Modern slavery couldn’t be closer to home for Biram Dah Abeid. The twelfth of thirteen children born to an enslaved mother, Biram was released from a life of servitude while still in the womb. His release was the dying act of his mother’s master in Mauritania, a country where the children of slaves become the property of their owners.
Biram grew up a member of the ‘Haratin’, the class of people known to be the descendants of slaves, many of whom remain trapped in situations of slavery and exploitation by Mauritania’s slave-owning elites. Biram and others have made it their life’s mission to end this abuse in Mauritania.
However they face regular harassment and harsh treatment in this fight for freedom. As you read this Biram and his fellow activists are sitting in a prison cell for their work to end slavery in Mauritania — and we need your help to secure justice.
The 2014 Global Slavery Index was released last month. We now know that 35.8 million people are trapped in modern slavery around the world — and Mauritania is one of the worst offenders, with the highest prevalence of modern slavery in the world.
That’s why the work of anti-slavery activists such as Biram is so important; but instead of addressing the root causes of slavery, the Mauritanian government is working to intimidate those that speak out.
Sources close to the activists have made serious allegations that some of the group have been tortured, including being stripped, beaten and trampled by police since their arrest last week. And at least one person in the group is in need of urgent medical attention.
The activists were arrested during a peaceful anti-slavery protest and, according to their lawyer, are being accused of inciting hatred under Mauritania’s terrorism laws.
A huge wave of international pressure now could force the Mauritanian government to prioritize ending slavery and stop the harassment of anti-slavery activists.
It has now been weeks since Biram and his fellow activists’ arrest: let’s not wait any longer to get them out of prison and back to fighting against slavery.
Michael, Mika, Jayde, Joanna and the Walk Free team