Amnesty International has called on Egypt to release 24 Nubian activists held in Cairo after they were arrested at a demonstration for greater recognition of their cultural rights. The activists were detained after the Egyptian authorities dispersed the demonstration violently in Aswan earlier this month; they are due in court today.
The detainees have called for the return of the Nubian homelands in the south of Egypt, as stipulated in the 2014 constitution. They also want greater official recognition of their indigenous rights after a succession of governments in Cairo have failed to protect the minority ethnic group.
“The Egyptian authorities have long since marginalised Nubians,” explained Amnesty’s North Africa campaigns director, Najia Bounaim, “ignoring their demands to return to their historical lands and treating Nubian activism as suspicious on security grounds.”
Read more: 24 Nubian activists arrested during protest in Egypt
Instead of flagrantly flouting Nubians’ rights to freedom of expression and assembly by continuing to detain them over their peaceful protest, the authorities must release these 24 activists from custody immediately.
According to the rights group, the activists’ families have been barred from visiting them despite holding permits from the prosecutor’s office enabling them to do so.
Nubians have often faced discrimination in the North African country and have been forced to live on the fringes of Egyptian society since their displacement from their homes to make way for reservoirs and dams over the past 100 years. This has led to many economic hardships and a lack of access to basic necessities such as water and agricultural land. They have also been expected to assimilate into the majority Arab-speaking society with their language not being taught in schools.