The difficulties faced by Nubian refugees settled in so-called “New Nubia”—people exiled from Old Nubia when the Egyptian government closed the Aswan Dam—are getting more international attention. The growing international entertainment and news website Monsters and Critics.com carried a story on Sunday about the conditions the resettled Nubians have to deal with, their struggles to be heard, and the lack of responses by government officials to their plight.
The journalist interviewed a number of community leaders under the shade of a tree, where they related their stories of their exile. Nour el-Din Hassan sat in a white gown, the signature Nubian garment, and sipped a Hibiscus drink while he told his tale. “The day we left resembled doomsday,” he said. “I remember the date very well when we were made to leave. It was a stormy day; dust filled the air, winds blew.”
He told the journalist a familiar story of how the exiles were not compensated as they had been promised. He felt they had been abandoned by the government authorities, and he expressed his nostalgia for his old village. “It was a paradise where we lived,” he said, and others nodded their agreement.
The stories were being told because elections for the upper house of the Egyptian parliament, the Shura Council, were imminent, and Nubians in the Aswan area hoped that they might have enough votes to elect candidates who will represent their interests in Cairo. The Council has primarily an advisory role, but the elected representatives can still help out on some issues concerning their constituents.
Nubians in the town of Nasr al-Nuba, located 85 km from their old village which is now under water, maintain that they are not allowed to serve on the Shura Council. Elders in the community say that they are normally ignored and the city government in Aswan makes promises that are not kept. Like other Nubians, they feel that their small, resettlement dwellings are quite inadequate—far inferior to the homes they had to leave in Old Nubia.
The mayor of the town, Ismail Ahmed Gamal, gestured toward the barren hills around him and indicated that they were “thrown into this blazing desert land” 43 years ago, a stark contrast to their old villages along the Nile River. Gamal told the reporter about the promises made by the President of Egypt to give the Nubian exiles new homes supplied with fresh water, which would be located quite near Lake Nasser.
He says that 5,000 families have not received what the government has promised. The Nubians evidently feel the environment near the lake would be far better than their present resettlement community. “It’s only fair that inhabitants who originally belong to this land be returned back,” Gamal added. Despite the president’s statement, the local governor refuses to honor the promise.
Their immediate problem is that they have no representatives in the Shura Council, and it appeared as if the upcoming elections would not, again, result in one being elected. Local party politics would probably jeopardize the chances of the Nubians getting a representative into office.
The governor of Aswan, Samir Youssef, apparently responding to questions, said that the Nubians only represent 10 percent of the population of his district. He discounted their problems as “the work of minor elements.” Nubian discontents were being stirred up by people from Western countries who are trying to destabilize Egyptian society, he said.