ZAM Reporter

Meeting Mauritania at ZAM | Fighting a just and complex struggle against slavery and racism

Photo: IRA president Biram Dah Abeid at the right hand side of writer and activist Conny Braam.

On 20 December 2017, Biram Dah Abeid, leader of the Mauritanian l'Initiative pour la résurgence du mouvement abolitionniste (IRA) met with members of the ZAM Team and Conny Braam, former president of the Anti-Apartheids Beweging Nederland (AABN).

Slavery and racism are much alive in todays' Mauritania. While forbidden by law, the practice of enslavement lives on in thousands of households, in factories and in agriculture. “Judges, politicians, the police, they all conveniently look away when asked to maintain the law since many of them have people enslaved themselves”, Dah Abeid says. Once enslaved himself, he is now the frontrunner in a campaign against these practices. It has made his life difficult, he is under constant watch of the security forces. Visiting Europe, Dah Abeid seeks to mobilise international solidarity with his struggle.

“I am deeply impressed by the first hand testimonies by Dah Abeid and members of exiled Mauritanians who accompanied Dah Abeid”, says Conny Braam. “The movement against slavery and racism in Mauritania operates under extremely difficult circumstances but deserves our full support.”

One of these circumstances, Dah Abeid, emphasised, was the ignorance in parts of the international community. This ranges from a serious lack of knowledge to a strategic under-prioritizing of the prevalence and perseverance of the practices. “The United States are quiet under Trump because of strategic military interests in the 'war on terror.' (…) Another obstacle is the fact that our struggle is targeting people who claim that the Qur'an legitimises their practices. In the Islamic republic of Mauritania, the struggle between slaveholders and activists is not simply between white and black.'

However, some liberal progressive voices within the upper class of Mauritanian society have turned against the practices of slavery and racism.

ZAM and the Netherlands branch of IRA will continue to engage on future collaborations and solidarity.