Feb 25, 2020

Mauritania Launches Defamation Campaign against Biram Dah Abeid

UNPO Calls on Mauritania to Cease Defamation Campaign against Human Rights Defender Biram Dah Abeid.

The Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) is deeply concerned about a defamation campaign on the part of the Mauritanian government against Biram Dah Abeid, the Head and founder of the Initiative for the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement -Mauritania (IRA-M). After receiving the prestigious Geneva Courage Award 2020, Biram Dah Abeid, the internationally praised Mauritanian human rights defender, politician, and activist has been the target of a campaign that seeks to undermine his efforts to eradicate slavery and widespread institutional racism and discrimination in Mauritania.

The campaign contains anti-Semitic tropes that blames Jews for conspiring with Abeid. In particular, the posting from the Mauritanian intelligence community, which launched the campaign against Abeid, accused Jews in general, but particularly the Raoul Wallemberg Foundation, of having created the character of Biram Dah Abeid and used it to foment through him the eradication of Islam in Mauritania and the destruction of the Koranic School.

Biram Dah Abeid, upon receiving the award, had raised the question of national cohabitation, calling the current system an “Arab-Berber apartheid consecrated by the supremacy of a white minority over a black majority.” In response, the campaign labelled Abeid a traitor to Islam and launched a campaign to demonstrate the unity of the peoples of Mauritania under the slogan “We are one people.”

In his speech, Mr Abeid criticised the Mauritanian government for its continued ignorance of the plight of the Haratin, likening the situation in the country to apartheid and stressing the lack of any legal action by the government against the perpetrators of an attempt of ethnic cleansing between 1986 and 1991. The IRA-M continues to invite the Mauritanian authorities to create a dialogue with them to help improve the situation of the Haratin.

Mauritania has a particularly bad record of human rights abuses. The practice of slavery is still widespread, with the Haratin people (sub-Saharan Africans) subject to discrimination, racism, and exclusion by the Arab-Berber upper classes. While slavery has officially been abolished, the practice continues. Furthermore, the Haratin people are denied access to education, economic opportunities and political representation. The government’s attempts to “Arabize” Mauritania by decreasing the use of French in the public sphere has also led to greater Haratin exclusion.

UNPO calls on Mauritanian authorities to stop its illegitimate campaign against Abeid and spreading disinformation with the intent to perpetuate the existing system of discrimination against the Haratin community.