Slavery is still widespread in Mauritania, with slaves even being passed down from generation to generation, according to Mauritanian anti-slavery activist Maryam Bint al-Sheikh.

Al-Sheikh, of the Initiative for the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement (IRA), told BBC Arabic on June 18 that nearly a quarter of the population of Mauritania still suffer from slavery. She named the Beydanes caste, which she said constitutes 10 percent of the population, as the caste of “masters” that controls the country, its economy and its people.

Members of the Beydanes caste arrest and torture those who speak out against it, said al-Sheikh, adding that she herself had been arrested, tortured and forcibly separated from her child and her family.

“Unfortunately, there is still slavery in Mauritania. More than 20 percent 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,” she said.

In Mauritania, slaves can be inherited, she said.

“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.”

The IRA has created awareness surrounding slavery in Mauritania, she added, which gives people the courage to protest slavery and racism.

“Protest is the only way to change countries, and to abolish slavery and racism,” she said.

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