Hassan al-Turabi, the radical who turned Sudan into a safe haven for al-Qaeda operatives and who played a key role in the 1989 coup that brought president Omar al-Bashir to power, was buried to shouts of “Allahu Akbar [God is great]” at Buri district cemetery in Khartoum. 

Turabi died on Saturday, aged 84, of a heart attack. 

He championed radical Islam in the 1990s, inviting Osama bin Laden – whom he hailed a hero –  and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, to Sudan. He once called the US the “incarnation of the devil”.

“Turabi had very big ambitions to establish an Islamic state beyond Sudan and that was the reason behind Sudan being isolated internationally... Sudan has paid the price of Turabi’s personal ambitions,” said Faisal Mohammed Salih, a political analyst in Khartoum. 

Turabi later remade himself as a mainstream politician. He formed the opposition Popular Congress Party and supported rebels in southern Sudan and Darfur. Turabi was jailed on a number of occasions and was placed under house arrest from 2001 to 2003. He introduced Islamic law (sharia) in September 1983 during the rule of President Jaafar Nimeiri. It was later fully implanted in 1989 when Bashir seized power.

People from the war-torn Nuba Mountains expressed their frustration at his legacy and his role in the civil war in the region. “I think he will be in hell by now ... he was the reason of separating South Sudan, and he led people in this country to kill each other,” said Halima Hassan, a tea seller and mother of six. 

Hafiz Ibrahim, an economic analyst, also from the Nuba Mountains, said Turabi was responsible for the crisis facing millions today. “He created this political regime that killed people everywhere in the country and caused the economic problems for the people of Sudan,” he said. 

That view was not shared by Abdel Majid Shogar, a student of Elzaeem Elazhari University in Khartoum. “I think he is very important figure... in whole of the Islamic world,” he said. Mohamed Abdel-Azeem, 35, from Khartoum, added: “He is one of the rare Sudanese politicians who had strategy and long political vision.”

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