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Sudan’s Lost Generation

The story of a young Sudanese student’s journey through despair, fanaticism and transformation.

Over greasy McDonald’s french fries and soda, a meal we could never have shared in his native Sudan because of international sanctions, Nabeel Mohamed tells me the story of his descent into fanaticism, and his escape from it. “See, I was tolerant, then I became fanatic, and now I’m tolerant again,” he says, sitting at the Voice of America office where he works. His story is not an action-packed thriller of terrorist networks and grandiose plots to change the world order, but a story of insidious forms of extremism that emerge from intellectual repression and social restriction. 

Gentle-mannered and quick to laugh, Mohamed, 23, always has a book tucked under his arm — currently, he's reading a history of Eastern Europe. Through his love of books, Mohamed carries on Sudan’s history of a vibrant intellectual life. At a reading in Sudan in the 1960s, the late Syrian poet Nizar Qabbani paid homage to this tradition with the saying: “Cairo writes, Beirut publishes and Khartoum reads.”

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