Tuesday,18 June, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1160, (15 - 21 August 2013)
Tuesday,18 June, 2019
Issue 1160, (15 - 21 August 2013)

Ahram Weekly

No benighted Nubia

Gamal Nkrumah writes on the aspirations of Egypt’s three million Nubians as they try to unite behind an agenda for political participation while taking steps into the unknown

Al-Ahram Weekly

 Nights of Musk: Stories from Old Nubia, a collection of stories by Nubian poet, novelist and political writer Haggag Oddoul, has taken on a new meaning recently. While Nubian elders recount stories from a not so distant past, for young Nubian listeners, the tales of their ancestors sound like fables from a bygone era.
 Oddoul has used strong terms to describe the plight of the Nubian people, including “ethnic cleansing” by successive Egyptian governments and their being the victims of “crimes against humanity”. His focus, however, is on the right of return of the Nubian people to their ancestral lands along the shores of Lake Nasser, the world’s largest fresh water reservoir.
 “I have been engaged in the Nubian people’s right to repossess their ancestral homeland for the past 22 years. It is a struggle that has cost me dearly,” Oddoul told the Al-Ahram Weekly.
 A sense of humour in adversity can be attractive to a man with a mission, but Nubians often do not hurry. Oddoul grew old before he grew rich because of his life-long struggle for Nubian rights. Owing to his political activism, Oddoul was ostracised from the literary community when he was singled out for retribution by the state security apparatus under the former Mubarak regime. He also started writing professionally when he was relatively old, he notes.
 “I was in my early 40s and a junior civil servant. I retired when I was 55 years old to devote myself to creative writing. I was born and bred in Alexandria, and I don’t like the hustle and bustle of Cairo. My wife is Nubian, and we don’t have children so we barely managed to scrape a living out of my pension. I remember that we literally lived on fava beans and white feta cheese for years in a vain attempt to make ends meet. What saved us from financial ruin was the Sawiris Award, which I won in 2005,” he said.
 “We secured the right of return to our ancestral lands indirectly. To be blunt, the Nubians won the right of return because of the intervention of former United States president Jimmy Carter,” Oddoul added. “Today, we can all feel the energy and buzz of Nubian youth. As a community, we Nubians have accomplished some of our goals, but the best is yet to come,” he added.
 Nevertheless, Oddoul is not optimistic about the chances of the newly launched Nubian Nile Party to secure full Nubian citizenship rights. “I pointed out to my fellow Nubians that an exclusively Nubian political party would be viewed as highlighting race and ethnicity factors. Raising the Nubian banner would alienate us from the rest of the country. We Nubians account for roughly three million people. The Nubian electorate, those Nubians eligible to vote, are barely a million,” he said.
 Oddoul noted that the new party was founded by Hamdi Suleiman, a Nubian émigré living in Europe, and that the move was not just a bad idea in itself, in his view, but also a nail in the coffin of the notion that Nubians could help their fellow Nubians up the social ladder. There are no reliable statistics about the state of Nubian economic and social well-being. Are they richer than yester-year and do they aspire to more?
 The veteran Nubian political activist, accomplished novelist and pundit noted that Suleiman’s plan would make waves in both Cairo and Aswan, Egypt’s southernmost city and the unofficial capital of Egyptian Nubia. Oddoul was also keen to dispel the myth that Nubia was politically and economically Egypt’s weakest link.
 Where Suleiman’s argument looked flimsiest as far as Oddoul was concerned was in his attempt to portray Nubia as an island of thrift in an Egypt of profligacy. A more intricate challenge for Nubians would be that the past said little about their future, he added. Whether being isolated and inward-looking makes Nubians more disadvantaged is one of those interminable debates that keeps the wheels of Nubian politics whirling.   

TOWARDS POLITICAL PARTICIPATION: The first shots in the battle for land rights and political participation by Nubians were fired in the aftermath of the 25 January Revolution. For a variety of reasons it has always been difficult for Nubian protests to escalate into mass movements. Frustrations fester on. The launching of a Nubian political party would have been unthinkable only a decade ago during the regime of ex-president Hosni Mubarak.
 If aspiring Nubians want a new dream, or are now paying the price of being apolitical in the past six or seven decades, that doesn’t help them politically today. Fortunately, the Nubian elders have seen the errors of the ways of their forefathers, and they eschew the apolitical attitudes of their forebears. They have taken their cue from the Nubian youngsters and have by and large shifted to a more forceful attitude.
