Turabi, a leading Sudanese Islamic scholar and politician, has a long history in the country’s politics [Al Jazeera/Fatma Naib]
Hassan al-Turabi is an influential Sudanese political leader and a prominent Muslim scholar whose long-running power struggle with Omar al-Bashir, the Sudanese president, shows no signs of ending.
During an active political life of some 40 years, al-Turabi has been imprisoned or held under house arrest on several occasions. His last arrest came after calling on Bashir to hand himself over to the International Criminal Court where he has been indicted for war crimes in Sudan’s western Darfur region.
Over the decades, al-Turabi has been in and out of custody, and when out, he has been a powerful politician and leader whose allies have at times become his enemies, and vice versa.
Al Jazeera spoke to him about the future of Sudan in the wake of the first multi-party elections that the country has had in 24 years.
What is your vision for Sudan?
Unfortunately there are so many crises in Sudan, towards the South, West and East and the bad economy amongst other things, and the very basis of the country is now running the risk of being disintegrated completely.
We are facing elections for the first time in two decades.
Are we at least going to promote a political system that will promote democracy? It is not going to be a perfect democratic election or a free democratic system, but at least we can push forward and promote a peaceful Sudan to face these challenges.
What is your vision for the South?
The government has a chance now, after the peace settlement, to do its best to deal with the South.
But they never built a complete roadmap with the South, just a kilometre perhaps, but it is an up-hill struggle that has many thousands of kilometres remaining to reach peace.
The Southerners have the legacy of injustice since independence. But now there is a 90 per cent tendency towards separation, which we will see immediately after the elections, and it is perhaps too late to change that.
Do you think that the South will split with the North when the referendum comes?
Yes, I think so. I do not think that Sudan will be united, and I wish that it will be a split not by conflict but peacefully.
We have so many intermarriages all over, and we don’t want to cut them apart. Later the mood will change and the whole world will change and get together again and reunite the Sudan.
Would it be fair to say that it is best if Sudan was split?
Not only Sudan, but all our other neighbours with frontiers – those are all colonial frontiers. We want to connect and unite to begin common markets and make easier contact with neighbouring countries.
How would you describe yourself?
I always say that the people always govern themselves, just like democracy, even when it comes to the economy; we are not a socialist country or a capitalist country. We are like a democratic socialism.
I am a thinker and a writer, I studied in the West. I am trying to reinforce all the values that we have in Islam and trying to interpret them and add these values against modern challenges. I am a reformist thinker.
One should always re-energize and re-mobilize not only through traditional means but also through free thinking.
What do you think the outcome will be for the Darfur peace agreement?
I think that this is something that should have been accelerated by now. People are dying there and the whole of Darfur is paralyzed right now.
About eight million people cannot go out to farm and look after their animals.
It should have been solved way before the elections so that all the Darfurians should have been engaged in the elections just like us. So that they can become members of parliament and governments – even the president – had someone been voted in by their vote.
Sudan would have overcome all the problems all together but still there might be hope. But it is unfortunate.
You were one of the founders of the National Congress Party (NCP) and now you are working against them, how is that?
We want an Islamic model, they [NCP] have dropped their Islamic values. They have diverted themselves away from the core values and separated themselves from politics way before the West even taught them secularism.
“They simplify [sharia] in the form of forbidding liquor and addressing women’s clothing and they don’t want to apply it to themselves”
They have been controlling the public opinion and controlling everything and everyone. They have diverted from the religious values of justice and equality. I want us to go back to our Islamic core values, not just in our private lives but in all aspects of life.
I feel that they [NCP] are not doing that. The soldiers only know power and order [referring to al-Bashir], they don’t know sharia that applies to them.
In their opinion sharia should be applied to women only and they simplify it in the form of forbidding liquor and addressing women’s clothing and they don’t want to apply it to themselves.
Do you think that there will be a fair election?
No, I don’t think so, but there is no way out. We need to tolerate relatively unfair and unjust elections – at least we would reform the regime and have some balance in a new parliament, as many governors would not belong to the same party. So it is a step forward.
A revolution for Sudan would be very dangerous for the country, it would disintegrate it completely.
Will you accept the results of the elections?
It depends on how I would evaluate the results and the whole process. I would continue to criticize the manipulations of the elections. But I have to accept reality and move forward. I cannot be a pessimist and just go away, I will be here trusting God and move forward in whatever aspect in life.