حسن عبد الله الترابي
|Secretary General of the Popular Congress Party|
|Speaker of the National Assembly|
|Foreign Minister of Sudan|
|Attorney General of Sudan|
|Secretary General of the National Islamic Front|
October 1964 – 1999
|Born||1932 (age 82–83)
Kassala, Anglo-Egyptian Sudan
|Political party||Popular Congress Party|
|National Congress Party (1996–1999)
Sudanese Socialist Union (1977–1985)
|Alma mater||University of Khartoum
King's College London (Law)
Hassan 'Abd Allah al-Turabi (born c.1932 in Kassala) is a religious and Islamist political leader in Sudan who may have been instrumental in institutionalizing sharia in the northern part of the country. He has been called a "longtime hard-line ideological leader".
Al-Turabi was leader of the National Islamic Front (NIF), a political movement with considerable political power in Sudan but little popularity among voters. In 1979 he became Minister of Justice. In June 1989, a coup d'état by his allies, the "National Salvation Revolution", brought him and the National Islamic Front to power.
In March 1996, al-Turabi was elected to a seat in the National Assembly, where he served as speaker during the 1990s. This period coincided with a decline in the influence of al-Turabi and his party's "internationalist and ideological wing" in favor of more pragmatic leaders, brought on by the imposition of UN sanctions on Sudan in punishment for Sudan's assistance to Egyptian terrorists in their attempt to assassinate Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
- 1 Early life and education
- 2 Religious and political beliefs
- 3 Political career
- 4 Sharia law
- 5 1989 coup
- 6 National Islamic Front rule
- 7 Links to militant groups
- 8 Decline of influence
- 9 References
- 10 Further reading
- 11 External links
Early life and education
Turabi was born in 1932 in Kassala, northern Sudan, to a Sufi Muslim sheikh and received an Islamic education, before coming to Khartoum in 1951 to study law and joined the Muslim Brotherhood as a student. He graduated from Khartoum University School of Law and also studied in London and at the Sorbonne in Paris, where he gained a PhD. He became a leader of the Sudanese Muslim Brotherhood in the early 1960s.
Religious and political beliefs
As a Sunni Islamist, Turabi's ideas differed in some ways from traditional Islamic ideas, such as in his lack of reverence for professional Islamic scholars. Rather than the ulama (class of Islamic scholars) being restricted to educated Islamic scholars, he stated that "because all knowledge is divine and religious, a chemist, an engineer, an economist or a jurist are all ulamas." In fact, in an Islamic democracy, which Turabi maintained he was working towards,
ideally there is no clerical ulama class, which prevents and elitist or theocratic government. Whether termed a religious, a theocratic, or even a secular theocracy, an Islamic state is not a government of the ulama.
Al-Turabi originally espoused progressive Islamist ideas, such as the embrace of democracy, healing the breach and expanding the rights of women, where he noted:
The Prophet himself used to visit women, not men, for counseling and advice. They could lead prayer. Even in his battles, they are there! In the election between Othman and Ali to determine who will be the successor to the Prophet, they voted!
He told another interviewer, "I want women to work and become part of public life" because "the home doesn't require much work anymore, what with all the appliances". During an interview on al-Arabiya TV in 2006, al-Turabi describes the word hijab is not a face veil but it a cover or diaphragm put in room to separate between men and Prophet's wives, whereas niqab is just an old Arab habit, (the headscarf as part of a complete Islamic dress code for women) applies to all Muslim women. Hijab literally means "barrier" and he said it was "a curtain in the Prophet's room. Naturally, it was impossible for the Prophet's wife to sit there when people entered the room". The Prophet's wives sat behind it when talking to males because they were not allowed to show their faces. He opposed the death penalty for apostasy from Islam and opposed Ayatollah Khomeini's death sentence fatwa against Salman Rushdie. He declared Islamist organizations "too focused on narrow historical debates and behavioral issues of what should be forbidden, at the expense of economic and social development".
Al-Turabi also laid out his vision for a Sharia law that would be applied gradually instead of forcefully and would apply only to Muslims, who would share power with the Christians in a federal system.
However, after al-Turabi came to power in a military coup d'état that overthrew a democratic government, his regime was characterized by harsh human rights violations rather than progressive, or liberal theology.
After graduating, he returned to Sudan and became a member of the Islamic Charter Front, an offshoot of the Sudanese branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. Within a five-year period, the Islamic Charter Front became a large political group that identified al-Turabi as its Secretary general in 1964. Through the Islamic Charter Front, al-Turabi worked with two factions of the Sudanese Islamic movement, Ansar and Khatmiyyah, to draft an Islamic constitution. Members of Ansar define themselves as the followers of Mahdi Muhammad Ahmad, stemming from nineteenth century Sudan. Al-Turabi remained with the Islamic Charter Front until 1969, when Gaafar Nimeiry assumed power in a coup. The members of Islamic Charter Front were arrested, and al-Turabi spent six years in custody and three in exile in Libya.
