Over 500 Southern Sudanese refugees living in Syria were arrested between Dec. 9 and 12, 2001, according to a report received by the Institute on Religion and Democracy's Church Alliance for a New Sudan (CANS) from Sudanese church officials. Women and children were released after the first day of the arrest, but 148 men remain incarcerated, sources say.
The Sudanese church officials say the arrests came as result of a decree issued by the National Islamic Front, the ruling regime in Sudan, to force the return to Sudan of all Sudanese nationals living in Syria, with a deadline of December 12. "The Sudanese had fled to Syria in hope of escaping the genocidal jihad being waged against black African Sudanese by the National Islamic Front regime," said CANS coordinator Faith McDonnell. "For five years they have been appealing to the UN for asylum, but as is so frequently the case with Christians seeking protection from religious persecution, they had been denied protection by the United Nations."