Mauritanian anti-slavery activist Maryam Bint Al-Sheikh of the Initiative for the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement (IRA) said in a June 18, 2020 interview on BBC Arabic (U.K.) that there is still slavery in Mauritania, and that ownership of other people can even be passed from generation to generation. She said that 20% of people in Mauritania still suffer from slavery, and she named the Beydanes cast, which she said constitutes 10 percent of the Mauritanian population, as the caste of "masters" that controls Mauritania, its economy, and its people. Explaining that the Beydanes caste arrests and tortures people who speak out against it, Al-Sheikh said that in the past, she herself had been arrested, tortured, and forcibly separated from her child and her family. In addition, Al-Sheikh listed the Haratins, the Fulanis, the Wolofs, and Soninkes, the Bambaras, and Lamalmins, and the Igaouen as the persecuted ethnic groups in Mauritania. Furthermore, she said that the IRA has created awareness surrounding slavery in Mauritania, and that it gives people the courage to protest slavery and racism. She added that slavery and racism can only be abolished through protest. For more about slavery in Mauritania see MEMRI TV clip no. 3429.
Host: "Is there still slavery in Mauritania?"
Maryam Bint Al-Sheikh: "Unfortunately, there is still slavery in Mauritania. More than 20% of people in Mauritania suffer from slavery - a situation where a person owns another person and does whatever he wants with him at any given moment. This situation exists here in Mauritania, unfortunately."
Host: "Are you talking about slavery like in ancient times, Maryam? Please excuse me, but I have to use harsh language... Are you talking about people who are being bought and sold like merchandise, or about a new kind of slavery? Some people say..."
Al-Sheikh: "They are also being bequeathed."
Host: "They are being bequeathed?"
Al-Sheikh: "Yes, they are being bequeathed. Yes, they are being bequeathed from father to son. A person can own a slave and when that person dies, his children inherit the slave, who is later bequeathed to the grandchildren. This thing exists in Mauritania, unfortunately.
"We suffer from slavery and racism at the same time. This is our reality. The Beydanes caste, which constitutes no more than 10% of Mauritanians, controls Mauritania, its economy, and its people.
"Anyone who speaks out is considered a criminal whose natural place in in jail. Until not so long ago, [whoever spoke up] would have been killed.[...]
"I was arrested and tortured multiple times. I was tortured both mentally and physically. The last time I was arrested, I had a 1.5-year-old baby. They separated us by force. And they weaned him. The Mauritanian state weaned my baby - a 1.5-year-old baby. He was weaned. And they prevented me from seeing him, and they wouldn't let my husband or relatives visit me.
"The Fulanis in Mauritania - activists and dignitaries - were killed between 1967 and 1991. They were physically killed."
"There are several persecuted groups in Mauritania. There is the Haratin ethnic group who are slaved or former slaves. There is also the Fulanis, whose roots are in [sub-Saharan] Africa. There are also Wolof people, Soninke people, Bambara people, there are the Lamalmin [craftsman caste], the Igaouen [artists caste] and there are the Beydanes, who think they are so great. This is the caste that owns Mauritania and all its people. This is how they imagine it. They envy even the oxygen we breathe. They are 'the masters.'"
Host: "I can't even imagine how we still use terms like 'masters' and 'slaves,' but clearly that's the case... Masters!"
Al-Sheikh: "Unfortunately, that is the case.
"The protest culture was created by IRA [The Initiative for the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement]. Before IRA, there were no real protests in Mauritania. The IRA movement created an awareness and instilled courage within people.
"Protest is the only way to change countries, and to abolish slavery and racism."