 Some say Nubia now faces an inevitable blowback. It is experimenting with a volatile mix of identity politics, rebellion against racial discrimination, and a commitment to regain stolen land. However, the Nubians cannot be compared to the Australian Aborigines or the Native Americans. Since the January Revolution, Nubians have been consumed like other Egyptians by the ideological struggle between secularists and Islamists. But the onus has also been on colour-consciousness, a revival of the Nubian languages, and an emphasis on the rich Nubian architectural heritage: in short, a prototypical African liberation struggle and a classic case of cultural self-expression.
 For all the defensive bluster, however, Nubians like other Egyptians are in a state of flux both socially and politically. Exactly a year-and-a-half ago in February 2012, the government of then prime minister Kamal Al-Ganzouri officially granted Nubians ownership rights of parcels of land ranging in size from 350 to 1,000 square metres. Oddoul thinks that this was a welcome transformation. However, he stresses that it is incomplete. It is better than never, however.
 Meanwhile, conspiracy theorists who suspect that Nubia is bent on secession have let their imaginations run riot. There is a sneaking suspicion among Nubians that since time immemorial Nubia’s development has been stymied by Egypt. Nubian elders have been chastised by the young for adopting a softly-softly approach to dealing with successive Egyptian governments.  
 The construction of the Aswan Dam in 1902 by the British colonial authorities changed an ancient way of life forever. The dam was re-built and its foundations buttressed in 1912 and then again in 1933. The Nubian frame of mind was one of despondency, but it fluctuated from sturdy optimism and vigorous political activism to passive resignation.
 Nubians, however, never took to the street politically, so to speak, until after the 25 January Revolution. The evacuation of 44 Nubian villages submerged under Lake Nasser during the construction of the Aswan High Dam in the 1960s left many of them in limbo. The completion of the dam in 1968 meant that Nubian women could no longer stay in Nubia, while their menfolk left their ancestral lands for employment opportunities in Cairo and Alexandria.
 Women, too, left Nubia to accompany their husbands to the large Egyptian cities. Some 50,000 Nubians from 44 villages were forced to resettle north of Aswan in the Kom Ombo and Esna areas and among “strangers”, notably Saidis, or Upper Egyptians. In Aswan, Nubians came into closer contact with other ethnic groups traditionally associated with Nubia, such as the Jaafra black-skinned Arabs, other Upper Egyptians and the Ababda who speak a Kushitic language (Nubians speak several Nilo-Saharan languages that are mutually intelligible and interrelated). Higher education among Nubians has mushroomed, but it has gone hand-in-hand with Arabisation.
 Culturally, the Nubian singer Ahmed Mounib was the first to introduce mainstream Egypt to the mellow sounds of Nubia. His protégé, Mohamed Mounir, himself a refugee from the Aswan Dam, managed not only to put Nubian music on the map with his fusion of traditional Nubian music with jazzy western sounds, but was also one of the very few mainstream artists to sing socially conscious lyrics before the Revolution. The modern Nubian language used is formed of many dialects, including Faddiga, Kenzi, Sikut, Mahas, and Dongolawi, which derive from the older one of Meroitic Nubian.
 A litany of laments over lost lands and other grievances has grown louder and more articulate, and it is the harshest evidence of the hard-to-heal wounds of forcible dislocation. Nubians traditionally have never voted as a single electoral bloc, though they were traditionally active in the Communist parties and Marxist movements of Egypt in the past. Today, the Islamists are trying to make inroads into Nubia and Nubian communities. As a result, Nubian political affiliations straddle the Egyptian political spectrum. But the enthusiasm many young Nubians exhibit towards the Nubian Nile Party belies the notion that some have given up the struggle for social betterment in a national Egyptian context.
 None of this political ferment is new. In 2003, the then agriculture minister Youssef Wali announced the receipt of $1.3 million from the World Food Programme (WFP) to assist the Egyptian government with the construction of “New Nubia”. It was later revealed that the ministry had planned to sell large tracts of land in historic Nubian sites such as Al-Qustul and Abu Simbel in September 2004 to non-Nubians. The identities of the purchasers were not revealed, even though many Nubians suspected that their ancestral lands were to be sold to wealthy Egyptian investors, property developers and tycoons.

