The arrest of Ahmed Mohamed, a 14-year-old Texas student, in mid-September for bringing a homemade clock to his high school created a nationwide debate about racism and Islamophobia in the United States. Despite facing a wave of ugly criticism, Ahmed won support from high places — President Obama tweeted his support, and the teenager is expected to be a guest at the White House this weekend.
Ahead of that that visit, Ahmed has met with another president. This meeting is a little bit more surprising.
According to the Sudan Tribune, Ahmed met with Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir in Khartoum on Wednesday evening. The Paris-based Web site reports that the teenager told reporters that he was "extremely delighted" to meet Bashir and hoped to return to visit the Sudanese president again “with a new invention and success.”
At first glance, perhaps Ahmed's journey to Bashir's presidential compound isn't so strange. The teenager has met with a variety of big names over the past few weeks. Besides, his family are Sudanese immigrants: On his Twitter account, Ahmed posted a number of images that described his visit to Sudan as a type of homecoming:
However, Bashir is no ordinary world leader. He has an outstanding arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court, for example, for allegedly orchestrating genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur. The country he leads is under a variety of U.S. sanctions. His government harbored Osama bin Laden for five years in the 1990s. A leaked U.S. diplomatic cable published by WikiLeaks even suggested he may have secretly stolen $9 billion in oil money.
To make it even more remarkable, Ahmed's father, Mohamed Elhassan Mohamed, has campaigned against Bashir in not one but two presidential elections. After he was blocked from appearing on the ballot in 2010, the father complained that Bashir had personally blocked his name from the ballot. "I was told that Bashir personally intervened with the [appeals] court to reject my challenge," Mohamed Elhassan Mohamed reportedly told the Sudan Tribune.
He ran for office again this past February, proposing an improvement in relations with the United States and promising to deal with religious extremism. In an interview with the Daily Mail last month, Mohamed Elhassan Mohamed's elder brother Aldean criticized Bashir and said the elections were not fair. "The government said Mohamed came fourth in 2015 but the elections are rigged, the whole international community know that," Aldean said. "Al-Bashir steals all the votes."
There appeared to be little sign of this animosity on Wednesday. The Sudan Tribune reported that Mohamed Elhassan Mohamed attended the meeting and told reporters he hoped that talented young people would “write a new [chapter in] history for an advanced and developed Sudan."
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