In 1977, the regime and the two factions of the Islamic movement in Sudan attempt to reach a "national reconciliation", where opposition leaders were freed and/or allowed back from exile, including al-Turabi. "Turabi and his people now begin to play a major role, infiltrating the top echelons of the government where their education, frequently acquired in the West, made them indispensable" and "Islamizing society from the top down". Al-Turabi became a leader of the Sudanese Socialist Union, and was promoted to Minister of Justice in 1979.
The Nimeiry administration declared the imposition of a harsh brand of Sharia law in 1983. Popular opposition against political actions such as the dissolution of the Sudanese parliament and legally-inflicted punishments such as amputations and hangings, resulted in a coup against Nimeiry in 1985.
His frequent close relationships with Sudanese governments resulted in the famous association against him in the 1986 votes, where all political parties decided to withdraw their nominees and keep only one nominee against al-Turabi, which led to the loss of al-Turabi being part of the only democratic government in Sudan during the last four decades.
On 30 June 1989, a coup d'état by General Omar Hassan al-Bashir and supported by al-Turabi and his followers led to severe repression, including purges and executions in the upper ranks of the army, the banning of associations, political parties, and independent newspapers and the imprisonment of leading political figures and journalists.
National Islamic Front rule
Karate attack on al-Turabi in Ottawa
A Sudanese Karate Black belt master, Hashim Bedreddin Mohammed, attacked al-Turabi by using two knifehand strikes to knock him unconscious into a coma, while al-Turabi was at an Ottawa airport in Canada in 26 May 1992. Hashim was a Sufi in exile and an opponent of the National Islamic Front Islamist regime in Sudan and had won a karate world championship in 1983. He attacked al-Turabi in a rage when he saw him. Al-Turabi was hospitalized for 4 weeks with constant black outs. After al-Turabi was knocked out, Hashim assumed he was dead and departed. Al-Turabi suffered from severe injuries, the use of his right arm was lost for a while, he had slurred speech and he required the use of a cane. Hashim was supported by exiled Sudanese in Canada who launched the "Friends of Hashim Campaign" to support his attack on al-Turabi. One said "most Sudanese would appreciate what Hashim did". They called for an end to Islamist policies and a return to secularism.
In 1994 a report issued by Human Rights Watch/Africa, conducted by Gáspár Bíró, a Hungarian law professor and the United Nations' special envoy to Sudan in 1993 found the Sudanese government to be practicing "widespread and systematic torture" of political detainees.
Once uncommon in the Sudan, torture was now widespread, especially in the south. Non-Muslim women were raped, their children taken from them; paper bags filled with chili powder were placed over men's heads, and some were tied to anthills; testicles were crushed and burned by cigarettes and electrical current, according to a 1994 report by Human Rights Watch/Africa.
Links to militant groups
||The examples and perspective in this section deal primarily with the United States and do not represent a worldwide view of the subject. (November 2011)|
Al-Turabi founded the annual Popular Arab and Islamic Conference (also sometimes called the Congress) around 1991. Meeting here were several Islamic groups from around the world, including representatives from the Hamas, Egyptian Islamic Jihad, Algerian Islamic Jihad, and Hezbollah. According to the 9/11 Commission Report,
'Turabi sought to persuade Shiites and Sunnis to put aside their divisions and join against the common enemy. In late 1991 or 1992, discussions in Sudan between Al-Qaeda and Iranian operatives led to an informal agreement to cooperate in providing support – even if only training – for actions carried out primarily against Israel and the United States. Not long afterward, senior al Qaeda operatives and trainers traveled to Iran to receive training in explosives.
In August 1993, Sudan was placed on the United States' list of "state sponsors of terrorism" following the first World Trade Center bombing in February. The U.S. State Department notes that "five of 15 suspects arrested" following the bombing were Sudanese.
Mubarak assassination attempt
Two years later an assassination attempt was made on former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak by Egyptian Islamic Jihad organization, many of whose members were living in exile in Sudan. Evidence from the Egyptian and Ethiopian governments implicated the Sudanese government
The debacle led to a unanimous vote in the United Nations to impose stiff economic sanctions on Sudan. The Sudanese representative denied the charges, but the Sudanese delegation was already in disfavor, having been implicated only two years earlier in a plot to blow up UN headquarters.
Rather than disassociate himself from the plot, al-Turabi praised the attempted killing and called Mubarak stupid:
The sons of the Prophet Moses, the Muslims, rose up against him confounded his plans, and sent him back to his country...I found the man to be very far below my level of thinking and my view, and too stupid to understand my pronouncements.
Decline of influence
International sanctions took effect in April 1996 and were accompanied by a "general withdrawal of the diplomatic community" from Khartoum. At the same time Sudan worked to appease America and other international critics by expelling members of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad and encouraging bin Laden to leave.
In March 1996, national elections were held for the first time since the coup, and al-Turabi was elected to a seat in the National Assembly, where he served as speaker during the 1990s. This was his first instance of holding a political position with some consistency. During the "last few years of the 1990s", his influence and that of his party's "'internationalist' and ideological wing" waned "in favor of the 'nationalist' or more pragmatic leaders who focus on trying to recover from Sudan's disastrous international isolation and economic damage that resulted from ideological adventurism".
