Average Weekend in #Mauritania

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No Political Prisoners
Yesterday, I read (and shared) an interview with Mauritania’s Aziz, in which he boasted that there are no political prisoners in Mauritania – he was only able to do that because of the very recent release of the political activist and abolitionist  Biram Dah Obeid, of course.

No Terror Protection Payola
He also denied reports from Pakistan, where it is claimed they discovered documents outlining a deal with AQ, and said Mauritania had not handed over any money in exchange for protection from terrorist attacks. He also said he’d asked the US, and the US denied all knowledge. Further, he said all terrorism actors were in jail, sentenced to death, and none had been released, except those who repented after serving their sentence. (Quite how a person can repent after serving a death sentence was not explained.) However, some of us recall that a small group of suspected terrorist sympathisers repented, were released, and each given a large cash payment, using money from the US government.

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No Daylight Robbery
Today, there are reports of the first attempted “armed robbery” on a bank in Mauritania.  We’re being told the motive was ideological, because the perpetrators claimed the National Bank of Mauritania  (BNM) was guilty of usury, and the leader of the 4-man group had a beard. Their “attack” involved arrived at closing time saying they had money they wanted to deposit. At some point, knives and a gun were produced, and a warning shot fired into the air. They were apparently foiled by the bank’s unarmed security with the help of plucky bystanders, and then arrested by the police. I will not be surprised if this is subsequently used as evidence of a resurgence of terrorism. What will forever remain a mystery is how robbing a bank is in any way an appropriate response or remedy for usury.

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Refuge Without Respite

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Even here at the Western tip of the Sahara, there are refugees from Syria. At least, this is their claim when they knock at the door with sorrowful faces. Most often they are older women, their black garb streaked with white desert dust. Piercing dark eyes, once and forever their best feature, plead with you for charity.
They almost sing their tale of murdered husband, lost child – so often told it has become their signature tune in this “land of a million poets.”
I grab a small note, anxiety rising in my throat, and thrust it into the tiny outstreched hand with a sypathetic squeeze. I want them to go quickly. Before they suspect that I’m British. Before they can sense my humiliation and anguish over my country’s action and inaction. Before the sorrow can change its tune.

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Photo: @YaronGlazer