#Mauritania Police Cause Another Death with Tear Gas


Local new site Essirage reports that an expectant mother  was overcome by tear gas while shopping in an area where police were firing tear gas to disperse anti-slavery demonstrators. The woman was taken to hospital shortly after the incident, when she noticed the baby had stopped moving. A scan just 3 days earlier had shown the child, in its third trimester, was healthy and developing normally. Doctors delivered the child as a still birth. The bereaved parents are in shock and distraught at the loss of their  child.

This is not the first reported case of foetal death caused by indiscriminate tear gas use by Mauritania police in recent months, more than one female student has miscarried as a result of the ongoing crackdown. This tragic news also comes close behind the death of a young shopkeeper from tear gas asphyxiation by the deadly chemicals used by police to quell unarmed peaceful demonstrators on 9 June. Activists have retrieved spent tear gas canisters clearly showing some of the cartridges were past their use-by date. It is suspected that the regime buys the expired gas from neighbouring countries in a sort of black market for cheaper expired munitions. Whether buying it direct or through a third party, we do know that the tear gas is made by Nobel Industries of France.

9 Jun 2012 Police Tear Gas Kills Young Shopkeeper


Mauritania Protests and Issues Update 26 May 2012


Friday 25 May 2012 saw several protests and rallies in Mauritania.

Young supporters of the Coordination of the Democratic Opposition (COD) political coalition gathered after early evening prayers at the Saudi mosque in Nouakchott and were immediately confronted by anti-riot police using tear gas, sound bombs and batons to disperse them. There were several arrests and at least 10 injuries reported. Not surprising when you can plainly see in the video here  police firing tear gas and sound grenade directly at protesters, rather than over their heads.

Once again, the discarded shells bore the name of the French supplier “Nobel Securité”. Hardly prize-worthy behaviour. There are also nightly vigils outside the police station in Nouakchott where detained protesters are still being held.

French tear gas shell Photo: Jeunesse RFD FaceBook page

The  COD old guard, with a few youth in tow, is on another tour of the country and already facing disruption, with reports of regime supporters hiring vehicles to block their route, and posters advertising their rally in Tidjika being removed by officials. Despite all efforts, there was a big turnout. The Tidjika event marked a couple of significant milestones: it is the first location I am aware of where youth activists used live streaming video to relay the proceedings; and  UFP party leader Mohamed Ould Mouloud joined the gathering by phone from Paris.

25 May – Tidjika – COD Rally

Over in Fassala, where thousands of refugees from Mali have been seeking refuge since January, elders have announced [ar] their complete lack of faith in the system and say they plan to join the Islamic Tewassoul party. This will no doubt provide kindling for the Jihad-watchers’ bonfire.

In Nouadhibou, there was a protest [ar] by supporters of IRA anti-slavery campaigner Biram Ould Obeid and his 10 companions. They remain under arrest in an unknown location since the end of April, after the incident where Biram burned some books of Islamic jurisprudence in protest  at their apparent support for slavery. As I write this,  Saturday 26 May, another march is taking place in Nouakchott, and is under attack by police with injuries being reported. Biram’s wife Leila was savagely attacked, her clothing was torn and she sustained a deep gash to her face. During a similar protest last week, a youth received a serious head injury and there was a report of a fight between opponents and supporters of Biram. Also reported this evening, traditional craft-makers in Kiffa are protesting [ar] to demand more government support and fair treatment. One of many locations which has been enduring long-term water shortages, Kiffa also saw an anti-government protest on Friday.

25 May Kiffa Anti-regime protest

I haven’t seen them on the street this past week, but the “No to Porno” protesters are active again, with the added zing of a demand for morality police and talk of Islamists wanting to form a political party. Their sisters in arms so to speak, the Salafi girls, were protesting again last week. Another group yet to make a public appearance is the latest iteration of Aziz youth supporters. He can afford to buy new ones  now his payola scheme to subvert student protests has been exposed, forcing him to swiftly reach a deal with the ISERI students – and for the principal to mete out expulsions as punishments [ar] for University students for turning the tables on Aziz’ little game. Some of the original 21 students subsequently had their expulsions reversed. As a different and possibly more effective form of protest, rice farmers in Rosso are suing the Ministry of Rural Development over its failure to provide basic fertilizer. Ironically, the farmers include graduates recruited by the government to pilot the scheme, which was hailed by Aziz as a great success and targeted for expansion.