Imprisonment and later years
After a political falling out with President Omar al-Bashir in 1999, Al-Turabi was imprisoned based on allegations of conspiracy before being released in October 2003. He was again imprisoned in the Kober (Cooper) prison in Khartoum in March 2004. He was released on 28 June 2005.
In 2004 he was reported to have been associated with the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), an Islamist armed rebel group involved in the Darfur conflict. Al-Turabi himself has denied these claims. In 2006 al-Turabi made international headlines when he issued a fatwa allowing Muslim women to marry non-Muslim men, and allowing alcohol consumption in certain situations, in contradiction to the accepted Sharia law. 
After the JEM attacked Khartoum and Omdurman on 10 May 2008, Al-Turabi was arrested on the morning of 12 May 2008, along with other members of his Popular Congress Party (PCP). He said that he had expected the arrest, which occurred while he was returning to Khartoum from a PCP gathering in Sennar. He was questioned and released without charge later in the day, after about 12 hours in detention.
Presidential advisor Mustaf Osman Ismail said that al-Turabi's name had been found on JEM documents, but he denied that al-Turabi had been arrested, asserting that he had merely been "summoned" for questioning. Al-Turabi, however, said that it was an arrest and that he had been held at Kober. According to al-Turabi, he was questioned regarding the relationship between the PCP and JEM, but he did not answer this question, although he denied that there was a relationship after his release; he also said that he was asked why he did not condemn the rebel attack. He said that the security officers questioning him had "terrified" him and that, although they claimed to have proof against him, they did not show him this proof when he asked to see it.
Salva Kiir Mayardit, the First Vice-President of Sudan and President of the Government of Southern Sudan, said that there had been no discussion about arresting al-Turabi at a presidency meeting on the previous day and that there was no security report implicating him. He alleged that al-Turabi was being used as a scapegoat.
In an interview on 17 May 2008, al-Turabi described the JEM's attack on Khartoum as "positive" and said that there was "so much misery in Darfur, genocidal measures actually". He also said that the JEM attack could spark more unrest.
On 12 January 2009, al-Turabi called on Bashir to surrender himself to the International Criminal Court for the sake of the country, while holding Bashir politically responsible for war crimes in Darfur. He was then arrested on 14 January and held in prison for two months (until 8 March)  at the Kober prison before being moved to Port Sudan prison. During this time members of his family expressed concern about his health (he is 75) and his being held in solitary confinement at least some of the time. Amnesty International also released a statement about al-Turabi's arrest on 16 January, describing it as "arbitrary" and politically motivated. Noting al-Turabi's advanced age and his need for medication and a special diet. The Sudanese Media Centre reported on 19 January that al-Turabi would be put on trial for his alleged assistance to the JEM.
On 8 March, he was released only days after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant against Omar al-Bashir. On 11 April 2009, the PCP called for the creation of a transitional government to lead Sudan to the planned 2010 election, and al-Turabi suggested that he would not stand as a candidate due to his advanced age; he emphasized the importance of leadership coming from younger generations and said that he did not have enough energy to run. In April al-Turabi was stopped at Khartoum airport and prevented from travelling to Paris for medical tests despite having obtained permission to travel from the interior ministry.
Al-Turabi announced on 2 January 2010 that the PCP had designated his deputy, Abdallah Deng Nhial, as its candidate for the 2010 presidential election. Al-Turabi was again arrested in mid May 2010, but was released on 1 July 2010.
On 18 January 2011, security forces arrested Hassan al-Turabi from Khartoum, presumably at the wake of the recent instability in Sudan’s politics. Al-Turabi commented on the recent price rises in Sudan stating it could result at a "popular uprising" if the unrealistic rises were not reversed. He added that the governments including that of Sudan should take lessons from the recent events in Tunisia.
- الدكتور حسن عبد الله الترابي ad-Duktūr Ḥasan 'Abd Allāh at-Turābī in Arabic), commonly called Hassan al-Turabi (sometimes transliterated Hassan al-Tourabi) (حسن الترابي).
- The Appendix of the 9/11 Commission Report
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- Women Should Cover Chest, Not Face| memri.org| April 10, 2006
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- Abdelwahid, Mustafa A. The Rise of the Islamic Movement in Sudan (1945–1989). The Edwin Mellen Press, 2008.
- Official website
- Turabi video Interview
- Sudan Update's entry on the National Islamic Front
- Biography of Hassan al-Turabi from Human Rights Watch
- Guardian article at the time of his March 2004 arrest
- BBC article on his June 2005 release
- Text of a speech given by al-Turabi before the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Africa Subcommittee
- Chapter 2 of 9/11 Commission Report al-Turabi is described in Section 2.3
- 13.04.2006 – Sudan Tribune: "Sudan's Turabi – Muslim women can marry Christian or Jew"
- 24.04.2006 – Sudan Tribune: "Sudan's Turabi considered apostate"
- 02.05.2006 – Sudan Tribune: "Sudan's Turabi accuses Islamic clerics of misunderstanding" with Interview