June 5, 2012
As Biram Dah Abeid, leader of the IRA remains imprisoned, followers of the CNN Freedom Project have added their voices to the campaign against slavery in Mauritania as Amnesty International, UNPO and Anti-Slavery International call for his release and the fresh support to be given to escaped slaves.
Below is an article by John D. Sutter and Edythe McNamee, published by CNN International:
Dozens of CNN iReporters recently uploaded videos of themselves telling escaped slaves in Mauritania that "we are with you" in the struggle for freedom. The videos follow a CNN project called "Slavery's Last Stronghold," which documented slavery in the West African country.
Mauritania was the last nation in the world to abolish the practice, and a UN representative estimates 10% to 20% of Mauritanians still live in a form of slavery.
The iReport videos came in from all over the world - and each began with the phrase "we are with you" in Hassaniya, the language spoken by a group of women who attend classes at a center for escaped slaves in Nouakchott, the capital. In the iReport videos, an African-American woman shared a few lines from a slave song her ancestors sang. School children in South Korea chanted "we are with you" in unison. A family gathered in a living room to record a video. Messages also came from Sri Lanka and Germany.
Watch a highlight reel of the clips at the top of this post, and please let us know what you think in the comments.
CNN plans to find a way to show the messages of hope to these women who escaped slavery. By including a phrase in the local language, iReporters ensured that the women who escaped slavery will understand their messages.
Here are two other updates on slavery in Mauritania, following the project:
– Anti-slavery activist Biram Dah Abeid, who was featured in our documentary, was arrested in late April, along with several other members of his group, according to news reports and local activists, after he held a public demonstration in which he burned Islamic texts that he says condone slavery. He was charged earlier this week with undermining national security, Amnesty International spokesman Alex Edwards told CNN in an e-mailed statement. The group considers Abeid and six other activists who are still being detained to be a "prisoners of conscience, held solely for exercising their right to freedom of expression."
– In response to CNN's reporting, Anti-Slavery International, a group based in London, posted a donation page where people can money to support a training center for escaped slaves in the Mauritanian capital. That training center, which is operated by a group called SOS Slaves, was featured in our report. To date, $20,600 has been donated to that cause.
Here's more information on how you can help end slavery in Mauritania.
Thanks to everyone who has responded to this project, both on iReport, in comments on the stories and in personal e-mails.
If you're new to the story and would like to learn more, here's an aggregation of all the Mauritania posts on this blog.