Dozens of Nubians gathered in front of the Abdeen Palace on Saturday morning demanding the government return their lands in Old Nubia.
“President [Mohamed] Morsy gave us promises during the run-off for the elections but nothing has been achieved,” said Ala’a Al-Din Hassan from the Coalition of Nubian Youth.
“I have lands that I want to return to,” said Nagla’ Hassan from the 4 September Egyptian Nubian Movement, a movement which advocates for Nubians’ rights. “ They’ve determined seven locations which they want to return us to and they are called village 1 and village 2, they want to erase the names of our villages… They want to move us to a place called Wadi Karkar, that’s a mountain.”
Like many others in the protest, Hassan feels the government has been unfair towards Nubian culture. “We have a language we want to protect and a heritage that we want to keep, we want the government to recognise the multiplicity of culture,” he said.
“Half of the Nubia is in North Sudan and the other half is South Egypt, we will form an army and fight the Egyptian army and form our own country,” said Khaled Abeedo, a Nubian who lives in Cairo, as other protesters laughed dismissively.
“We have the power to stop the turbines of the dam and if we do, five countries will have lose electricity,” said Fathy Moneeb, “because the dam is built on the remains of our ancestors.”
Moneeb dismissed the possibility that Nubians will demand independence. “There are many young people like him [Abeedo] but I don’t agree him. Our country is Egypt and we are the origin of Egypt. I don’t agree with him but I understand how he feels.”
Nubians have also made legal challenges to be allowed to return to their lands. Mounir Beshir, head of the of the Nubian Lawyers’ Association,, said he filed a lawsuit in 2009 which is currently being heard in the State Council. Since Morsy took office, Beshir said he hasn’t met with the Nubians but there was a meeting a few weeks ago with Morsy’s advisers where they discussed the rights of. Beshir said during the meeting, they discussed the passing a law to resettle Nubians into their villages using the villages original names.
The protesters demanded the removal of Mostafa Al-Sayed, the governor of Aswan, denouncing him as a remnant of the former regime.
Nubians, who historically lived by the banks of the Nile, started leaving their lands in the 19th century when the Aswan Reservoir was built. After it was built the Nubians’ lands were flooded and they moved to higher lands. More Nubians left their lands in 1912, 1933, and 1964, four years after the building of the High Dam started.