March 23rd, 2012
04:08 AM ET

Undercover filmmaker: Trafficker priced me up

By Mimi Chakarova, Special to CNN

For the past decade, photographer-filmmaker Mimi Chakarova has examined conflict, corruption and the sex trade. Her film "The Price of Sex," a feature-length documentary made over seven years on trafficking and corruption, premiered in 2011. She was awarded the Nestor Almendros Award for courage in filmmaking at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival in New York. It will air in the U.S. on The Documentary Channel on April 11 at 4.30p0.m. ET

She was wearing a polka dot skirt and her favorite pink flip-flops the day she left her village in Albania. Her mom called out her name before she got into her boyfriend's red Mitsubishi. She didn't turn to wave goodbye. She was 12 and angry. FULL POST

March 22nd, 2012
10:08 AM ET
Slavery's last stronghold
March 17th, 2012
10:52 PM ET

Slavery's last stronghold

Moulkheir Mint Yarba returned from a day of tending her master’s goats out on the Sahara Desert to find something unimaginable: Her baby girl, barely old enough to crawl, had been left outdoors to die.

The usually stoic mother wept when she saw her child’s lifeless face, eyes open and covered in ants, resting in the orange sands of the Mauritanian desert. FULL POST

How to help end slavery in Mauritania
March 17th, 2012
10:15 PM ET

How to help end slavery in Mauritania

By John D. Sutter, CNN

(CNN) - After reading CNN’s special report on Mauritania, “Slavery’s Last Stronghold,” it may seem like little can be done to end slavery in this West African country, where an estimated 10% to 20% of people are enslaved.

That’s far from true, however. You can be part of the solution. Here’s how:

Donate to a worthy cause

Anti-Slavery International has set up a special donations page for a training center for escaped slaves in Mauritania’s capital, which is run by SOS Slaves. The school, which is featured in the CNN project, teaches about 30 women to sew, cook, braid hair and dye fabric. The hope is that these escaped slaves and their children one day will open their own businesses. FULL POST

March 17th, 2012
10:03 PM ET

Send your messages of hope to a school for escaped slaves in Mauritania

In December, CNN visited a school for escaped slaves and their children in Mauritania, a West African country that was the last in the world to abolish slavery, and where an estimated 10% to 20% of people are still enslaved.

There, in a small, concrete building surrounded by dusty streets, 30 women who escaped slavery are learning new skills - sewing, cooking, hair braiding - that they plan to use to start small businesses.

iReport wants to show these women that the world supports them in their fight for freedom. What can you do? It's simple:

Share your message of hope and include the phrase "Nahana maakum," which means "We are with you" in Hassaniya, the language these women speak.

A selection of your video messages of hope will be shown in the school, and they may also appear on CNN. (Check out some of the submissions we've received so far in the compilation video above.)

Get started on your iReport!

[Update] Here are some of the submissions so far, coming from all around the world:

Hossain Riazati and his wife hold a Baha'i devotional gathering once a month at their home in Rancho Santa Margarita, California, for friends and neighbors of different races, religions and backgrounds. On Sunday, the group recorded a message of hope for the former slaves in Mauritania (“Nahana maakum, we are with you.”) He read the CNN piece about slavery in Mauritania on Sunday and was happy to see the Monday piece on “how you can help.” He says, “We all can take a part according to our capacity and resources in making a difference toward betterment of the world.”


FULL POST

Mauritanian minister responds to accusations that slavery is rampant
March 17th, 2012
09:38 PM ET

Mauritanian minister responds to accusations that slavery is rampant

Editor's note: Mauritania was the last country in the world to abolish slavery. This story is part of a CNN special report, “Slavery’s Last Stronghold.”

Human rights groups and a United Nations representative estimate 10% to 20% of Mauritanians live in slavery. CNN spoke with the West African country's minister of rural development, Brahim Ould M’Bareck Ould Med El Moctar, about slavery in the country. The following is an excerpt from that interview, in which the official denies slavery's continued existence:

I must tell you that in Mauritania, freedom is total: freedom of thought, equality - of all men and women of Mauritania. Equality for all people. There is a phenomenon to which you are probably alluding, that has existed in Mauritania, that has existed in other countries, which is slavery. And it is abolished in all communities, and criminalized today by our government. Therefore, there is absolutely no more problem of that in Mauritania. In all cases, especially with this government, this is in the past.

