Human Rights Watch has called on the Saudi authorities to immediately release 10 Egyptian Nubians and allow them to leave the country. The Saudi authorities have been holding leaders of the Egyptian Nubian community in Riyadh for 20 months on arbitrary charges related to forming illegal associations and practising terrorism, according to the organization, against the backdrop of a Nubian association organizing an event to commemorate the October 1973 war between Egypt and Israel.
The organization’s deputy Middle East director, Michael Page, said that Saudi authorities have arbitrarily arrested these Nubian men, depriving them of their basic rights, in retaliation for their attempt to peacefully express their cultural heritage. He added that the Saudi authorities spend billions of dollars on hosting major sporting and cultural events to cover up the country’s bad image, but these arrests show how little the government cares about anyone else’s rights and culture.
The Saudi General Directorate had arrested the Nubians in dawn raids, during which they stormed their homes, confiscated their electronic devices and money, blindfolded them and handcuffed them. Following the arrests, the Egyptian Consulate General in Riyadh issued a statement calling on Egyptian citizens in Saudi Arabia to “respect the kingdom’s laws and regulations,” stressing that it is illegal for non-Saudis to form associations.
The detainees later told their families that they had received no legal assistance and were not allowed to speak with a lawyer. Their relatives also confirmed to Human Rights Watch that they tried to contact the Egyptian consulate in Saudi Arabia and the Egyptian Ministries of Immigration and Foreign Affairs to urge them to intervene, but they did not receive any response. 40 Nubian associations in Saudi Arabia and Egypt have demanded that President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi return the detained Nubians to Egypt.