After a night-long standoff Dec. 30, Egyptian security troops fired water cannons and stormed a protest camp in Cairo that housed hundreds of Sudanese refugees, where they had lived for three months demanding resettlement outside of Egypt. The camp was surrounded by thousands of riot police, who charged in wielding batons and sticks. Pictured here, one Sudanese refugee, left, cries out as he is grabbed by riot policemen, as another, right, tries to hand over his child through a bus window, after both were arrested. Photo: AP

Birmingham Visits Cairo
( – Last week in Cairo, Egypt, between one to two thousand Sudanese refugees camped out in the upper middle-class area of Mohandessin, to protest against the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. According to press reports, the refugees had been there for a little over three weeks. Many of the reports that I read, from both American and international press, stated that the refugees were trying to convince the United Nations High Commission for Refugees to send them to a third country. Many had traveled to Egypt as refugees because of the long bitter war in the Sudan. Although the war recently ended in a peace accord, many who were from southern Sudan still felt that the country was not safe enough to return home with their families.

One of the main reasons that they wanted to leave Cairo, as one press report described, was their mistreatment in Egypt, which was terminology used to cover up the blatant racism that exists in many quarters in Cairo, Egypt, against Black Sudanese and Black people from other parts of Africa and the world. The very fact that this attack with water hoses and sticks took place between 9 p.m. and 3 a.m. in the morning shows that there was a sinister plan afoot.

The tragedy of 25 people losing their life in the heart of Cairo at the hands of security police–who were no doubt instructed by their superiors to do whatever they felt necessary to move these Black people–is reminiscent of Birmingham, Ala. During the civil rights struggle, when Black people were protesting against the mistreatment that was taking place in the South, Birmingham police used water cannons, dogs and nightsticks to attack men, women, children and elders in a very vicious manner.


This naked racism demonstrated by the police in Cairo is a tragedy for Egypt, the Sudan and the budding African Union. According to one newspaper, a Sudanese official took the side of the Egyptians. If this is true, then the government of the Sudan needs to condemn him and issue an official apology to those who lost loved ones in this tragedy and suffered this kind of humiliation that the world witnessed. The tragedy took place before the Sudan was to celebrate their 50th anniversary of independence, (January 1, 1956) and before the Sudan is to host a meeting of the African Union in its capital, Khartoum.

Egypt is having its own difficulty with the so-called democratic reforms pushed by America and the West. Her persecution of political Egyptian leaders is testing whether Egypt can truly be democratic in a manner that is pleasing to the West. We have read recently about Egypt jailing leaders who are challenging President Hosni Mubarak. This attack on these innocent refugees is another blow against the leadership of Pres. Mubarak. The “blame game” is now being played, but the buck must stop at Pres. Mubarak and Kofi Annan, the Secretary-General of the United Nations.

International teams should first visit the camps where they have taken the Sudanese refugees to check their physical condition and get a full report on what took place. They should treat the injured and have the UN High Commission resettle them as quickly as possible in a third country. A report should be done on the treatment of Black refugees who reside in Egypt who are from the Sudan and other countries.

Perhaps, Pres. Mubarak should commission a fact-finding committee on racism in Egypt. The way that Africans on the continent and those in the Diaspora can show their displeasure and anger at this treatment is to send letters of protest to Egyptian embassies around the world and, where necessary, demonstrate in front of the Egyptian embassies to demand the compensation of these families. The Egyptian society understands what blood money is in Arab and Islamic culture.

From North America, thousands of Black Americans go to Egypt every year to tour Cairo and Upper Egypt (Aswan and Luxor). I strongly suggest that all of these tour groups reconsider traveling to Egypt until the proper apologies and reparations are paid to these Sudanese refugees. As the world witnessed what happened through the media, the apology should not be issued from a low-level segment of the government, but should rather come from the very top.

We cannot say to the world that we want an African Union, leading to a United States of Africa, with this kind of obvious racist mentality existing in one of the most powerful African countries on the continent, Egypt. If there was any sensitivity, concern and love for their fellow Africans who were in the park with their families, then there is no way in the world that they would spray them with water hoses and beat them with sticks. We must not let this fade away as a news item. The world is waiting to hear from President Hosni Mubarak and Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

(Comments or questions may be sent to Akbar Muhammad, the international representative of the Nation of Islam and Minister Louis Farrakhan, via email at [email protected].)