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. Moulkeir was born a slave but is now free, and pressing charges against her former “owner,” and is being trained in textile skills.
Zipora was enslaved as a domestic servant in the United States by a diplomat and his family, who beat her and failed to meet the terms of the contract originally agreed upon. When she required medical care, they refused to provide it for 2 years. It was the actions of a stranger that helped her out of her enslavement and to get a T-visa, a special visa status for victims of trafficking. In 2007 Zipora filed a suit against her captors.