Staying with irony, wry smiles during discussion of the story claiming that AQIM in northern Mali had flogged someone in public for smoking. The consensus was that since one of the top AQIM commanders is known as “Marlboro Man” and the entire outfit makes a significant proportion of its money from smuggling tobacco, the level of hypocrisy was just too much. Less wry, more of  a painful grimace, listening to Press TV’s report on Mauritania – yes, the media’s desperate search for traces of Arab Spring continues – with the presenter referring to the people there as “Mauritians”. Slightly better than “Martians” I guess.

This is the end of another bad week for human rights and justice in Mauritania.

NGO Media liaison assaulted

  • the office of a human rights NGO in Zouerate is still under siege by police
  • the Nouakchott offices of the Human Right Observatory were ransacked by “persons unknown” and files and laptops removed (supporters are rallying round and sharing evidence of abuse and torture)
  • the media liaison for an NGO was assaulted by the local animal control officer after he killed her pet dog
  • journalists continue to be harassed, arrested, and a senior editor was removed from his job under allegations of dissent
  • the Chief Justice has been removed from office by a unilateral decision of president Aziz, to be re-assigned as ambassador to Yemen. He is strenuously fighting this decision as unlawful and has the support of the Bar Association.
  • diplomatic staff of the Foreign office have made public protests over the lack of protocol in recent appointments (such as two unqualified friends of the president’s wife being given cushy jobs in foreign embassies) and have been publicly insulted by the Foreign Minister, who said he could appoint a janitor to any post in the diplomatic corps in reply
  • Amnesty International’s newly published human rights review criticises Mauritania on several counts, including religious persecution, unlawful and secret detentions,  and using live ammunition against protesters

I can’t close this post without remembering those who are too weak to protest: the people in Kinkossa and other remote locations struggling with an outbreak of meningitis, and the tens of thousands of drought-affected residents and refugees marooned in isolated communities with inadequate transport, power, water or sanitation infrastructure.

Photo Album of the week’s events

#Mauritania News and Updates 8 May 2012


Following on from an eventful Monday on May 7, with no less than 5 separate protests in Mauritania, I will be attempting to track events today by updating this post.


Police raided Nouakchott Uni Arts faculty this morning 8 May 2012, where students were using the student’s union office to stage a lock-in to protest the increased militarisation of the campus. Officers attacked the students with batons and 16 arrests were made, including 6 female students. More than a dozen students are facing expulsion following recent protests. There were accusations following the arrests that the dean of the Arts faculty had enlisted the security services to intercept and monitor student phone calls. Detainees include Mohamed Lamine Dabo, student union organiser.


Heavy security presence observed around the Ministry of Justice, where the political opposition’s youth group has called for a protest against the attack on last Thursday’s sit-in. No news so far of the protest going ahead. Meanwhile some of the tents and other equipment confiscated by police last week has “gone missing”. Organisers were told to make a complaint to the chief prosecutor if they wished to reclaim items used “in connection with civil offences”.


Protesters from Kamour, who blocked the road and demonstrated outside the presidential palace yesterday remained in situ overnight and are continuing their protest today. Kamour, in the Gorgol region, suffered devastating damage to local oases and wells after severe floods in 2010. In January of this year the sole water pump failed, and residents have been relying on water brought by tanker (at significant additional cost) while waiting for the state to arrange repairs.


Activist Ahmed Ould Eddyd, admin of the popular “Yezza” FaceBook group and houriyeti website has added a UStream channel. Very exciting times to see Mauritanian activists expanding their use of social media. Ahmed has recently arranged Q&A sessions with representatives of various civil society groups such as the February 25 Movement in Mauritania. I am hoping this new U-Stream channel will suport that initiative so that more people can observe and participate.


