Slavery in Mauritania

Many students in the US learn that slavery ended with the Civil War. In fact however, there are over 27 million people enslaved worldwide today. One of the places where slavery is most entrenched is Mauritania: Slavery in Mauritania has existed for centuries. The slavery is chattel slavery – that is to say, slave status is passed from mother to child. The UN estimates that 10 to 20 percent of Mauritanians are enslaved; SOS Slaves, an organization that works to free slaves in Mauritania, puts the number at 18 percent.

Slavery was not outlawed in Mauritania until 1961, or officially abolished until 1981, making Mauritania the last country to abolish slavery. Slavery was not criminalized until 2007.

As Passover approaches, I decided to post some links related to this topic – a topic that is not generally considered newsworthy, because it is one of those tragedies that affects millions everyday, but does not make for flashy headlines. CNN, to its credit, recently hosted a special on slavery in Mauritania, entitled “Slavery’s Last Stronghold”: http://www.cnn.com/interactive/2012/03/world/mauritania.slaverys.last.stronghold/index.html

http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/world/2012/03/17/mauritania-slavery-last-stronghold.cnn

CNN has also turned the issue of Mauritanian slavery into a “CNN Freedom Project”. These projects blend journalism with activism – they educate about issues while providing one with practical tools to fight these issues and links to non-profits one can donate to. Here is the Maurtiania Freedom Project page:

http://thecnnfreedomproject.blogs.cnn.com/2012/03/17/how-to-help-end-slavery-in-mauritania/

If you wish to hear from slaves in their own voices (in addition to the slave testimony in the CNN videos:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/4091579.stm

There are two main organizations fighting slavery in Mauritania: One is the previously mentioned SOS Esclaves. The other is Anti-Slavery International which is a wonderful online resource center for those wishing to learn about both modern day slavery and the trans-Atlantic slave trade, and to fight slavery worldwide, in Mauritanian and other places across the globe.

To freedom.

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