The slavery of young Mauritanians in Saudi Arabia

The return of Lalla Mint Mohamed Vall, eight days ago after six months of ordeal, recalls that the practice revealed in 2015 has never stopped.

Her recruiter goes to court in Nouakchott this Monday, April 2nd. In the past two years, at least 500 young women have been repatriated to Mauritania, but hundreds have reportedly been sent to the kingdom by employment agencies in Mauritania, with no legal existence, according to several NGOs and workers’ unions.

The scenario is the same each time. Young women, haratines, from the community of descendants of slaves are sent to Saudi Arabia thinking of going to work as a servant.

On the spot, they are exploited, badly fed, beaten, sent as shepherdess to keep herds or locked up. This was the fate of Lalla Mint Mohamed Vall, 34, whose nightmare ended a few days ago.

Her story is emblematic of many other young women sent to the Saudi kingdom, whose epilogue is now played in court.

Aminetou Mint el Moctar, president of the AFCF, the association that took care of her, says. “She stayed in Saudi Arabia for six months, where she remained confined in a room. She only drank the toilet water and ate a piece of bread a day, no more. She became ill, and when she returned, she had lost more than half of her weight. She has suffered all forms of physical abuse.”

“The AFCF made a statement that we translated into Arabic and posted on Saudi sites. One morning, the gentleman threw her out. He took her passport, gave her nothing and took the battery from her phone so that she did not contact anyone.”

“It was on this purpose she was being picked up by the police and thrown into prison because she was loitering without paper.

Lalla was fortunate enough to be picked up by a Kenyan woman who sheltered her until the Mauritanian embassy gave her a pass to return to Nouakchott last week.

The man who recruited Lalla Mint Mohamed Vall, Nema Ould Monak, was arrested in early March following a complaint. But he was released a few days later.

To date, 35 plaintiffs are suing him who is considering his case on Monday 2nd April. The man reminds anyone who wants to hear that he has relays high and he will never be condemned. Unacceptable behavior for NGOs following this issue, which reveals impunity.

Despite several scandals of this kind, Mauritania signed a convention last year with Saudi Arabia for the recruitment of 15,000 Mauritanian domestic workers. A statement publicized again this week by the association of women heads of families, SOS slaves and the CLTM, a workers’ union. This statement covers, the actions of unscrupulous employment agencies.

Since 2015, several complaints have been filed but the justice has never prosecuted any recruiter.

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