Mauritarian anti-slavery activist still detained as human trafficking peaks

    Mauritarian anti-slavery activist still detained as human trafficking peaks

    Nov 18, Nouakchott: Just over a year ago Mauritanian anti-slavery activist Biram Dah Abeid had been arrested for his efforts to end slavery in the African nation.

    Abeid who had been arrested during a peaceful demonstration against slavery in Mauritania has been in jail ever since, despite the fact that the Mauritanian government;s pledge to end slavery Abeid still remains in jail instead of slave owners." Today, I write this letter from my cell in Aleg prison, where I am commemorating a sad anniversary. For a whole year, I have been held prisoner.

    My crime: fighting slavery. On 11 November 2014, I was arrested with other anti-slavery activists for organising a peaceful campaign against slavery practices in Mauritania and raising awareness among Mauritanians about land rights for the descendants of slaves," he said in a letter from his cell in Aleg prison.

    Over the years Mauritania has become notorious for its human trade and enslavement as even today over 155,000 people in the country remain enslaved. According to him entire families still belong to their master's family and are forced to serve their owners their whole lives. Many descendants of slaves still work on land over which they have no rights and are made to give part of their harvest to traditional masters.

    According to Human Rights organizations like Abeid's, Initiative for the Resurgence of  Abolitionist Movement (IRA-Mauritania), have stated that approximately 20 percent of the country's population are still slaves. "I have dedicated my whole life to the fight against slavery in Mauritania. My caste, the Haratin (the name given to slaves and former slaves), is made up of black Africans subjected to slavery by Arab-Berber masters. My father was freed by my grandmother's master. I am one of the tens of millions of descendants of slaves who make up the sizeable black diaspora in the Arab world," he said.
    Though the government has pledged to fight against slavery its actions prove otherwise as even today black Mauritanians still live under the oppression, contempt and racism of ethnic and religious minorities who continue to plunder the land, hoard resources and assert their authority on them.

    Facts on Slavery in Mauritania:

     Mauritania had  abolished slavery, in 1981 when a presidential decree abolished the practice. But sadly,  no criminal laws were passed to enforce the ban. In 2007, "under international pressure", the government passed a law allowing slaveholders to be prosecuted.

    However, this law has not helped reduce the number of slaves in the country as human rights organizations suspect that up to 600,000 (or 17% of the population) are still living as slaves, Similarly, according to sociologist Kevin Bales and Global Slavery Index eMauritania has the highest proportion of people in slavery of any country in the world.While other countries in the region have people in "slavelike conditions", the situation in Mauritania is "unusually severe", according to African history professor Bruce Hall.

    Rise of Human Trafficking in 2015

    As the government of Mauritania  detains anti-slavery activists in jial, the rate of human trafficking has also increased in the country. According to reports, over 900 Mauritanian women have been trafficked to Saudi Arabia in 2015. " The women are then forced to work in jobs they did not apply for.

    Infact a report by Middle East Eye states that the women believed they were going to be employed as nurses or teachers, but on arrival in Saudi Arabia they were forced to work as domestic workers in homes across the kingdom, Elmehdi Ould Lemrabott, who is based in Mauritania’s capital Nouakchott, told MEE.

    “Some of these women who objected were subjected to rape attempts, sexual harassment, physical abuse and starvation – as well as being confined to tiny rooms,” Lemrabott said.

    The Oslo Times


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