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  • Tags: 1955-1973 (Enslavement period)
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There are an estimated 90,000 people living in modern slavey in Mauritania (GSI 2018). Mauritania is one of the last countries in the world where people are still born into hereditary slavery, which means they are literally owned by other people, and forced to work for masters their entire lives. People in slavery come from the Haratine ethnic group, historically enslaved by White Moors. They can be bought and sold, or given as gifts, and face a lifetime of exploitation and abuse. Rape of female slaves is common and their children also become slaves. They are Muslims, and many believe that it is Allah’s wish for them to be enslaved because they are told that their paradise is bound to their Master. In reality, Islam dictates that a Muslim cannot enslave a fellow Muslim. Since 2007 slavery has been criminalised in Mauritania but the law is not enforced and the government is reluctant to acknowledge the existence of the problem.  Born in 1955, Bîlal Ould Semetta was enslaved in inherited bondage throughout his childhood until he was 25 years old. At a young age he was sent to work for the cousin of the family to whom he was enslaved. He lived as a shepherd, cut off from his family, refused an education and banned from practising religion. It was not until the drought of 1973 that Bîlal was no longer needed and was allowed to return to his family.