Nubian activist killed in Egypt’s ongoing civil society crackdown


A prominent Nubian activist arrested in Egypt last month for taking part in a peaceful protest has died in detention, a lawyer and a long-time friend said on Sunday, in a case likely to fuel debate on medical care in Egyptian prisons and the widespread use of lengthy detention without trial or formal charges, AP reports:

They said Gamal Sorour (left), a businessman in his early 50s, died Saturday; reports conflicted on whether he died in his place of detention in the southern city of Aswan or shortly after his arrival at a hospital. ….Sorour was among 25 Nubians arrested in Aswan in early September for staging a peaceful Nile-side protest. They were demanding the return of Nubians to their ancestral lands, from which they were evicted in the 1960s to make way for the lake behind the High Dam on the Nile. The detained Nubians now face accusations of taking part in an unauthorized demonstration, inciting protest and disrupting public order.

Sorour’s death is the latest in a series of human rights violations accompanying a sustained crackdown on civil society. Egyptian authorities have in recent years arrested not just LGBT people but Islamists, secular activists, human rights workers, and journalists, among others, ABC News reports.

“It’s just one group after another,” said Michele Dunne, a senior fellow and director of the Middle East Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace [and a board member of the National Endowment for Democracy, the Washington-based democracy assistance group]. “The number of people in detention for political or civic activism of one kind or another is in the tens of thousands.”

Sorour died in detention, apparently after lapsing into a diabetic coma while in police custody, according to human rights activists. The businessman was arrested by police in September during a peaceful protest in the Upper Egyptian city of Aswan, Deutsche Welle adds.

“After all he has done for his country, he has died while incarcerated with many others by authorities,” said fellow activist and longtime friend Haggag Oddoul. “Many honorable people died before him and many will do so after, so long as our country is oppressed.”

Credit: Mada Masr

During September protests (left), Nubians beat drums and sang while calling for the government to enforce Article 236 of the 2014 Egyptian Constitution, which states that “The state [must work] on developing and implementing projects to bring back the residents of Nubia to their original areas and develop them within 10 years in the manner organized by law,” Middle East Eye adds.

Abdul Dayem Ezz al-Din, a Nubian activist, told Al-Monitor that the “march was totally peaceful. The security forces prepared an ambush for the protesters, encircled them and beat them up. Even some Nubian women were beaten.”

“Sadly, Gamal Sorour is not the first or last detainee to die while in custody,” Omran, a member the National Council for Human Rights, wrote on Facebook.

As detainees’ families gathered in front of a courthouse to oppose a ruling to renew the detention period, security forces fired teargas into the crowd in an attempt to disperse them, and arrested several people, lawyer Ahmed Rizk told Mada Masr.

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