Ayman Mohammad was dreaming of his return to the land of his ancestors, Nubia, which Nubians, who had been forcibly displaced from it many years in the past, name the Land of Gold, as he adopted the uncommon go to of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to his Nubian village, Gharb Seheyl, on the banks of the Nile River in Upper Egypt.
Mohammad, a pseudonym, who works at a restaurant within the village, instructed Al-Monitor that his father held on to the dream of returning to “our historical Nubian lands one day” till his final breath. He died of the coronavirus in 2021.
“Still, the dream seems out of reach,” he stated.
A few thousand Nubian grandchildren of those that had been displaced from their villages within the early 20th century now reside within the village, which is positioned to the west of the Nile River.
During his go to, Sisi included Gharb Seheyl within the presidential initiative “Decent Life,” to improve the essential providers within the village, whose inhabitants principally work within the vacationer sector. The village was hit laborious by the robust storms and flooding in Aswan in November final yr.
“Decent Life” is a presidential initiative that encompasses a collection of initiatives undertaken by the federal government to improve the infrastructure and degree of providers in rural and poor villages. The initiative targets 102 million residents, i.e., 58% of the inhabitants.
Sisi just lately inaugurated a number of nationwide initiatives within the governorates of Upper Egypt, together with the Land Reclamation venture in Toshka, south of Aswan; two industrial complexes in Qena; and one other advanced for gasoline manufacturing at a petroleum refinery in Assiut. On the sidelines of the go to to the Nubian villages, Sisi checked on the Benban photo voltaic park in Aswan.
The issues of Nubia, whose residents have been marginalized for many years, started with the development of the Aswan Low Dam greater than 100 years in the past, in 1902, in the course of the rule of Khedive Abbas Helmy II beneath the British Mandate.
The dam, which was raised twice — in 1912 and 1934 — prompted partial compelled displacement of an unknown variety of Nubians (no official knowledge obtainable) and erosion of the agricultural land. As a consequence, these Nubians had been displaced to Cairo and different cities, of their seek for jobs, after the dam water flooded their homes and lands.
The issues worsened when the federal government forcibly displaced the residents from their hometowns within the space between south Aswan and the southern Egyptian borders with Sudan, extending alongside 350 kilometers (217 miles) after the High Dam was inaugurated in 1970. According to the United Nations, 18,000 Nubian households had been displaced.
The majority of historic Nubian lands at the moment are underwater — what’s at present often called Lake Nasser, which was shaped behind the High Dam. While the state expropriated numerous Nubian villages and used them for developmental initiatives, different Nubian villages had been thought-about off-limits and used for navy functions.
During the go to, Sisi referred to as on Nubian youths searching for work to shift to agriculture, as a part of the Toshka venture that seeks land reclamation and cultivation of 450,000 acres inside a state improvement venture, launched on the finish of 2015, for the reclamation of 1.5 million acres.
Toshka is a Nubian metropolis that the state determined to make use of to implement its venture, regardless of the Nubians protesting in opposition to it. Nubians at the moment are asking for resettlement there.
Although the 2014 Egyptian Constitution expressly acknowledges the Nubians’ proper of return to their authentic land and to develop it — as stipulated in Article 236: “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” — the Egyptian authorities have not saved their guarantees. Instead, they’ve taken a collection of choices and insurance policies undermining these rights.
US-based Nubian lawyer Mohammad Azmi, who lectures at Hofstra University, instructed Al-Monitor, “We are pleased with the visit of the president to Nubia, but it does not live up to the aspirations and demands of Nubians.”
Azmi, who hails from one of many Nubian Shellal villages whose inhabitants had been forcibly displaced in 1902, stated, “For years, Nubians have tolerated marginalization and displacement from their hometowns without any planning and were transported under inhuman circumstances to arid desert areas where the groundwater level rises. Years later, people still have cracks in their homes, which are at risk of collapse.”
Village residents were transported mainly to Nasr al-Nuba and Kom Ombo, north of Aswan, between October 1963 and June 1964.
The government tried to contain people’s anger by offering compensation in stages to those affected by the displacement, with alternative housing, money or land. According to official data, 11,500 people were entitled to compensation.
In July 2021, the government said that a total cash compensation of approximately 136 million Egyptian pounds ($8.6 million) was paid to those affected, in addition to compensation for 397 beneficiaries with ownership of the land on which their current homes are built. In addition, 298 people were allowed to own arable lands in the Wadi al-Amal and Khor Qindi regions in Aswan, with a total area of about 326 acres.
However, Azmi said, “There is a huge difference between compensation and resettlement. The state is continuing to marginalize the Nubians and eliminate their historical rights. These compensations are a circumvention of our demands.”
Hamdi Suleiman, a Nubian activist based mostly in Austria, instructed Al-Monitor that many of the Nubians at present lack fundamental providers within the villages the place they reside, and that there isn’t sufficient area to accommodate the continual inhabitants progress.
There are not any official statistics of the present variety of Nubians in Egypt attributable to their presence in lots of cities inside and out of doors the nation, however human rights groups estimate their number at 3-4 million.
Suleiman, who was born in the village of Abu Hur, which is affiliated with Nasr al-Nuba, criticized the state’s lack of interest in the Nubian language, culture and heritage. He called on the state to recognize the Nubian language as one of the cultural tributaries in Egypt, to teach it in schools and to launch a Nubian-language TV channel.
The Nubian community still adheres to its rituals and heritage. Weddings are held to the rhythms of traditional Nubian songs and dances. Many still speak the Nubian language, but children born in the cities mostly don’t. Suleiman said that children have the right to know their ancestors’ history and to be fluent in their native language.
He called on the state to increase the Nubian seats in parliament through a quota that includes a specific number of seats reflecting the aspirations and problems of the Nubian society.
Nasr al-Nuba was a constituency with two seats in parliament until 1982, when the government abolished the constituency and included it in the Kom Ombo one in Aswan. The 2015 electoral division law restored the Nasr al-Nuba constituency, but allotted it only one seat in parliament.
Azmi said, “We suffer from political and parliamentary marginalization. The Egyptian Constitution approved some additional measures to ensure that some groups — such as women, Christians, people with disabilities and the youth — are fairly represented in parliament, but it deliberately ignored the Nubians as an ethnic group that is considered one of the minorities and indigenous population.”