Menschen “An exponential positive impact for good”

Mohammed Hassan about his social work and activism in Sudan during wartime, his studies in Berlin, and why his passport is not being renewed

Mohammed Hassan mit kurzer Hose und Hemd mit den Füßen im Wasser des Müggelsees stehend
Mohammed Hassan at Großer Müggelsee. At the moment the picture was taken he was sad about the rejection of his passport renewal, which has caused him psychological stress Kebur Baye

What had you studied before the SWHR at ASH Berlin?

I completed a 4-year undergraduate degree in English Language and Literature at Omdurman Ahlia University in Khartoum, Sudan, and I also completed a Liberal Arts & Sciences Certificate from Cairo Institute of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CILAS) in Cairo, Egypt.


Why did you decide to study the SWHR Master’s Degree?

First, I recognized Africa's need for creative solutions to problems. In Sudan, millions have fled war and violence. These have ended up in camps where tribes continue to foment conflict. As a result, I decided to expand my knowledge and skills in to social work, to better understand human rights and how they relate to social work, to enhance my knowledge of peacemaking and sustainable development so that I may be able to address some of the more complex issues that have been arisen. Second, I wanted to deepen my theoretical understanding of social work concepts and practices and how to apply these in the context of Sudan.


You have been very busy as an activist for human rights.

Since I was a university student I have devoted much of my time as a social worker and activist in the fields of human rights and community-building. For me, no one, at any time, should be denied the basic needs of life – including food, health care and education. But in times of conflict, these fundamental rights are especially at risk and the fight for them is more difficult than ever. To this end, I have contributed by holding training sessions and workshops on human rights and presenting social work topics to community groups, before students and women’s associations, and before elder councils.

When the conflict in Darfur erupted in 2003, I was active in speaking to representatives of the international community in order to ensure the provision of food, water, health care and educational supplies to those displaced and affected by violence and conflict. I was also active in pressing for the release of prisoners of war and to block the killing of innocent civilians and the grooming and recruitment of children. As the Humanitarian Coordinator for the Sudan Liberation Movement at the time, I helped organizations such as UNICEF, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the Danish Refugee Council (DRC), GOAL international aid charity, and Doctors Without Borders. Our efforts included the building of schools, clinics, and water facilities, distributing food and medicine, and organizing workshops and training courses on topics such as the protection of civilians, and the prohibition oft the recruitment of children with an emphais on sustaining their education. Also, in 2012, while living as an asylum seeker in Cairo, Egypt, I worked as a social worker for the NGO St. Andrew's Refugee Services (StARS). Iwas also a translator and interpreter for the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

I was a social worker, but my Bachelor’s degree was in the Arts. I had worked in a number of organizations and had gained much experience in the field of social work. But eventually I reached the point where I felt I needed further training as a social worker and an academic degree in that field. Therefore, I decided to return to university in order to obtain this academic qualification, and now that I’ve obtained that qualification, I have not regretted it at all.

Thus, I chose to study social work primarily for the motivation of understanding how to use various professional tools to make a positive impact on society, as there will always be people in need, which means social workers are needed worldwide.


How did you like the Master’s program in SWHR?

It has been very enjoyable studying social sciences, and having a master's degree in social work has been more than just a university degree for me. Through my educational experience, I gained profoundly transformative experience that I believe will enrich my life and my career. My SWHR degree prepared me to embrace differences, seek justice, and forge change by experiencing and exploring the knowledge, values, and skills required in professional social work practice. The Alice Salomon University prepared me to become a leader in the social work field in my country so that I can continue to assist in the resolution of regional, national, and global issues, as well as be an effective social work practitioner in today's society. As a result, I am now equipped with multiple means of assessing local knowledge and values, and applying the skills of social work and concepts of human rights so as to bring about real change and to make a difference. I like to describe what I have experienced as an exponential positive impact for good. I am confident that this degree has prepared me to work effectively in a broad variety of social work settings.

Furthermore, I continue to believe in the concept of linking social work with human rights and the necessity to struggle for their achievement. These were primary concepts for me and why I had decided to study SWHR in the first place. In this regard, my decision to complete a Master’s degree in Social Work as Human Rights profession was a wonderful starting point for me in my dedication to aiding the displaced and war victims from Darfur and Sudan. There is such a need to practice social work there and to help those people defend their own rights as human beings. But also, and not to be overlooked was another main reason for choosing Alice Salomon University. ASH has an excellent reputation and provides outstanding community structures and opportunities to benefit from exchanges and the building of relationships with other students and social experts in a virtual environment.


