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For Egypt's Nubians, years of patience wear thin and anger rises

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NASR AL-NUBA, Egypt For half a century, Egypt’s Nubians have patiently lobbied the government in Cairo for a return to their homelands on the banks of the upper Nile, desperate to reclaim territory their ancestors first cultivated 3,000 years ago.

    Yet all their efforts to gain political influence have brought them next to nothing. In Egypt’s incoming parliament, which will be finalised after a second round of voting starts on Sunday, the Nubians will hold just one of 568 elected seats.

Many harbour a sense of grievance that dates at least to 1964, when then President Gamal Abdel Nasser forcefully removed the residents of 44 Nubian villages to make way for the Aswan High Dam, moving them to recreations of their villages.

The Nubians were counted in an Egyptian census only once, shortly before they were uprooted. Back then there were 100,000; today, though estimates vary, advocacy groups say they may number as many as 3 million of Egypt’s 90 million population.

    Although Nubians have not risen up in the past, elders worry about disillusionment among the young and the threat of unrest on Egypt’s southern border with Sudan.

Thirty people died in clashes last year between the youth of a Nubian village and those from a nearby Arab tribe.

    “We cannot guarantee that the new generation will behave in the same (peaceful) way as their forebears,” said Mohamed Ezz al-Din, visiting relatives in Adnadan, a new village built to the north in an area called Nasr al-Nuba (Nubia’s Victory), to replace one uprooted from the Sudan border for the dam.

“Surely there will be a rebellion. Maybe not against the state, but at least within the community.”

    Those with longer memories say Nubians have been mistreated since the first damming of the Nile at Aswan in 1902, which reduced the amount of land Nubians were able to cultivate, forcing many of them to migrate north.

LONGING TO RETURN

For a people that traces its ancestry to the 8th century BC and has produced both an ancient pharaoh and a modern president, the overwhelming desire remains a return to their old villages, including Adnadan and Kostal, also on the Sudanese border.

Last April, the government reopened a border crossing to Sudan at Kostal, and about 30 young men tried to force their way into old Adnadan in the border area to farm and resettle the land. Security forces stopped them.

    “We declared a sit-in but it was short lived,” said one young Nubian man who took part in the protest, requesting anonymity for fear of reprisals. “We feared a violent response… It was the last ray of hope.”

    Egypt’s latest constitution, enacted last year, said the state “should work” towards the resettlement of Nubians to their ancestral lands within 10 years. President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has billed Sunday’s parliamentary election as a final step to restoring democracy, giving many Nubians hope.

    But the reality is the community has little clout and electoral laws have only weakened its position. When Nasr al-Nuba was created in 1964, it went back and forth between being its own electoral district and being part of a larger one, so that only a handful of Nubians have won parliamentary seats.

SACRIFICES

“We have been asking for our own member of parliament for a very long time and now it’s happening, but one parliamentarian alone will do nothing,” said Khaled Hashem, 35, an agricultural engineer from Adnadan. “The state’s policy needs to change.”

    The government has made efforts to placate the community over the decades, providing some compensation in the 1960s and putting a Nubian on the committee that wrote the last constitution, which was drafted before Sisi became president.

But the results have been mixed and the upshot is ever deeper resentment among Nubians, young and old.

    “The Egyptian state’s dealing with the Nubians completely disregards all the sacrifices we have made,” said Mostafa Abdel Kader, 75, who left the original Adnadan to attend university in Cairo and holds a PhD in the effects of Nubian displacement.

    “We gave a lot to the country. An entire community lost its home, traditions, way of life and even the graves of our ancestors, and we did it willingly without a fight,” he said.

    The concern within Egypt’s security establishment is that if Nubians repopulate the border area with Sudan, it could stoke separatist tendencies, even if there have never been credible calls for a standalone Nubian state.

    With Egypt’s northeastern Sinai Peninsula borders with Israel and the Palestinian Gaza Strip aflame with insurgency and its western border with Libya in turmoil, the last thing Sisi wants is instability on the southern frontier.

    But if no progress is made on the vague commitment made in the 2014 constitution to repatriate members of the community, Sisi may find himself with a burgeoning Nubian problem.

    “The younger generation does not have the fear their elders have anymore,” said Hashem, the agricultural engineer.

    “The world is changing.”

(Writing by Luke Baker and Ahmed Aboulenein; Editing by Peter Graff)


Source: R-Entertainment

Sotheby's to auction off Japanese collector's "Star Wars" hoard

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International auction house Sotheby’s said on Tuesday it will hold its first sale of “Star Wars” memorabilia, amassed by a Japanese collector, in the run-up to the release of the new film “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” in December.

On Dec. 11 Sotheby’s will auction off some 600 “Star Wars” action figures, replica Darth Vader helmets, autographed Lightsabers, vintage film posters and a Jabba the Hutt cookie jar.

The items are valued from $100 to $35,000 — the highest valuation being for two sets of “Power of the Force” coins, mounted together, that were only available on special request from the U.S. toy manufacturer Kenner, Sotheby’s said.

“From the moment ‘Star Wars’ first hit the cinemas in May 1977, it has grown to become an unparalleled cultural phenomenon, inspiring collectors from across the globe,” Sotheby’s said in a press release announcing the auction, which will be held online.

The items come from the collection of the Japanese clothing designer and entrepreneur who goes by the name of Nigo, Sotheby’s said.

(Reporting by Michael Roddy; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)


Source: R-Entertainment

Alcoholism drug can "wake up" dormant HIV to be killed, study finds

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LONDON Scientists seeking a cure for the AIDS virus have made an unexpected discovery with a drug designed to combat alcoholism which they say could be a critical part of a strategy to “wake up” and then kill dormant HIV hiding in the body.

The drug, branded as Antabuse but also sold as a generic called disulfiram, was given to 30 HIV positive patients in America and Australia who were already taking antiretroviral therapy (ART) AIDS drugs.

At the highest given dose, there was evidence that “dormant HIV was activated”, the researchers said in a study published in The Lancet HIV journal on Monday, and with no adverse effects.

Julian Elliott of the department of infectious diseases at The Alfred in Melbourne, Australia, who worked with Lewin, said waking up the virus was only the first step to eliminating it.

“The next step is to get these cells to die,” he said.

HIV latency, where the virus remains dormant in the body in people taking ART, is one of the biggest hurdles to achieving a cure for the viral infection that causes AIDS. HIV/AIDS has killed some 34 million people since the 1980s, according to the United Nations HIV programme UNAIDS.

HIV can be held in check by ART, and by the end of 2014 an estimated 36.9 million people around the world were living with the virus. Some 2 million people a year are newly infected.

Scientists say finding ways of “waking up” the virus in these dormant cells and then destroying them is a key cure strategy, but researchers have so far been unable to find the exact effective combination of drugs.

Sharon Lewin, a University of Melbourne professor who led the work, said that while scientists have made headway‎ into activating latent HIV, one of the main concerns is the toxicity of the drugs trialled.

With disulfiram, however, this did not appear to present a problem, she said.

“This trial clearly demonstrates that disulfiram is not toxic and is safe to use, and could quite possibly be the game changer we need,” she said in a statement.

“The dosage of disulfiram we used provided more of a tickle than a kick to the virus, but this could be enough. Even though the drug was only given for three days, we saw a clear increase in (the) virus in (the) plasma, which was very encouraging.”

(Reporting by Kate Kelland, editing by Angus Berwick and Ralph Boulton)


Source: R-Entertainment

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