Houses that the Egyptian government constructed for the Nubian people after it flooded their land for the Aswan Dam in the early 1960s are apparently now on the verge of collapse. Nubians attending a conference titled “ Nubia between Resettlement and Development” charged that their homes are in danger because they were built on loamy soil.

The conference, which began on Thursday, April 19, was organized by the Egyptian Center for Housing Rights, with the support of the Nubian Follow-Up Committee in Alexandria and the Association for Nubian Tradition in Aswan. According to a news report initially published on April 21 in the Jordanian daily Al-Dustour and translated into English by the website and news blog Against Discrimination on April 29, activists who attended the conference denied any intention of wanting to secede from Egypt.

But they did request permission from President Mubarak for “the right to return to their land and property” because of the condition of their houses. The phrase “right to return,” applied to displaced Nubians, should convey strong implications for Arabs who support the right of Palestinians, evicted from their homes by the state of Israel, to return to their former villages in Palestine.

The Al-Dustour story indicates that the Egyptian security services attempted to prevent the conference from happening, evidently without success. Perhaps to protect the participants, the article did not quote attendees at the conference, but it did quote the thoughts of the director of the Egyptian Center for Housing Rights, Manal al-Tibi. She said that the purpose of the conference was to bring the issues related to Nubians to the attention of Egyptians as a whole.

She suggested that the legitimate demands of the Nubians needed support by all Egyptians, and that international human rights agreements guarantee individuals and organizations the privilege of advocating for their rights. She argued that the government has always viewed Nubian issues within the context of national security and border maintenance; it was time to consider Nubian rights.

She further stated that the government had “committed a crime against this peaceful Egyptian group” when it built the dam that destroyed their lands, and they have suffered a lot since then. She called for the state to begin sharing the benefits of international assistance from organizations such as FAO with the Nubian people.