The Nubian “Dafoof Detainees”

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EGYPT / Detained on September 3, 2017

UPDATE: As of June 2018, the trial of the Nubian activists is ongoing. In March 2018, several judges recused themselves from presiding over the case due to suspected issues of impartiality though the reasons have not been explicitly identified. In May 2018, the State Security Emergency Misdemeanor court ordered the case to be heard before a new circuit, the third panel to hear the case. Proceedings were scheduled to begin on July 1, 2018.

The Nubian activists have been released as of November 2017 at the conclusion of their pre-trial detention.

On September 3, 2017, Egyptian authorities arrested 24 Nubian activists, including human rights lawyers Maysara Abdoun and Mohamed Azmy, during a peaceful demonstration in Aswan, Egypt. The activists are protesting the forced displacement of Nubians from their historic lands between 1912 and 1964 and are demanding that the Egyptian government grant them “their right to return” per the Constitution. Shortly after the arrests, the authorities detained another Nubian activist, Fahed Awad, as he attempted to visit the 24 activists at their prison camp.

Per Egyptian law, prisoners must be granted trial within 15 days of their detention; however, hearings for the activists have been postponed four times. The most recent court date was set for July 1st 2018. The third panel to hear the case since proceedings began on November 14, 2017. Additionally, on November 5, 2017, one of the detainees, prominent activist, French citizen, and businessman Gamal Sorour, died from a diabetic coma in detention after authorities denied him prompt medical care for his health issues. On November 7, ten other Nubian activists were arrested for protesting against the prison conditions that led to Sorour’s death.

The 34 Nubian activists – also known as the Dafoof Detainees, a reference to the type of the drums they played while they protested – are facing charges for “illegally protesting,” “receiving funds from foreign sources,” and “disrupting public order.” If the activists are found guilty of these charges, they could spend upwards of five years behind bars.

The Egyptian authorities’ brutal treatment of the detainees has extended to members of their family as well. On October 2, 2017, police used teargas against the detainees’ family members who were protesting the delay of their court hearings. The protest was forcefully disrupted causing several of the detainees’ family members to seek urgent medical attention. Several of the detainees’ family members were also arrested and later fined $283 USD and served three weeks in jail. The Nubian activists’ arrests are part of the government’s broader crackdown on human rights, which has led to a heightened “state of fear” since 2013.

Nubian communities originate from northern Sudan and southern Egypt. They have historically been marginalized by the Egyptian government. Join family members and fellow activists in expressing solidarity by following the #FreeDafoofDetainees and #FreeNubianYouth hashtags to share your support, and spread the word about their unjust arrests. Click here to join The World Movement in calling for their unconditional and immediate release!