What do you want to do after your graduation?

My first plan was to return home after an absence of more than 15 years caused by the war. I intended to volunteer for three months in order to implement a plan to support the inhabitants of three small villages (with a population of less than 200 people) in Jebel Marra, a region which is still affected by the ongoing war.

In order to assess the needs of the community, we communicated with members of the community and decided to focus on the needs of the elderly and children affected by the war, as well as requesting donations from humanitarian local and regional organizations.

Second, I planned to work for humanitarian organizations or human rights organizations operating in the Darfur region, based on my prior social work experience and academic background.

Nevertheless, the ongoing political complexities and deteriorating security situation in the country have overshadowed all my plans, and I have even become more fearful about returning home. So, I must now look for alternatives.


You are an activist. In what field are you active and what is your goal?

I am an activist and defender of human rights at the local or national levels. I strive to in obtain information about human rights violations which I can then report to international and regional human rights mechanisms.

As an activist, my primary objective has been to promote respect for human rights among the displaced community living in the camps, as well as calling for the promotion, improvement, and protection of civil and political rights in Sudan in general, and the Darfur region in particular. In these regions the state army and its armed militias continue to breach these rights. I can promote human rights while encouraging and supporting the state and the international community in the provision of basic services to the displaced.


Because of your activism you are not allowed to renew your passport. What is the situation now?

In August 2021 I applied to renew my passport at the Sudanese embassy in Brussels, Belgium. Their response was that my number was banned and it was not possible to obtain a new passport. At that time, I contacted several officials in the Civil Registry and Passports Committee. In September 2021 I was directed to go to France to meet the head of this Committee, who had been dispatched to deal with the problems of Sudanese in the European Union. I met him and completed all the required procedures. Three months later, during a phone call with this official, he informed that one of the officers took my file from him and stopped all procedures in my case.

The authorities of the Sudanese Immigration Office explained that the ban of my national number and the refusal to renew my passport is due to the fact that there is a mistake in the name. Yet another Civil Registry officers told me that I have more than one national number and that this requires my presence immediately, otherwise criminal proceedings will be taken against me.

However, I fully believe that this is a trap set up by the security services in cooperation with the Civil Registry and Passport Office because of their view of my activities within the Sudan Liberation Movement since 2003. To support this supposition, I must add that my father had been summoned more than once by the security and intelligence services, and my uncle was held by them for nearly a year. Both of them have assured me that my name was on the wanted list of the Sudanese security authorities.

I can repeat here the history of my situation in this regard. In March 2013, the State Security Prosecution filed a complaint against me for opposing the state, violating public safety, and spreading false news against the state, and I was summoned to appear before them. Since such crimes may be punishable by death or life imprisonment, I fled the country across the Egyptian-Sudanese border though it was less than two weeks after my return, and despite the fact that my father was already suffering from cancer.

Now I am getting more anxious and nervous because as of the end of September, 2022, I will be stateless, i.e. without an official travel document. And I will also be homeless after being required to leave the student dormitory.

That said, I am still trying to renew my passport, and I have made many contacts with the relevant authorities, the Security Department, and the Civil Registry. Furthermore, I applied for Legal Aid in May of this year with a lawyer in Berlin and I am still following the latest developments.


What could help you in your current situation?

Currently, being a member of the Fur tribe, an activist, and classified by the current Sudanes governmant as a rebel, I have become more dependent on international protection than ever before. In fact, there are many other facts I could report, but I don't want to put my family members  and  friends at risk.


Update December 2022
I am grateful that the student housing administration permitted me to stay in the residence for a period of three months. But earlier this week, I received notification that the lease had been terminated and that I would be required to vacate the residence no later than December 31, 2022. Currently, I am unable to conclude a room lease agreement with any landlord because I do not possess a valid passport.
As for the passport renewal procedures, I was notified to travel to Brussels, Belgium for new procedures, so I immediately made the trip on October 25. In the following three weeks, Sudanese immigration authorities informed me that they could not continue with the process without my presence.
Furthermore, to find out the reasons for the reluctance to renew my passport, members of the Darfur Bar Association contacted the responsible authorities, as well as the responsible security authorities, but no reply has been received.