Slavery going strong in Mauritania

Slavery going strong in Mauritania


I remember watching Oprah do a show a few years back about countries outside of the States that were great to live in. Oprah had a few guests on from Mauritania to speak about the culture’s open and accepting attitudes towards bigger women. Oprah seemed thrilled that there was a place on earth that actually preferred bigger women rather than smaller ones. However, in true Oprah fashion, her team doing the research for the show managed to miss one large detail about life in Mauritania; a detail that broke wide open on CNN this week. Mauritania is the last country on earth where slavery, an open secret, is still widely practiced.

Mauritania, located in West Africa and a bit larger than Egypt, has about 3.4 million people. Of these 3.4 million, it is estimated that between 10 to 20 percent (340,000-680,000) of the population is enslaved and works without pay in brutal conditions for their owners. Although Mauritania officially abolished slavery in 1981, and it became a crime in 2007, the practice is still widely accepted. To demonstrate how tolerant Mauritanians and their government is of the practice, it should be known that only one slave owner has been successfully tried and prosecuted for the crime. 


In Mauritania, as in many other countries in Africa, many different ethnic groups live amongst one another. In Mauritania, it is lighter skinned Berber people, or White Moors, who have dominated dark skinned Moors for many centuries and have forced them to work without pay and in unspeakable conditions. Black Moors are enslaved upon birth if their parents are slaves and will be forced to work for a lighter skinned family for the rest of their lives. 


Slavery in Mauritania is an open secret and the government mostly looks the other way on the issue. If abolitionists gather or rise up against the practice, they are quickly sought by the police and face imprisonment or work camps. So far, there have been a few small efforts to raise awareness in the country and throughout the world, about slavery’s last stronghold, yet so far, little pressure has been felt by the government to seriously stop slavery. 


Read more about personal accounts of those who’ve lived in Slavery and are fighting to end this practice in Mauritania.