Hundreds of youth in Adrar formed a protest today outside the regional administration building against the marginalisation of young people and raising concerns about various grievances such as rising prices, education and employment as well as the lack of civic amenities and social facilities in general.


Dozens of secondary school teachers continued the protest actions which began last week with a stand outside the presidential palace in Nouakchott today. The teachers are exasperated by the refusal of state officials at the ministry of education refusing to accept their petitions or to open a meaningful dialogue to address their concerns.


More evidence of the regime’s fading popularity. A festival in support of Aziz’ party last Saturday in Mederdra, an isolated community whose youth organised a 50km march to demand a paved road, attracted a tiny gathering of only the officials and state employees whose attendance is mandatory. Pictures released today are all quite narrowly focused to give the appearance of a crowded arena, but this one shows almost the entire crowd. Officials are trying to brush the poor attendance off by claiming it is linked to lower population density. Officials have also encouraged the creation of a rival youth activist group, seeking to undermine the activities and reputation of the original group. It’s all rather unpleasant.


As the controversy over the burning of books of Islamic jurisprudence continues, a number of imams and religious scholars have called on Mauritanian sources of jurisprudence and emulation to issue a fatwa about slavery. IRA campaign leader Bira Ould Abeid remains in detention.


Residents of Nema are experiencing a severe shortage of electrical power. The blackout began two days ago and is causing serious problems for the town’s inhabitants.


An outbreak of deadly viral meningitis has been confirmed by health officials in Mauritania after the death of at least 10 people and hospitalisation of several more.


Alakhbar News Agency has posted this video of a massive Nouakchott protest in support of jailed anti-slavery campaigned Biram ould Abeid.


The wife of Biram ould Abeid has been arrested by police at her home this evening. Reasons are unclear, but it is assumed the arrest is linked to the massive protest today.

Show of support for jailed anti-slavery campaigner in #Mauritania


UPDATE: 6 May 2012: Protesters gathered outside the Ministry of Justice this morning to demand the released of Biram Ould Abeid

UPDATE: 5 May 2012 IRA campaign has released a video appealing for the release of Biram

Supporters of civil rights activist Biram Ould Abeid turned out on Friday 4 May 2012 to show their support and demand his freedom. Biram is the president of the anti-slavery campaign group IRA. He has been detained on charges of agitating public opinion against Islam for his televised burning last Friday of several books of jurisprudence because they included mention of slavery. He and several companions were arrested in a violent raid on his home on the evening of Saturday 28 April 2012 by police using tear gas.

Campaigning for his freedom is the expected and admirable thing to do, but my personal feeling is that Biram could be in danger if he is released, despite the fact that he already employs several bodyguards, because of receiving previous death threats.


Late Breaking News from #Mauritania 2 May Protest: Youth Stabbed


Reports were posted late Thursday night with this photograph of a youth who was attacked by unknown assailants at the beginning of the mass protest march in Nouakchott, Mauritania, on Wednesday afternoon.

There was an earlier report late Wednesday of a youth in the hospital with internal bleeding. It is not known if these are separate cases from different incidents. The identities of the injured youth have not been published.

On 24 May 2011, members of the February 25 Movement apprehended and disarmed a number of knife-carrying interlopers and confiscated their weapons after police failed to act. They also observed a member of the police detective squad dressed in plain clothes who was interacting with the thugs. Later in the year a man was disarmed after brandishing a handgun at a protest.

Activists are increasingly concerned by the threat of violence and the probability of escalation. Not only do they have to contend with indiscriminate attacks by security forces, raids on protests, sit-ins and university campuses, there are known villains stalking them at every opportunity. At least one youth activist has received death threats in recent weeks. Despite these ongoing challenges, they remain committed to non-violent resistance.

Youth stabbed by unknown assailants at the start of 2 May 2012 protest march

Knives confiscated by M25Fev activists at 24 May 2011 protest

Plain clothed police detective observed organizing thugs at 24 May 2011 protest