GARNERING GHOSTS: Parallels have been drawn between the Palestinians and Egypt’s Nubians, both of them peoples who have lost their ancestral lands. The parallel ends here, however, for while almost everyone concurs with the Palestinians that they were forcibly evicted from their ancestral lands, many historians claim that the Nubians moved voluntarily from their ancestral lands. Some Nubians today dispute such assertions.
 The belated recognition that a more deliberate strategy is needed has been partly driven by the changing environment. Of major concern is the fact that the Nubians do not hold positions of authority in Egypt. In the past, Nubians were associated with menial jobs in the cities, such as doormen, domestic workers, waiters and the like. However, Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, former commander-in-chief of the armed forces and former chairman of the now defunct Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), is himself also of Nubian origin.
 Tantawi, originally from the ancient site of Abu Simbel, served as Egypt’s minister of defence and military production until ousted president Mohamed Morsi ordered him to retire on 12 August 2012. Yet, Tantawi never presented himself politically as a Nubian politician or military man, but rather as an Egyptian national. And, so it is with many Nubians, who abhor being labelled Nubians and believe that their adversaries often portray them as a separate racial and ethnic group in order to sideline them from the Egyptian political scene.
 There are those who believe that the Nubians’ pleas for justification of their political activism are thin indeed. The SCAF when in power did nothing to allay the fears of the Nubians. The economic case for reparations remains unconvincing as far as the vast majority of Egyptians are concerned. Why should the Nubians be singled out for reparations when they are not among the poorest of the poor?
 Depressingly for many Nubians, their expropriation has won easy applause in Aswan, the de facto capital of Egyptian Nubia. However, the Nubians are by no means restricted to Aswan. The previous head of the General Nubian Club, Mosaad Herki, was closely affiliated with the former ruling National Democratic Party (NDP), for example. The SCAF under Tantawi never interfered directly in Nubian affairs, and Tantawi himself was reluctant to use his position to advance the Nubian cause.
 The pressing question now for many Nubians is whether, as successive Egyptian governments have now promised to facilitate their return to their ancestral homelands around Lake Nasser, they will be confident they can survive let lone economically prosper when they get there. Nubians are now called upon to put their trust in the very Egyptian officials, or rather their successors, who evicted them in the first place.
 A delegation of Nubians met with ousted president Morsi at Al-Ittihadiya presidential palace in Cairo’s Heliopolis district to demand an end to the political and cultural marginalisation that they had been subjected to under the regime of ex-president Mubarak. However, like the rest of the Egyptian population, the Nubians appear to be politically divided between those who openly support the Muslim Brotherhood and Morsi and those who are opposed to Political Islam.
 As things stand, Saleh Zaki Murad, the new head of the General Nubian Club in Cairo, which has a membership of over 3,000, is a secularist. He is a son of the distinguished Nubian Communist leader Zaki Murad, who died in 1979. He stresses that forced displacement remains the paramount political concern that animates Nubian political discourse.
 “Nubians are divided politically, but on the question of the right to return to their ancestral lands they are united. Most demand reparations as the lands they were resettled in are infertile. Nubians lived along a 300,000 km stretch of fertile Nile Valley. After the construction of the Aswan High Dam they were confined to an area of barely 60,000 square km. Moreover, their new homes were far from the river itself, an unprecedented disaster as far as the Nubians were concerned. For many millennia, and since time immemorial, the River Nile has represented life itself for all Nubians,” Murad explained.
 Egyptian officials have given scant detail of the plans to relocate the Nubians to their ancestral homelands. When Nubians protested en masse in Aswan in March 2011, they demanded the right of return as well as civil rights. General Mustafa Al-Sayed, the governor of Aswan, is the only governor who also held his post before the Revolution, though he did briefly resign in 2012, and he was the focus of the Nubian rage.
 Nubian and feminist activist Fatma Imam was one of the organisers of a Blog for Nubia Day at the time, and she concurs with Murad that the Nubian question cannot be resolved in isolation from the general crisis of post-revolutionary Egypt. Many Nubians also participated in the Tahrir Square demonstrations in Cairo at the time of the revolution, and the Egyptian Nubian Lawyers Association is at present pushing for two laws it has drafted, one guaranteeing the Nubian right of return and one promoting the development of historical Nubia, to be passed into law.
