Egypt: Allow celebration of World Nubian Day and immediately end discrimination against Nubians

In Egypt /Road Map Program, Statements and Position Papers by CIHRS

The undersigned organizations condemn the continuation of discriminatory policies against Egypt’s indigenous Nubian community, exemplified by the Egyptian security authorities’ prohibition on the celebration of World Nubian Day, observed annually on July 7 to celebrate and promote Nubian history and culture. The Egyptian state’s discrimination against the Nubians contravenes Egypt’s international obligations, including its ratification of two legally-binding international instruments, UNESCO and ICERD.  It further violates the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention’s recommendation to the UN Human Rights Council in regards to the prosecution of Nubian activists for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of assembly and expression.

Egypt ratified UNESCO’s Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions in 2007, and in July 2017, it won a seat on the Intergovernmental Committee on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, the entity overseeing the enforcement of the convention’s provisions. Yet Egypt persists in violating the convention’s principle of equal dignity and respect of all cultures. By suppressing Nubian cultural practices like the celebration of World Nubian Day–Egypt spurns the very provisions it has sworn to enforce and uphold. The international community should note that the Egyptian state’s brazen hypocrisy only serves to erode international legal standards and norms promoting peace and stability.

The UNESCO convention calls for the Egyptian state to establish measures promoting local cultural development and protecting cultural diversity, particularly forms of cultural diversity – like the Nubian culture in Egypt-  that are threatened with extinction. It further calls on Egypt to recognize “the importance of traditional knowledge as a source of intangible and material wealth, in particular the knowledge systems of indigenous peoples and minorities and their positive contribution to sustainable development, as well as the need for their adequate protection and promotion.” Not only has Egypt failed to uphold these provisions in regards to its minority Nubian population, it has actively and persistently violated them.   Egypt’s discriminatory policies also violate ICERD, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. Egypt ratified this convention prohibiting discrimination against ethnic groups, yet Egypt persists in discriminating against its ethnic Nubian population.

The Egyptian state’s refusal to allow the celebration of World Nubian Day is yet  another of the many manifestations of cultural discrimination in Egypt that violate international standards. In this regard, the undersigned organizations recall the recommendation of the  UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention to the UN Human Rights Council in regards to Nubian activists detained during and after a peaceful protest march on September 3rd of last year,  demanding their ‘right of return’ to Nubian ancestral lands; a right enshrined by Article 236 of the Egyptian Constitution yet still denied by the Egyptian state. The UN recommendation noted the importance of affirming Nubians’ right to freedom of assembly and expression, together with their rights as an ethnic minority, first and foremost the right to practice their culture.

The undersigned organizations call on the Egyptian state to immediately end the persistent discrimination against the Nubian people, and to uphold its international obligations by allowing the celebration of World Nubian Day and the expression of Nubian culture in state institutions. Egypt’s suppression of Nubian culture is unjustifiable and hypocritical, especially in the context of Egypt’s role in the international community as a party to international instruments aimed at preserving and promoting cultural diversity.  The state must end cultural discrimination against the Nubian people, who are a valuable component of Egypt’s national community.

Signatory Organizations

  • Border Center for Support and Consulting
  • Committee for Justice
  • Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
  • Centre for Egyptian Women’s Legal Assistance (CEWLA)
  • Andalus Center for Tolerance and Anti-Violence Studies (AITAS)
  • Egyptian Front for Rights and Freedoms
  • Adalah Center for Rights and Freedoms (ACRF)


Share this Post