A week ago CNN posted their digital documentary on Mauritania, a place where 10% to 20% of the population lives in slavery.
Mauritania is located in West Africa with a majority of its landscape a part of the Sahara Desert. “In 1981, Mauritania became the last country in the world to abolish slavery.” Slavery became a crime only 5 years ago in 2007. Since 2007 there has only been one successful conviction against a slave owner. The government denies that slavery exists in Mauritania, ignoring the conditions of 340,000 to 680,000 enslaved individuals.
John Sutter and Edythe McNamee, both CNN reporters, traveled across Mauritania to more fully understand the slavery first-hand. They spoke with current slaves, partial slaves, escaped slaves, and abolitionists working to end slavery. The stories shared by those in the video were heartbreaking. Women enslaved then exploited for sex, and men, though emancipated, were forever indebted to their masters. The cycle of slavery seeming endless.
CNN however highlighted an organization called SOS Slaves. Bouboucar Messaoud, son of slaves, and Abdel Nassar Ould Ethmane, former slave owner, founded SOS Slaves. The two men were an unlikely pair, coming from opposite ends of the caste system. They used their differences to their advantage, creating a specific plan to end slavery. Their work focuses on awareness and education of slavery in Mauritania, and more directly they help slaves gain their freedom.
Its hard to imagine such extreme slavery existing in 2012, but Mauritania’s current conditions leave it the perfect condition for the continuation of slavery. CNN reports factors including politics, geography, extreme poverty, religion, racism and education are the complicated reasons for the existence of slavery. Education and awareness are the first steps to ending modern-day slavery, so share this story with your friends and family and watch the amazing documentary below!