 Who is entitled to represent the Nubians, and should the Nubians be represented in parliament as a separate ethnic or racial group with its own identity?  Nubian activists put a number of names forward for the Constituent Assembly tasked with drafting the country’s new constitution after the revolution. However, last year Nubian activists complained about the lack of Nubian representation on the assembly, and, to add insult to injury, Manal Al-Tibi, the only Nubian member, who later resigned in protest, was “chosen under the category of public figures and not as a representative of the Nubian people,” Imam noted.
 Brotherhood officials were dispatched to Aswan to court the Nubians after Morsi took office a year ago, among them figures like billionaire politician Khairat Al-Shater. Both the movement’s Supreme Guide Mahdi Akef and Morsi met several times with representatives of the Nubian community. Assem Abdel-Maged, a member of the Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya’s shura council and a leading Salafi and jihadist, also made it to Aswan to woo the Nubians. He suggested that the Nubians be compensated for their loss of land and their “sacrifices for the nation” during the construction of the Aswan High Dam.
 Abdel-Maged described Nubia as “Egypt’s southern gate” and pledged to raise the matter with the now defunct Shura Council, Egypt’s upper house of parliament, which was endowed with legislative authority. “The government should give the Nubians back their ancestral lands if it is possible for them to live there,” Abdel-Maged was quoted as saying by the Arabic Al-Ahram.
 So why the current problems? “Nubia is rich in minerals such as gold deposits, manganese, phosphate, and even petroleum. But most important is Nubia’s exceptionally high-quality granite, currently exported mainly to China. Nubian granite has been economically exploited since the days of the Pharaohs. It appears that exploiting Nubia’s potential economic wealth was the primary concern of these visits, and the new businessmen affiliated with the Brotherhood now want to make money out of Nubia’s mineral wealth by making political capital out of recruiting Nubians and feigning concern for the Nubian cause,” Murad said.
 “Three months ago a delegation of Iranian businessmen made their way to Nubia, and there have been several Turkish business delegations in Nubia over the past two years,” Murad added. “Nubia is seen by Turkey and Iran as a gateway to Africa south of the Sahara. Morsi’s policy appears to be to encourage foreign investment by Islamist states in Nubia and to secure lucrative business deals with Islamist and Muslim Brotherhood magnates,” he concluded.

POST-REVOLUTION: For a brief period immediately after the 25 January Revolution it was touch-and-go for Nubian political activists. Then, earlier this year, the decision to launch the Nubian Nile Party was made, though it was driven mainly by the need to escape oppression, racial discrimination and land appropriation.
One of the major concerns of Nubians during the administration of the ousted Muslim Brotherhood was their concern over constitutional changes that might have eroded their citizenship rights and especially the right of return to their ancestral lands. However, such fears were allayed after the 30 June Revolution.
Constitutional articles that referred to Egypt’s “cultural and linguistic unity” appear to entrench this. Article 1 emphasises Egypt’s Arab and Islamic identity, relegating its African aspects, while Article 10 affirmed the state’s duty to protect Arab culture. This issue was raised during successive meetings of the Nubian delegation with Morsi. In a statement issued after one such meeting, the Nubian delegation members demanded the repatriation of Nubian families who had been involuntarily displaced in the aftermath of the construction of the Aswan High Dam and the creation of Africa’s largest artificial reservoir of Lake Nasser. There was no mention of reparations.
 Suspicions are rife among Nubians regarding the reluctance of the Egyptian authorities to intervene directly in Nubian affairs and adopt a minimalist approach to the Nubians’ demands, and these have left many Nubians resentful and frustrated. While Article 30 of the constitution protected citizens against different forms of discrimination, the drafters ignored calls to include ethnic and racial discrimination, and Nubians have deeply resented the omission.
 Traditionally, Nubia had two parliamentary seats that were taken from it in the 1970s. In the aftermath of 25 January, Nubians lacked parliamentary representation. Part of the problem is that Nubians are dispersed throughout the country, especially in large cities such as Cairo and Alexandria. But in Aswan the picture is more complex. The black-skinned Arab Jaafra tribesmen vote consistently as a single bloc, making them a far more reliable political asset to the Muslim Brotherhood than the Nubians, widely regarded as secularists.
 The two main Nubian linguistic groups are the Kenuz and the Feddukka. The latter tend to be less Islamist in political orientation, while many Kenuz have now joined the ranks of the Salafis and other Islamist groups. Yet, while the Nubians are the biggest numerical bloc in Aswan, it is the Arab Jaafra who have the biggest vote precisely because the Nubian electorate is so fragmented. The third largest group is the Ababda who tend to vote along tribal lines.
