Egyptian security authorities arrested 24 Nubians in Aswan on Sunday while they were taking part in a protest to commemorate the 2011 detention of fellow Nubians during a sit-in, Masr Al-Arabia news website reported.
During Sunday’s protest a number of Egyptians from the ethnic Nubian minority sang folkloric Nubian songs that described their status decades after they were displaced from their homes when a dam was built on the Nile River.
Protesters were heading to one of Aswan’s parks where they were planning to continue their protest in front of the city’s municipal building. But upon arrival at the circus where the park is located, Midan Al-Mahatta, protesters found themselves surrounded with security forces, who prevented them from entering the park, Nubian activist Siham Othman told Masr Al-Arabiya.
In response, the protesters redirected themselves to another location, raising banners with demands such as “Nubian identity, the implementation of the constitution,” according to Tarek Yahia, another activist.
At that point, “security [forces] cordoned us, directed their guns at us, and clashes erupted between protesters and security personnel. They deleted the videos and pictures that was evidence our protest was peaceful [from our cameras],” Yahia added.
Security forces arrested 24 protesters and detained them in a detention facility in Aswan where they spent the night on Sunday. On Monday morning they were questioned by prosecutors without being allowed to access lawyers, Yahia added.
Prosecutors ordered the detention of the Nubian activists for four days pending investigations. Accusations levied against them include inciting protests, protesting without permission, possessing flyers, disrupting public security, and receiving funds from foreign sources.
Nubians’ grievances date back to the 19th century, when they were forcibly displaced from the east of Aswan in 1898 amid plans for building the Aswan Dam. Modifications made to the dam led to more waves of displacement for Nubians in 1902, 1912, and 1933, which further fragmented the Nubian community, who did not receive satisfactory compensation.
They were forcibly displaced again in 1964 amid the construction of the High Dam under President Gamal Abdel Nasser and the creation of the man-made Nasser Lake as a water reservoir.
Under Nasser the Nubian community was relocated to the city of Kum Ombo, an area measuring 50 square kilometres, which is far smaller than the areas they originally lived in before the construction of the dam.
Since their displacement Nubian activists have often held protests and sit-ins demanding their return to the area around Lake Nasser.