Mauritania, Silence, we kill quietly here
Our discussion begins with a nightmare. We begin the conversation speaking of the decline in traffic accidents in Europe, when suddenly we find ourselves speaking of dictators, Boko Haram, AQIM, ebola, Anti Balaka, Shebabs, Ebola… Yes, when two people of African origin come together to chat, we end up taking a gruesome inventory of the biggest killers on the continent. So, when the Mauritanian woman spoke in her turn, she recited the poem that one could call, “Four million Moors living in Mauritania.”
In Mauritania, the most deadly dangers are hunger, terrorism, ebola, and Islamism.
-You’re a Democrat, you die,
-You are a human rights defender, you die,
-You defend a Democrat, you die,
-You critique President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, you die,
-You’re an independent journalist, you die,
-You’re a blogger, you die,
-You look askance at an imam of the Zawayas (Arab-Berber) caste, you die,
-You critique slavery, you die twice.
Here we are 4 million living or the living dead.
This is what could happen if Africans remain indifferent to the recent death sentence imposed on Mohamed Ould Mohamed Mkhaïtir for criticizing the use of religion to justify the slavery and domination of people in caste based societies.
Zemmour and his friends forever
Without being a specialist in history, nor any other specialization for that matter, it is safe to assume that slavery, i.e. selling one human being to another to be reduced to the status of animal, is much more developed in settled societies. Religion is often man’s best ally in this business. Under the pretext of fulfilling a divine mission or of respecting some religious precepts or rotten traditions, some people decide that they are justified in enslaving other human beings. Religion is even powerful enough to convince those who suffer that their condition is a blessing from “God”.
I will not dwell, for the moment, on the centuries of the Church’s support of slavery and the slave trade—either through their action or inaction.
I know that some members of the Church fought against slavery; but it was certainly not the majority.
Let’s clean your own yard first
This recent case of the young Mauritanian man being sentenced to death for apostasy has highlighted the often overlooked fact that slavery and caste systems still exist in most societies in the Sahel. The pinnacle of these stupid and barbaric traditions has been reached in Mauritania where there are two distinct groups within this population of four million souls. There are the Moors of Arab-Berber origin, who are divided into castes from the noble Zawayas (chiefs, marabouts) to the lower castes (blacksmiths, weavers, potters, shoemakers…). And at the bottom of this macabre chain are the slaves. Can you guess the color of their skin? [Tic! Tac! Tic Tac! ??]
Here, men say they are charged with a divine mission and endowed with mystical powers to exploit other men. Most often, totalitarian regimes, with the help of some alleged mafia clans, use these traditions to justify the abuse and control over their fellow citizens.
And that is exactly what has happened to Mohamed Sheikh, a Mauritanian blogger and journalist who wrote an article in 2013 criticizing the existence of slavery and the caste system in Mauritanian society. In this article, he denounced the use of Islam to justify the enslavement of blacks and people of all castes in Mauritania.
Citing this article, the Islamists and the authoritarian regime in Mauritania have accused him of apostasy and have sentenced him to death. They say they want to make him an example. Thus, the lawyers who volunteered to defend Mohamed Cheikh were subjected to severe pressure from society and from extremist religious organizations. As a result, they have been replaced by court appointed lawyers. Yes, one could be sentenced to death with a court-appointed lawyer.
Fatwas have also been passed on to the lawyers and those who support this case. The Mauritania activist Mint El Moctar Aminetou was the latest to receive a fatwa condemning him to death. His crime—defending Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mohamed.
To support the Mauritanian activists, 100 activists from Africa and of African origin, and of all faiths, have decided to mobilize against this unjust and intolerable conviction. We have sent an open letter to in French and in English to Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, President of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania and President of the African Union calling for:
1) The immediate and unconditional release of Mohamed Ould Cheikh Mohamed Mkhaïtir, and
2) To ensure he is protected against all acts of torture and ill treatment.