 Unlike the Jaafra and Ababda tribesmen, who are strictly patriarchal and patrilineal, the Nubians were originally matrilineal and the social status of Nubian women tends to be higher than among the other ethnic and tribal groups of Aswan as a result. For this reason, and because many Nubians have Marxist backgrounds, a large percentage tends to shy away from political association with the Islamists. Tellingly, the Nubian delegation that met with Morsi demanded the empowerment of Nubian women by encouraging their entry into Egyptian political life.
 The vast majority of Nubians insist that they should constitute a lobby or political pressure group and not necessarily form a political party. Relatively few Nubians have joined the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) either. Yet, in some ways, the relationship between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Nubian community at large was less antagonistic than that between the former ruling SCAF and the Nubians or between it and the regime of ex-president Mubarak.
 Much of the Nubians’ criticism of the SCAF was levelled against the then Aswan governor Mustafa Al-Sayed. He, the Nubians insisted, had sided with the incoming Saidis (Upper Egyptians) and disregarded the citizenship rights of the indigenous Nubians. Al-Sayed incensed Nubians by selling their lands to rich tycoons at bargain prices. The Nubians demanded he be sacked. Inevitably, this created tensions between the Saidi and Nubian communities in Aswan.
 Many Nubians believe that it may be too late to bring together the fissiparous Nubian groups under a single political structure, marginalising in the process certain political strands. Others believe that with the proliferation of arms in Upper Egypt following the fall of the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi that the Nubians, and Egypt more generally, must stomach some arms falling into the wrong hands.
 One of the main concerns of the Nubians of Aswan is the influx of Upper Egyptian, or Saidi, workers from the impoverished governorates of Qena, Sohag, and Assiut to the immediate north of Nubia. “We have nothing against the inrush of Upper Egyptians to our ancestral lands, but we cannot welcome their taking over our municipalities, economy and local politics. Our struggle is political, economic and above all cultural. We demand our civil rights and liberties, including our right to speak and be educated in our own language. Nubians are renowned for their hospitality,” Oddoul told the Weekly.
  “We Nubians are of mixed heritage. Take the Nubian tribe of Al-Muradab, for example. They are the descendants of Murad, the grandson of Sheikh Abdel-Maguid, an Arab tribal leader from Arabia. He settled in Nubia and married a Nubian and their offspring intermarried with the local Nubians. His shrine is located in Qena in Upper Egypt, and he is venerated by Nubians and Saidis alike,” Oddoul said.
 “I am an Alexandrian and was born and bred in Alexandria even though I am ethnically Nubian. Egypt is my land of birth. There is no contradiction between me being both Nubian and Alexandrian and Egyptian. I have multiple identities and they are not conflicting or contradictory,” Oddoul went on. “The authorities of the Mubarak regime intentionally sowed the seeds of mistrust between Egyptians and ethnic Nubians who hold Egyptian citizenship, denying the Nubians their full citizenship rights and stopping them from demanding the right of return to their ancestral homeland. Yet, Nubia constitutes a corridor between Egypt and Africa south of the Sahara and especially the Nile Basin nations.”
 “The charge that we are separatists is a lie. The defunct state security apparatus of ex-president Mubarak deliberately circulated the rumour that the Nubians were separatists and wanted to set up their own state in the south of the country. They did so to incite hatred, alarm and suspicion among Egyptians and even to alienate moderate Nubians,” Oddoul told the Weekly.
 The strategic location of Nubia in the southern frontier region of Egypt and close to site of the Aswan High Dam prompted the security apparatus under Mubarak to clamp down on the least sign of unrest among the Nubians. Socially and politically, the Mubarak government’s strategic framework for containing Nubia survives to this day. As a result, for many Nubians the revolution has been a disappointment.
 What this points to is a need to encourage the national and local authorities to see the development of Nubia as an opportunity for reconciliation and peaceful coexistence rather than something to be warded off at all costs. The onus now is for the Nubians to return to their ancestral lands. These, once submerged under Lake Nasser, have re-emerged in part owing to the lake’s receding over recent decades, freeing up fertile land. Now that some of the land on the shores of the lake has been reclaimed, the Nubians are looking forward to returning to their original homeland, without of course abandoning Aswan or Kom Ombo where many of them were relocated when the High Dam was constructed.
