Did You Know?
Until 2007, slavery was legal in Mauritania. Even still, 1-4% of the population is still living as slaves.
Slavery has been called "deeply rooted" in the structure of the northwestern African country of Mauritania, and "closely tied" to the ethnic composition of the country.
In 1905, an end of slavery in Mauritania was declared by the colonial French administration but the vastness of Mauritania mostly gave the law very few successes. In 1981, Mauritania became the last country in the world to abolish slavery, when a presidential decree abolished the practice. However, no criminal laws were passed to enforce the ban. In 2007, "under international pressure", the government passed a law allowing slaveholders to be prosecuted. Despite this, the number of slaves in the country has been estimated by Global Slavery Index to be 43,000 (or 1.058% of the population) in 2015 and by the organization SOS Slavery to be up to 600,000 (or 17% of the population). Sociologist Kevin Bales and Global Slavery Index estimate that Mauritania has the highest proportion of people in slavery of any country in the world. While other countries in the region have people in "slavelike conditions", the situation in Mauritania is "unusually severe", according to African history professor Bruce Hall and comprises largely of a Black population enslaved by Arab masters.
The position of the government of Mauritania is that slavery is "totally finished ... all people are free", and that talk of it "suggests manipulation by the West, an act of enmity toward Islam, or influence from the worldwide Jewish conspiracy. However, Amnesty International estimates that 43,000 people still live in slavery in Mauritania.
"The country has jailed more anti-slavery activists than slave owners, rights groups say."