Nubians protest at Egypt tourist site demanding right to return to ancestral lands

Ahram Online , Monday 22 Feb 2016

Nubians are protesting a recently ratified decision by parliament that they say strips them of the right to return to their homelands on the upper banks of the Nile

Nubians demand return to historic land. 22 February, 2016. (Photo: Ahram Arabic news website)

Scores of Nubians organised a silent protest on Monday at Abu Simbel Sanctuary in Upper Egypt to oppose a parliamentary decision they say prevents them from returning to their villages on the banks of the Nile, according to Ahram Arabic news website.

The small demonstration coincided with the biannual solar illumination of the statue of Pharaoh Ramses II, a phenomenon that draws crowds of tourists.

The protesters said they oppose a decree originally issued by President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi in 2014, which designates swathes of lands along border areas as army territory that should not be populated.

Critics of the decision say it strips many Nubians of the right to return to their historic homelands, which they had to leave due to construction of the High Dam in 1964.

The presidential decree was reviewed and approved by the newly elected parliament last month to the dismay of many Nubians who have since staged several protests.

Mohamed Azmy, head of the Nubians' Union, says the decision, which designates 18 villages as “border regions,” is "unconstitutional."

Egypt's new constitution, enacted in 2014, says the government should work towards the resettlement of Nubians to their ancestral lands within 10 years.

Protesters say Monday's demonstration at the ancient temple of Abu Simbel aimed to announce to the world their longing to return to their homelands.

Late-president Gamal Abdel Nasser relocated many Nubians with compensation to other parts of the south to make way for the construction of the High Dam.

Furthermore, the completion of the High Dam limited agricultural lands Nubians could cultivate, thus forcing them to migrate to other parts of the country.

Nubians, who complain of marginalisation by the state, have for decades demanded the right to return to their old villages.

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