 Aswan and its environs have some of the most enchanting ancient Egyptian temples and mediaeval relics and ruins including the famous Temple of Philae. “A quarter of a century ago, with the tourism boom, many Saidis sought better employment opportunities and refuge from poverty in Aswan. They were favoured by the successive governors of Aswan,” Nubian activist and community leader Ibrahim Abdine told the Weekly.

THE NUBIAN NILE PARTY: A prolonged bout of social unrest has rumbled on among Nubians into 2013. Yet, if there is a crisis of confidence in the traditional wisdom of the Nubian elders, the political intemperance of the Nubian youth has neither demonstrated strain nor conceded turf to rivals.
 The political significance of the failure to register the new Nubian Nile Party has also yet to be felt in Egypt. The composition of the Nubian political activists’ movement itself is telling, being made up of leftists, various strands of Islamists, and racial or cultural nationalists.
 By attempting to change the basis of political perceptions among Nubians, Suleiman has touched a raw nerve. The Nubian Nile Party had no MPs in the lower house of parliament. Whether or not the Nubian Nile Party will be registered officially in the future is a matter of conjecture. According to the regulations governing the establishment of political parties, 1,000 signatures are required to found any new party. What seems to be important is that the Party registers the importance of the Nile to Nubians and airs some of the traditional Nubian grievances highlighting apparent affronts to Nubian sensibilities and bringing them out into the open.
 But Adel Moussa, spokesman for the as-yet-unlicensed party goes further. Moussa explained that the new party would put Nubian issues at the top of its agenda, along with other pressing national issues. “We Nubians have deep roots in Egypt,” he said. “We reject those who question our Egyptian identity and commitment to Egypt.” Moussa noted that the presence of a Nubian party would also prevent other Egyptian political parties from exploiting Nubian issues for their own advantage.
 One senses the tremendous pressure on him and his ilk: to be or not to be, as an exclusive political entity within Egypt? It is a question that many Nubians have attempted to resolve. Moussa went on to elaborate that the new party would not be based on ethnicity, stressing that it would be open to Egyptians of all ethnic groups and political currents without discrimination.
 However, he has been embittered by the refusal of the authorities to register his party thus far, and he adds that the party has a specific vision for the Nubian community, estimated at roughly three million out of Egypt’s total population of 87 million. Difficult though the balance of power in Nubian politics is to judge, the consensus is that the Egyptian Nubians have long been neglected and marginalised by the central government in Cairo. “We have deep roots in Egypt,” he said. “We reject those who question our Egyptian identity and commitment to Egypt.”
BACK TO BASICS: Egypt was still under British colonial rule in 1902 when many Nubians were first forced to leave their ancestral homelands south of Aswan, Egypt’s southernmost city, to allow the construction of the first Aswan Dam. It is hard to think of a time, however, when the public opinion of Nubians of all walks of life has been so firmly united for a return to their once totally inundated ancestral lands, submerged under Lake Nasser.
 The Egyptian authorities appear to be equally wary, though, of certain Islamist politicians’ urges to become involved in Nubia. The largest wave of Nubian migration from their ancestral homelands came between 1960 and 1963, when Egypt began building the Aswan High Dam during the presidency of former president Gamal Abdel-Nasser, who is anathema to many Islamists. Most Nubians were supportive of the move, staunchly believing that rural electrification and better social welfare, along with improved healthcare and educational amenities, all promised by the Nasser regime, would improve their general well-being. Leaving the land was a sacrifice they were prepared to undertake.
 The danger now for many elders is that young Nubian political activists will opt for today’s post-25 January Revolution pace of change. Yet, it would be foolhardy to ignore the risks of pressing ahead without the appropriate safeguards. There are those Nubians and other Egyptians who insist that Nubian political activists should not be permitted to forget that actions have consequences.
 One such reason is that so much needs to be done. But neither the authorities nor the Nubians should be rash. They must not hurry. This is the conviction in the parts of downtown Cairo where clusters of poor Nubians exist on the rooftops of apartment buildings and many earn a meagre living as doorkeepers.
 It is nevertheless tempting to see in the young generation of Nubian activists’ right-minded, yet many elders fear fatefully inadequate, efforts a genuine aspiration for a better future. For their part, the young Nubians see their political activism as the triumph of realism over traditional passivity.

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