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Thessa Lageman
Journalist, Writer, Photographer
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Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Tens Of Thousands Of Slaves Work In Mauritania

French-Moroccan photojournalist Seif Kousmate spent a month photographing and interviewing current and former slaves in Mauritania.

In 1981, this West African country made slavery illegal, the last country in the world to do so. However, I read in this article that still tens of thousands of people live as bonded labourers, domestic servants or child brides here.

Local rights groups estimate that even up to 20 percent of the population is enslaved. Most of them come from the minority Haratine or Afro-Mauritanian groups.

Mauritania has a rigid caste system, with darker-skinned inhabitants beholden to their lighter-skinned “masters”. Slave status is passed down from mother to child, and anti-slavery activists are regularly tortured and detained.

Yet the government routinely denies that slavery exists in Mauritania, instead praising itself for eradicating the practice.

During his reporting, photojournalist Seif Kousmate was also arrested and imprisoned for four days, and his memory cards, phone and laptop confiscated. Apparently, he managed to bring home some of his photos. They are published in this interesting photo essay which is accompanied by the stories of a few former slaves.

Tens Of Thousands Of Slaves Work In Mauritania
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