Slavery in Mauritania

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Slavery in Mauritania is an entrenched phenomenon the national government has repeatedly tried to abolish, banning the practice in 1905, 1981, and August 2007.[1][2] The descendants of black Africans abducted into slavery now live in Mauritania as "blacks" or haratin and some of them still serve the lighter-skinned "Moors" (Berbers or mixed Berber-Arabs, collectively known as al-bidhaan).

The number of slaves in the country is estimated to be up to 600,000 men, women and children, or 20% of the population [3][4] of 3,069,000 people. Even though slavery is illegal, sociologist Kevin Bales believes that Mauritania is the country with the largest proportion of its population in slavery.[5]

Mauritanian organizations like Al'Hor الحر (translated as "the free"), In'itaq إنعتاق (translated as "emancipation") and SOS Esclaves (meaning "SOS Slaves" in French) work against slavery.

A United Nations mission, headed by UN Special Rapporteur and mission leader Gulnara Shahinian, was in Mauritania in November 2009 to evaluate slavery practices in the country.[6] The mission's findings were presented to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in August 2010.


  1. ^ "Mauritanian MPs pass slavery law". BBC News. 9 August 2007. Retrieved 2010-05-23. 
  2. ^ Corrigan, Terence (6 September 2007). "Mauritania: Country Made Slavery Illegal Last Month". The East African Standard. Retrieved 2008-01-21. 
  3. ^ Millions 'forced into slavery' BBC News, 27 May 2002
  4. ^ The Abolition season on BBC World Service
  5. ^ Akhil Patel, Review of Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy by Kevin Bales, Human Rights Quarterly, Vol. 22, No. 3, August 2000
  6. ^ ANI and Journal Tahalil reported on 2 November 2009

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