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Everyone should know about this courageous anti-slavery crusader

IRA demonstration in Mauritania; photo from IRA Facebook page

IRA demonstration in Mauritania; photo from IRA Facebook page

Biram Dah Abeid. Remember that name. When he is freed from his latest imprisonment in Mauritania, the courageous activist will once again take up the fight against slavery.

Although in 1981 Mauritania finally became the last country to abolish slavery, the practice continues. Bowing to foreign pressure, the government enacted a law in 2007 that would permit prosecution of slaveholders. In reality, the practice continues. The Global Slavery Index puts Mauritania in the dubious position of being the worst offender.

In 2008 Biram Dah Abeid  formed the Initiative for the Resurgent Abolition Movement (IRA-Mauritania) “to fight against slavery, racism, and gender oppression in Mauritania.” Abeid’s father had been born a slave. Abeid became the first in the family to receive an education. That and his keen, questing mind led him to reject slavery and to take on the fight against it.

Abeid has been imprisoned repeatedly, but he is unstoppable. As a consequence, thousands of Mauritanian slaves have been freed by Abeid and the organization he founded.

In a country where slavery is a centuries-old tradition and slave families are passed down through the generations, the difficult task of freeing slaves is only the beginning. Poverty, illiteracy and isolation must be overcome before freed slaves have any hope of a new and better life. The IRA works to make that happen.

It takes a lot of courage to stand against centuries of accepted cultural practice, no matter how wrong that practice is. Biram Dah Abeid has that courage.

Biram Dah Abeid and some of his IRA colleagues were imprisoned  in November 2014 and are still confined as of this writing. Petitions calling for their release can be found at Walk Free and Avaaz.

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