. Next was the talk that I was waiting: Jon “maddog” Hall‘s talk.. It was an international-class TED talk focusing on how we can use free software to improve our local industry and economy. Next was a talk about knowledge management by Mr. Allam Elnour, which was a very enthusiastic talk. During that talk, a notable darkening occurred, and the speaker could not get his presentation slides on the (darkened) screen. There was something going on, as Dr. Anwar (the main pillar of the organization team of TEDx Khartoum) was walking back and forth, and clearly there was so much chaotic movement among the TEDx team. After the talk of Mr. Allam, Dr. Anwar got up the stage, gathered the speakers -those who got the chance and those who didn’t. It was a very short statement, saying that he did all that he could, but they have to stop right away. Dr. Anwar went in tears after that, and the volunteers of the event were asked to get on the stage. The speakers agreed to film their talks to be uploaded to Youtube. And the event was declared finished with a very warm round of applause.
That was the story exactly like I witnessed. What I was told afterwards is that NISS officers came the first time, asked for the permit. Some story tellers say there wasn’t a permit, others say they had the permit but was not with them right that moment. Anyway, all agree that this issue was resolved and the permit was issued after the long break. The second time they asked to shut it was for no valid reason (not that I think the first was!). There are eye-witnesses tweeted that the second time was a for-no-reason close-this-event order..
For the rest of the day, I was in shock of what happened! It was totally odd, even for NISS twisted mentality! The event was highly non-political, and not sponsored by any political parties. It was the third annual event and the fifth alike. All previous ones went smoothly. What the hell came up in their damaged mind this time? Till now, no official statement declaring exactly what happened came out from the TEDx team (and of course we’re not waiting NISS on that civilized action at all). Hope next few days will reveal something.
Another interesting point, in the news broke right after the event, there was something about Dr. Anwar stating that ‘They mentioned something about the live stream”. I didn’t really see any explanation about that nor further news. Hope that clears up in the next few days too..
There was a joke that spread quickly, I believe it might have some side of the reality. It said that those NISS officers (Amnagiyya) came to the event, saw foreigners and people who were speaking English. they feared as they didn’t understand anything and therefore they ordered the event to be shut. Of course the Arabic version is told better (especially the 18+ version) but it still tells what people think about those guys, and I don’t think it is absolutely false. An English (from the language not the country) joke of my favorites says that not all policemen are bad, it’s only 99% of them makes the rest look bad. This old joke never stops being funny because it never stops being true.
As the brave Mr. Elnasri stated: we will record the talks, will upload them into Youtube, will find other ways to express. And out message will be delivered. Kudos to that man. This message is knowledge, inspiration, freedom, and life. This message is as TED always stands for: Ideas Worth Spreading.
Oh, and by the way: #SudanRevolts !