Six Nubian activists were briefly detained on Monday for protesting against a new presidential decree regarding land ownership in the Nubian West Aswan village, before being released by the prosecution on LE200 bail each Wednesday afternoon, lawyer Mohamed Azmy told Mada Masr.
The six activists, who face charges of illegal gathering, protesting without a permit and attacking security forces, were stopped by police on their way to the protest location, close to the Aswan bridge between Qoubaneya and West Aswan village. “They didn’t even start protesting,” Azmy said.
Aswan Security Directorate released a statement claiming the six Nubian activists carried banners against presidential decree 498 (2016), fought with police forces and insulted them.
The decree, issued in November, stipulates the confiscation of 138 feddans of land designated for a new tourist road by Aswan New City Council. It is a “new wave of forced evictions” of Nubian families and communities in the area, according to Azmy, who added that Nubian citizens from the two threatened villages prevented city council surveyors from carrying out their work.
This is the first time Nubian activists have been arrested in direct relation to their struggle against the state, Azmy said. “It is a breakthrough that the police statement openly described them as Nubian activists,” he added.
This is the third presidential decree in the last two years that has threatened the right of Nubians to return to their lands in Aswan. In August, Sisi passed decree 355, designating 922 feddans of state-owned land to the new Toshka development project. Much of this land historically falls under Nubian sovereignty, but the new decree threatens this. In 2014, presidential decree 444 designated certain border areas as military zones not to be inhabited, a decision affecting 16 Nubian villages.
The two decrees provoked widespread anger among Nubian communities, with the “Right to Return Caravan” organising a march towards the Nubian village of Furkund in November, which was stopped by security forces. In response, Nubian activists organized a sit-in on the Aswan-Abu Simbel road, blocking it for days and prompting a number of parliamentarians to pressure the government into negotiating with Nubians.
A group of activists and civil society organizations considered international arbitration via the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR). But following a meeting with parliamentary speaker Ali Abdel Aal and Prime Minister Sherif Ismail, Nubian activists said they would suspend the campaign for a month to allow the state to find a solution to the issue.
Azmy expressed his surprise at the government’s decision to issue a third decree amid negotiations and anger over the previous two. Nubian activists are planning to take action in light of this, he said, adding, “I believe the government is getting more stubborn, rather than trying to genuinely find a solution to the Nubian problem.”