Learn more about Hassan al-Turabi
Dr. Hassan 'Abd Allah al-Turabi (الدكتور حسن عبد الله الترابي in Arabic), commonly called Hassan al-Turabi (sometimes transliterated Hassan al-Tourabi) (حسن الترابي), is a religious and political leader in Sudan, who may have been instrumental in institutionalizing sharia in the northern part of the country.
He was influential as a government figure under several heads of state in the country, but was put in a Kobar (Cooper) prison in Khartoum on the orders of his one-time ally, current president Omar al-Bashir in March 2004. He was released on June 28, 2005.
Recent reports have suggested that (as of 2004), Turabi is associated with the JEM (Justice and Equality Movement), an Islamist armed rebel group which is involved in the Darfur conflict. Turabi himself has denied these claims.
The Appendix of the 9/11 Commission Report calls Turabi "Sudan's longtime hard-line ideological leader and Speaker of the country's National Assembly during the 1990s." Turabi was leader of the National Islamic Front, a powerful political faction in Sudan. The Front attempts to impose sharia upon the country, even though radical Islamists form a small minority of the population.
 Early life and Family
Turabi was born in the province of Kassala, in eastern Sudan near the border with Eritrea, around 1932. His father was a judge and expert on sharia. Sadiq al-Mahdi, former Prime Minister of Sudan, is his brother-in-law.<ref name="brother in law">Douglas H. Johnson, The Root Causes of Sudan's Civil Wars (African Issues), Indiana University Press, 2003, ISBN 0-253-21584-6, p. 79.</ref>
As a youth Turabi received an Islamic education, and went on to earn graduate-level degrees at universities in Sudan and abroad:
- B.A. in Law, Khartoum University 1951-1955
- M.A. in Law, University of London 1955-1957
- Ph.D. in Law, Sorbonne, Paris, 1959-1964
 Political career
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 Turabi spent six years in custody and three in exile in Libya.
The coup and the two factions of the Islamic movement in Sudan attempt to reach a compromise in 1977, part of that compromise is the release of Al-Turabi and a return from exile. Under the agreement, Al-Turabi is permitted to become a leader of the Sudanese Socialist Union, and is eventually promoted to Justice Minister in 1979. His frequent close relationships with Sudanese Governments has resulted in great dislike of Turabi from the Sudanese nation which 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 Turabi which led to the loss of Turabi being part of the only Democratic government in Sudan during the last four decades. This has led later on to the careful planning of Turabi and his crew to take over authority by force in June 1989 forming what was so called the National Salvation Revolution
 Sharia Law
The Nimeiry administration declared the imposition of a harsh brand of Sharia Law in 1983. Popular dissent with legal measures such as the dissolution of the Sudanese parliament, and with punishments such as amputations and hangings, resulted in a coup against Nimeiry in 1985.
 Links to militant groups
Turaprotected Osama bin Laden when the al Qaeda leader based his operations in Sudan from around 1990-1996, at Turabi's invitation. Bin Laden himself moved from Saudi Arabia to Sudan in 1991, in part because of conflict between Bin Laden and the Saudi government over the government's refusing his lobbies to allow him to organize a jihad to banish Saddam Hussein from Kuwait and choosing instead to permit the United States to station troops in Saudi Arabia as part of its effort to drive Iraq out of Kuwait. Turabi granted Bin Laden a safe and friendly haven from which to conduct jihadist activities; in return, Bin Laden agreed to help the Sudanese government in roadbuilding and to fight animist and Christian separatists in Southern Sudan. While in Sudan, bin Laden also married one of Turabi's nieces. <ref>Bin Laden uses Iraq to plot new attacks, Asia Times Online, By Syed Saleem Shahzad, February 23, 2002</ref>
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 Palestine Liberation Organization, Hamas, Egyptian Jihad, Algerian Islamic Jihad, and Hezbollah.
"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." -- 9/11 Commission Report, Chapter 2
In 1996 Al-Turabi chose to run in the first general election of the new regime. After winning a seat, Al-Turabi was selected as Speaker of Parliament, second only to the president, Omar Hasan Ahmad al-Bashir, of Sudan. Al-Turabi's first instance of holding a political position with some consistency continued until March of 2004, at which point Al-Bashir threw Al-Turabi in prison. Al-Turabi was released from prison in June of 2005.
 Progressive Sharia Views
In private conversations with Osama bin Laden, Al-Turabi advocated a peace between the Sunni and Shia, as well as intergrating art, music, and singing into religion, all of which offended bin Laden tremendously. Al-Turabi also laid out his vision for a Sharia law that would be applied gradually instead of forcefully, and would only apply to Muslims, who would share power with the Christians in a federal system.
Furthermore, during an interview in 2005, Al-Tubari denounced Muslim women wearing the headscarf using his interpration of Islam that it is not required.
Al-Turabi also gained a reputation early in his career for the advocacy of women's rights. [Lawerence Wright, The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11. New York: Knopf, 2006. pp. 165-6.]
He has said with laughter, "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."<ref>Fatwa on Muslim Women</ref>
 Further reading
- Millard Burr: Revolutionary Sudan: Hasan Al-Turabi and the Islamist State, 1989-2000. Leiden, 2003, ISBN 90-04-13196-5
 External links
- 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 Turabi before the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Africa Subcommittee
- Chapter 2 of 9/11 Commission Report 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 Interviewar:حسن الترابي