First Iranians escape Sudan strife via Saudi Arabia

AFP , Saturday 29 Apr 2023

The first Iranian evacuees to escape the Sudan conflict through Saudi Arabia arrived on Saturday in Jeddah, relieved that their country has settled its differences with the regional rival.

Evacuees stand on a ferry as it transports some 1900 people across the Red Sea from Port Sudan to th
Evacuees stand on a ferry as it transports some 1900 people across the Red Sea from Port Sudan to the Saudi King Faisal navy base in Jeddah, on April 29, 2023, during mass evacuations from Sudan. AFP


The 65 Iranians were among about 1,900 people on the latest boat to arrive from Port Sudan as the battle between rival Sudanese forces entered a third week.

Saudi Arabia has so far organised evacuations for about 5,000 people from 96 countries, according to the foreign ministry.

Iran and Saudi Arabia agreed to end a seven-year diplomatic rupture on March 10, and four Iranian diplomats were on hand when the latest ship arrived at the King Faisal Naval Base in Jeddah.

Merhdad Malekzadh, a 28-year-old Iranian who had been living in Khartoum since he was a child, said no one had expected the fighting to become so intense ,and his escape had also been a surprise.

"Because of our nationality, we had never imagined we would come to Saudi Arabia when we were evacuated," said Malekzadh, whose family runs an oil lubricants business in the Sudanese capital.

"Fortunately, they really helped us. They put their differences aside and worked together. They saved lives," he added.

Saudi Arabia and Iran have not yet opened embassies after their new diplomatic agreement, but Hassan Zarnegar Abarghoui, one of the Iranian diplomats waiting at the base, said his government was grateful for the "humanitarian cooperation" shown by the Saudi authorities.

More than 510 people have been killed since fighting erupted on April 15 between the forces of Sudan's army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and his number two Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, who commands the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF).

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