Egypt’s Nubians protest, demanding their right to return to their lands

Nubians continued their sit-in on the Abu Simbel-Aswan highway in Aswan governorate. According to al-Ahram, a state-owned newspaper,” Not less than 150 Egyptian Nubians continued their sit-in for the second consecutive day on the Abu Simbel-Aswan highway in Aswan governorate as security forces refused to allow them entry to Toshka to protest against the sale of land there to non-Nubians.“

“The Nubian Return Caravan”, is a convoy organized by a group of Egyptian Nubian activists, where Nubians from all over the country headed in 25 buses to Toshka and Forkund villages to start a sit-in against a presidential decree to allocate land in both villages for investment development.

Mohamed Azamy, the head of the Nubian Union and one of the “caravan” organizers said, “The sit-in will continue despite the attempts of security to disperse it.”

According to Azmy, not less than 150 protesters are still participating in the sit-in.

He also added, “More people are expected to come from other Nubian villages in Aswan to support us later today,” where are rising fears that clashes may break out between the newcomers who want to join and security forces.

Two days ago, three Nubian protesters were injured when the Egyptian security forces attempted to disperse tens of demonstrators who blocked a number of major highways and railways in Aswan.

The protests escalated when security forces stopped Nubian activists from advancing to the Toshka and Forkund areas to hold their sit-in there.

Mohamed Azamy said that security officials asked them to end the sit-in before discussing their demands.

In August, Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi issued a presidential decree allocating 922 feddans — including land in Toshka area — to the new Toshka development project.

“In October, the Egyptian government announced that it would sell parts of the new Toshka development project in an auction for investment as part of the 1.5 million feddans, a new national mega-project,” said al-Ahram.

The government’s announcement has angered the Nubian activists who said that thousands of feddans that belonged to old Nubian villages were allocated to the 1.5 million project and will be sold to investors.

Also, they had objected to another presidential decree, that was issued in December 2014, designating masses of lands along border areas as army territory that should not be populated.

Among those pieces of land are 16 old Nubian villages that activists demand to return to.

In fact, Nubia stretched for about 350 kilometers from Dabud village to the south of Aswan to Adendan village in the Halfa Valley in modern-day Sudan.

Nubians says that there are 44 old Nubian villages from which they were forcibly displaced during the construction of the Aswan High Dam in 1960s.

Moreover, the Nubian Return Caravan issued a statement this month which said that both presidential decrees were unconstitutional, citing Article 236 of the current constitution in support to their cause.

The 2014 Egyptian Constitution stipulates in Article 236 that “the state works on developing and implementing projects to bring back the residents of Nubia to their original areas and develop them within 10 years in the manner organized by law.”

Nubians, who claim that they have been living in decades of marginalization by the state as well years of unanswered demands to return to their land, consider this article as a victory for their cause.

Earlier this month, Aswan’s governor said in a media statement that the Egyptian Nubians had the priority to buy the land of Toshka and Forkund before others.

In response, Azmy said, “We will not buy our own land.”