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Walking Free In Mauritania


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Alta Motley



The Culture of Slavery in Mauritania


Mauritania, a country in North West Africa, is known for its rich history, diverse culture, and stunning landscapes. However, beneath the surface of its beauty lies a deeply ingrained and often overlooked issue: slavery. For centuries, Mauritania has grappled with the pervasive practice of enslaving individuals, a cultural phenomenon that has left a lasting impact on the nation.


Slavery in Mauritania is not a relic of the past; it is a contemporary human rights issue that continues to affect the lives of many. The legacy of slavery has woven itself into the fabric of Mauritanian society, influencing social structures, economic systems, and political dynamics. Despite efforts to address and eradicate this practice, the remnants of slavery persist, casting a shadow over the lives of those who have endured its chains.


Understanding the complex dynamics of slavery in Mauritania requires delving into the historical, cultural, and socio-economic factors that have contributed to its endurance. By shedding light on this issue, we can begin to comprehend the challenges faced by those who have been ensnared in its grasp and the ongoing efforts to break free from its chains.


The Culture of Slavery in Mauritania

For centuries, the practice of slavery has been deeply entrenched in the culture of Mauritania, shaping its social structure and leaving a profound impact on its population. The historical roots of slavery in Mauritania can be traced back to the trans-Saharan slave trade, where individuals were captured and enslaved, perpetuating a system of forced labor and servitude.


Slavery in Mauritania is not solely a historical artifact; it is a contemporary reality that continues to affect the lives of many. The descendants of enslaved individuals, known as Haratine, continue to face systemic discrimination and marginalization, perpetuating the cycle of exploitation and oppression. The pervasive nature of slavery has permeated various aspects of Mauritanian society, from economic disparities to political power dynamics, creating a complex web of challenges for those affected.


Despite the abolition of slavery in 1981 and subsequent criminalization in 2007, the practice persists in clandestine forms, making it difficult to eradicate entirely. The cultural acceptance of slavery, coupled with socio-economic factors, has contributed to its endurance, posing significant hurdles to achieving meaningful and lasting change.


Understanding the cultural underpinnings of slavery in Mauritania is essential for addressing this deeply rooted issue. By unraveling the complexities of its historical legacy and contemporary manifestations, we can gain insight into the challenges faced by those affected and the necessary steps towards liberation and justice.


The Fight for Freedom

The struggle for freedom from the shackles of slavery in Mauritania has been a long and arduous journey, marked by resilience, determination, and unwavering courage. Despite facing immense challenges, individuals and organizations have rallied together to advocate for the rights of those affected by slavery and to bring about meaningful change.


Human rights activists and advocates have played a pivotal role in amplifying the voices of the marginalized and shedding light on the pervasive nature of slavery in Mauritania. Through grassroots mobilization, awareness campaigns, and international advocacy, they have worked tirelessly to challenge the cultural acceptance of slavery and push for legislative reforms that uphold the rights and dignity of all individuals.


Furthermore, the resilience of survivors of slavery, who have courageously shared their stories and experiences, has been instrumental in raising awareness and galvanizing support for the fight against this deeply ingrained practice. Their unwavering determination to reclaim their freedom and rebuild their lives serves as a testament to the human spirit’s resilience in the face of adversity.


International organizations and human rights bodies have also joined the fight, leveraging their influence to hold the Mauritanian government accountable and advocate for the implementation of anti-slavery measures. Their support has been instrumental in driving legislative reforms and creating pathways for justice and restitution for those affected by slavery.


While the fight for freedom from slavery in Mauritania is far from over, the collective efforts of activists, survivors, and global allies have brought about significant strides towards dismantling the structures that perpetuate this egregious human rights violation. Through continued advocacy, awareness-building, and steadfast determination, the pursuit of freedom for all individuals impacted by slavery remains a beacon of hope for a more just and equitable future.


Walking Free: Life After Slavery

For individuals who have broken free from the chains of slavery in Mauritania, the journey towards reclaiming their lives and forging a new path is marked by both profound challenges and resilient determination. The process of reintegrating into society and rebuilding one’s life after enduring the trauma of enslavement is a complex and multifaceted experience, requiring support, empowerment, and opportunities for a dignified existence.


One of the critical components of life after slavery is access to comprehensive support services that address the multifaceted needs of survivors. This includes mental health support, economic empowerment initiatives, educational opportunities, and legal assistance to navigate the complexities of seeking justice and restitution. Creating pathways for survivors to access these resources is essential in fostering their healing and empowering them to envision a future free from the shadows of their past.


Furthermore, economic empowerment plays a pivotal role in enabling individuals to chart a new course beyond the confines of slavery. Initiatives that provide vocational training, entrepreneurship opportunities, and access to financial resources are instrumental in equipping survivors with the tools to build sustainable livelihoods and attain economic independence.


Reintegration into society also necessitates a concerted effort to dismantle the systemic barriers and social stigmas that perpetuate the marginalization of individuals who have been enslaved. This involves fostering community awareness, challenging discriminatory norms, and advocating for inclusive policies that safeguard the rights and dignity of survivors.


Education serves as a powerful catalyst for transformation, offering individuals the opportunity to expand their horizons, pursue their aspirations, and contribute meaningfully to their communities. Access to quality education, free from discrimination, is paramount in empowering survivors to break the cycle of generational poverty and envision a future defined by possibilities and agency.


Ultimately, walking free from the bonds of slavery is not solely about physical liberation; it encompasses the holistic journey towards reclaiming one’s humanity, agency, and inherent right to live a life of dignity and purpose. By fostering a supportive environment, dismantling systemic barriers, and empowering survivors with the tools for self-determination, we can pave the way for a future where every individual can walk free with their heads held high, embracing the boundless opportunities that await beyond the shadows of slavery.



The pervasive culture of slavery in Mauritania has cast a long shadow over the lives of many, shaping social structures, perpetuating systemic inequalities, and leaving a profound impact on the nation’s fabric. Despite the enduring challenges, the fight for freedom from slavery has been marked by unwavering resilience, collective advocacy, and the indomitable spirit of those who have dared to envision a future free from the chains of oppression.


As we reflect on the complexities of slavery in Mauritania, it becomes evident that the path to liberation extends far beyond the physical act of breaking chains; it encompasses the holistic journey towards dismantling systemic injustices, fostering empowerment, and creating pathways for individuals to reclaim their dignity and agency. The fight for freedom requires a multi-faceted approach that addresses the cultural, socio-economic, and political dimensions that perpetuate the practice of slavery, demanding unwavering commitment and collaboration at local, national, and global levels.


While the road ahead may be fraught with challenges, the strides made in amplifying the voices of survivors, advocating for legislative reforms, and fostering pathways for reintegration and empowerment offer glimpses of hope and progress. The resilience of survivors, the dedication of activists, and the solidarity of global allies stand as testaments to the unwavering pursuit of justice and liberation.


Looking to the future, the eradication of slavery in Mauritania demands sustained efforts to challenge cultural norms, dismantle systemic barriers, and ensure that every individual, regardless of their background, has the opportunity to walk free with dignity, equality, and boundless possibilities. It is a collective responsibility to stand in solidarity with those who have endured the chains of slavery and to work towards a future where the echoes of oppression are replaced by the resounding chorus of freedom and justice for all.