Thinking Citizen Blog — Africa VIII: Mauritania

Thinking Citizen Blog — Monday is Foreign Policy Day

Today’ s Topic — Africa VIII: Mauritania — the persistence of slavery

Mauritania was the last country in the world to abolish slavery. That was in 1981. But it was not until 2007, under international pressure, that slave-holding was made a crime. Estimates of slaves as a percentage of the population range from 1% to 17%. The slaves are largely black and the masters Arabs. The government denies this. “Slavery no longer exists, and talk of it suggests manipulation by the West, an act of enmity toward Islam, or influence from the worldwide Jewish conspiracy.” Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.

This is the eighth in a recent series of posts on African countries. Prior posts covered: the Democratic Republic of the Congo (5/4), the Republic of the Congo (5/11), Cameroon (5/18), Chad (5/25), Niger (6/1), Burkina Faso (6/8) and Mali (6/15/20). In 2019 there were posts on South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, Mozambique, Sudan, and Algeria.


1. “Many of the slaves are isolated by illiteracy, poverty, and geography, and do not know that life outside servitude is possible.”

2. “The difficulty of enforcing any laws in the country’s vast desert.”

3. “Poverty that limits opportunities for slaves to support themselves if freed.”

4. “Dependence on masters who provide food and clothing to slaves.”

5. “Difficulty of “running away” and leaving families in large parts of the country that are desert.”

6. “Belief that slavery is part of the natural order of this society.”

7. “Belief in a “misguided interpretation of Islam”, in which slaves are “told that their paradise is bound to their master and that if they do what the master tells them, they will go to heaven”

8. “Mauritanian laws, which place the burden of proof on the slave, require that a victim file a complaint before an investigation is launched, and that human rights organizations may not file a case on behalf of a victim, despite the fact that most slaves are illiterate.”


(map and dates of abolition of slavery around the world)

1. Abolition was largely a function of pressure from the West — especially Britain and France. The French had abolished slavery in Mauritania in 1905. It became accepted again after independence (1960).

2. Abolition in Turkey (1924), Iran (1929), Saudi Arabia (1962),

3. The enslavement of Hindus followed the Muslim conquest of India. Slavery was abolished in India by the British in 1843.


1. “Still today, masters lend their slaves’ labor to other individuals, female slaves are sexually exploited and children are made to work and rarely receive an education.”

2. “Slavery particularly affects women and children, who are the most vulnerable among the vulnerable.”

3 “Women of child-bearing age have a harder time emancipating because they are producers of slave labor and perceived as extremely valuable.”


Slavery in Mauritania

The unspeakable truth about slavery in Mauritania

Slavery’s last stand —

Freedom Fighter

Kevin Bales

History of slavery in the Muslim world

Slavery in India

East Africa’s forgotten slave trade | DW | 22.08.2019


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