In a ceremony on January 20, the Nubian people of southern Egypt officially received a commitment of compensation by the Egyptian government for their displacement in the early 20th century. It has been more than a century since Nubians were first forced off their land along the banks of the Nile River in 1902 to make way for the Aswan Low Dam, now called the Aswan Reservoir. Other Nubians were compelled to relocate due to rising water levels in 1912 and 1933, also as a result of the Aswan Reservoir. In 1963, the construction of the Aswan High Dam led to another 55,000 Nubians having to leave their ancestral land.
The January ceremony came as a result of a directive President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi issued in 2017 to solve the problems of affected Nubians. Speaking with Al-Monitor, the head of the General Nubian Club in Cairo, Mohamed Saleh Aadlan, explained that the compensations cover two groups of Nubians. The first are those who have received no compensation in the past 50 years, and the second are Nubians who received some but not all of their owed compensation for losses sustained in the 1960s. Compensation will also go to great-grandchildren with deeds of ownership to inherit lost land or houses that belonged to deceased parents or grandparents.
Government statements indicate that Nubians impacted by the construction of the Aswan High Dam will be compensated eventually. According to Aswan Governor Ashraf Attia, a second call for compensation requests will be open throughout the month of February.
While the compensation is welcomed, some Nubians still believe they can return to their homeland despite the fact that some parts are underwater, others have been incorporated into development projects, and others still are being used for military purposes. Nubian activists point to Article 236 of the 2014 Egyptian Constitution, which declares the state must develop underprivileged and border regions such as Upper Egypt, Sinai, Matrouh, and Nubia. The second paragraph of the article reads, “The state works on developing and implementing projects to bring back the residents of Nubia to their original areas and develop them within ten years in the manner organized by law.”