Ahmed Idris, who persuaded Egypt's military to use Nubian dialect as code, dies at 84

Idris was decorated by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi in 2017

A handout file picture provided by the GPO and dated October 8, 1973 shows Israeli units moving into battle counter-attacking Syrian troops on the Golan Heights during the Yom Kippur war. / AFP PHOTO / GPO / DAVID RUBINGER

The soldier who persuaded Egypt’s army commanders to adopt a Nubian dialect as the military’s secret code during the 1973 Arab-Israeli war died on Tuesday. Ahmed Idris was 84.

Idris’s contribution was officially recognised in 2017 when President Abdel Fattah El Sisi awarded him the Military Star in an emotional ceremony commemorating the anniversary of the 1973 war.

Idris, a Nubian, was a veteran of Egypt’s wars against Israel in 1956, 1967 and 1973. His suggestion to use a Nubian dialect as a military code only became public 10 years ago.

Nubians are indigenous to southern Egypt and northern Sudan. Many of them were displaced when Egypt began building dams on the Nile in their region in the last century.

Idris shared the idea with his army commanders in 1971, a time when the Egyptian military was searching for a code that Israel could not crack.

Later in life, Idris explained to media outlets how his suggestion had earned him a meeting with the late Anwar Sadat, the Egyptian leader who led the country during the 1973 war and signed a peace treaty with Israel six years later.

Sadat, Idris recounted in one interview, threatened to execute him if he shared the new code with unauthorised military personnel or civilians.

The adoption of the code meant that the military recruited dozens of Nubians serving in the army to translate messages between commanders.

The Nubian dialect remained in use by the Egyptian military until the early 1990s.

Updated: September 21st 2021, 7:17 PM
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