Newsreel (September 2007)
Available at: http://www.egypttoday.com/article.aspx?ArticleID=7650
Photo Courtesy of AP
Violence broke out between rival Sudanese street gangs outside the American University in Cairo recently, ironically during its celebration of World Refugee Day. Gang members hacked at 24-year-old Maliah Bekam’s skull with machetes until he died, making this the fifth gang-related death in the past year, according to community officials. (There are, however, no official records.)
In recent years, two major Sudanese street gangs have emerged in Egypt: the Outlaws and the Lost Boys. The groups emulate American gang culture: baggy jeans, caps, trainers and rap music. Members are usually older teenagers from southern Sudan. Membership isn’t based on ethnic groups or religion, but on the Cairo neighborhoods that they claim to defend. The Outlaws hold territory in Abassiya and Maadi, while the Lost Boys claim Heliopolis and Ain Shams.
There are an estimated one million Sudanese refugees in Egypt. Almost four million were displaced and two million killed during the two decades of war between the government and Christians and rebels in the south. Those who fled to Egypt were promised relocation to the US, but after the peace treaty was signed in 2005, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) severely cut the number of refugees it would resettle. Policy shifted to integrating the refugees into Egyptian society, or voluntarily repatriation, which is on the rise (548 registered for departure this year), according to Abeer Etefa, UNHCR spokesperson.
Still, many refugees refuse to return to Sudan, and those that stay are not given work permits or granted refugee status. In December 2005, thousands of Sudanese staged a sit-in outside Mustafa Mahmoud Mosque in Mohandiseen, culminating in clashes between police and protestors that left at least 23 dead.
The marginalization and racial abuse has led some Sudanese youth to join gangs, as without jobs or access to education, many say they have little hope. According to an AUC study researched over 2005-2006 entitled “Youth Violence among Southern Sudanese in Cairo,” after the killing of the Sudanese, the Egyptian government adopted a “hands-off” policy in relation to the Sudanese. This policy, the report surmises, is part of the reason they fail to investigate gang crimes and round up the leaders.