Egyptian war hero and Nubian code inventor Ahmed Edris dies at 84
Many may remember the 2002 Hollywood movie “Windtalkers", a film that recollects the story of Native American code talkers and their use of a Navajo language to communicate whilst on duty in World War II.
Few, however, are familiar with Ahmed Edris, who employed the same tactic for the Egyptian Military in its 1970s war with Israel. Using the Nubian language, Edris and his battalion were able to circumvent and avoid Israeli intelligence, and played a crucial part in Egypt's war effort.
Regrettably, with Edris passing away in his Alexandria home on Tuesday, his masterful exploits remain largely consigned to military folklore.
Prior to Ahmed Edris' innovation, the Egyptian Army had consistently faced problems with sharing intelligence.
"Three months after Sadat assumed power, whenever a coded message was sent by our [the Egyptian] army, Israeli forces decrypted it," Edris said during a short documentary about his achievements.
"Sadat asked the army commanders to find a way to solve the issue. When I heard about that, I smiled, and said it was easy. Let's do it in the Nubian language, which is an oral language with no written alphabet".
"Using the Nubian language, Edris and his battalion were able to circumvent and avoid Israeli intelligence, and played a crucial part in Egypt's war effort"
"The Military chief of staff then communicated my idea to Sadat, who deemed the material highly confidential. They brought me to him [Sadat] in handcuffs, which initially made me panic," Edris recalled, smiling.
“I thought they suspected that I was a spy or something…and I didn’t know where they were taking me,” he added.
“They kept me waiting for 90 minutes at Sadat’s office until he arrived. He tapped on my shoulder and asked me about the Nubian language…and I explained my idea to him,” Edris further recalled.
Sadat was convinced with Edris’ suggestion and the operation then given a green light, under the necessary proviso that the mission was kept top secret.
“Only five high-ranking officers had knowledge of it,” Edris said.
“Stations were established across Sinai with a Nubian soldier present in each one…and we sent intelligence about the number of vehicles in the area,” “We kept operating… carrying out [other] missions…until the [6 of October] war broke out,” he explained.
Born in a Nubian village in southern Egypt, Edris’ esteemed military career started early in 1954 after he enlisted in the army, to take part in all the wars Egypt engaged in since then. He retired as a non-commissioned officer after serving for 40 years.
“I belong to the military. I lived inside the army more than I did elsewhere,” Eldris said proudly.
Files pertaining to the the Nubian code talkers were only declassified recently. It was not until October 2017 when Egyptian president Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi honoured Edris, awarding him the military star medal; and he was given the proper media attention that he deserved.