Leaders of the Nubian community, both from Egypt and abroad, met in Aswan last week to air their grievances about their treatment by the Egyptian government and to seek some solutions. They decried the destruction of Old Nubia by a dam built across the Nile at Aswan in 1902, a higher one in 1934, and finally the highest in the 1960s. They are particularly bitter about the shoddy treatment they’ve gotten from the Egyptian governments over the past 100 years.

Lake NasserThe representatives decided to renew their pressure on the government to help the Nubian people resettle around the shores of Lake Nasser—as close to their former homeland as they can get. The lake, formed when the High Dam at Aswan was closed, destroyed what remained of Old Nubia. Some Nubians are agitating that the reservoir should be renamed Lake Nuba.

The representatives at the meeting appointed prominent author and critic of Egyptian government policies, Haggag Oddoul, as their representative to negotiate with government officials. Addoul has criticized both the former Egyptian government of President Hosni Mubarak and the current government of Essam Sharaf. Both governments, he charged, have deceived the Nubian people. Oddoul’s works, such as a collection of short stories in 2005, and a novella in 2009, have been translated into English and gained him international prominence.

A number of representatives at the meeting signed a petition expressing their concerns to the government. Many rejected a recently proposed government scheme to resettle them in Wadi Kurkur, a remote location in the Egyptian desert which is part of the Toshka Project and located far from the Nile.

Government pledges do not mean anything when they don’t recognize the right of the Nubians to return to their homeland—the area around the lake—Oddoul told the meeting. “There has been an undeclared scheme by the Egyptian government to keep Nubians in diasporas,” he declared. He went on to say that the Nubians used to prioritize Egypt over the interest of Nubia, but if they are not successful in their negotiations with the government, they will shift their priorities.