There are probably former relationships - slavery relationships and familial relationships from old days and of the older generations, maybe, or descendants who wish to continue to be in relationships with descendants of their old masters, for familial reasons, or out of affinity, and maybe also for economic interests. But (slavery) is something that is totally finished. All people are free in Mauritania and this phenomenon no longer exists. And I believe that I can tell you that no one profits from this commerce.

The interview was translated from French.

U.S. ambassador to Mauritania: Slavery is 'completely unacceptable and abhorrent'
March 17th, 2012
09:36 PM ET

U.S. ambassador to Mauritania: Slavery is 'completely unacceptable and abhorrent'

Editor's note: Mauritania was the last country in the world to abolish slavery. This story is part of a CNN special report, “Slavery’s Last Stronghold.”

By John D. Sutter, CNN

(CNN) - Slavery in Mauritania has persisted for centuries - and it wasn't until 2007 that the West African country actually made the act of owning another human being and forcing him or her to work without pay a crime.

To date, only one person has been convicted on slavery charges in Mauritania - and some activists say little is being done to pressure the government to end slavery. In part, they say, that's because the United States has interests in working with the Mauritanian government to fight a branch of al Qaeda in the region. It might upset the balance of that agreement if the U.S. also urged Mauritania to tackle slavery. Two Mauritanian government ministers denied slavery exists in CNN interviews.

But CNN spoke recently with the U.S. Ambassador to Mauritania, who painted a different picture of the situation. FULL POST

March 17th, 2012
09:31 PM ET

EU: Mauritania must abolish slavery 'not only in law but in practice'

Editor's note: Mauritania was the last country in the world to abolish slavery. This story is part of a CNN special report, “Slavery’s Last Stronghold.”

The European Union issued the following statement to CNN concerning slavery in Mauritania:

Slavery unfortunately still goes on in Mauritania. Despite a gradual change of mentality and a public willingness by the government to tackle the problem, this practice, which was made officially illegal [several times], still exists and is relatively widespread in the country. We make the fight against slavery a top priority in our dialogue with the Mauritanian authorities. We also support civil society organizations which are key in the fight against slavery. The EU is providing financial support to several projects to support human rights organizations in their fight against slavery. We also support legal and administrative measures taken to combat this scourge. Such practices are clearly out of place in any democratic society and must be immediately abolished not only in law but in practice. Complementary socio-economic measures are also part of the solution.

UN: There is hope for Mauritania's slaves
March 17th, 2012
09:28 PM ET

UN: There is hope for Mauritania's slaves

By John D. Sutter, CNN

(CNN) - A quick glance at slavery stats makes the situation in Mauritania seem fairly hopeless: The West African nation was last in the world to abolish slavery; an estimated 10% to 20% of people live in some form of slavery today; and, while the government made slavery a crime in 2007, only one slave owner has been successfully prosecuted.

But ask Gulnara Shahinian, the United Nations' special rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, about her recent visits to the country and you see a picture that's hidden beneath those shocking statistics.

Shahinian says Mauritania could be nearing a turning point. It's clear what needs to be done to eradicate slavery in Mauritania, and government leaders finally are considering making some of the right decisions, she said.

"This country has opened its door" to discuss slavery with the UN, she said. "Why don’t we try to support them?" FULL POST

Why CNN reported 'Slavery's Last Stronghold'
March 17th, 2012
09:25 PM ET

Why CNN reported 'Slavery's Last Stronghold'


By John D. Sutter, CNN

(CNN) - On Sunday, CNN Digital released a special report called "Slavery's Last Stronghold." It focuses on current-day slavery in Mauritania, a West African country where an estimated 10% to 20% of people are enslaved. In 1981, Mauritania became the last country in the world to abolish slavery. It didn't make owning a person a crime until 2007.

Work on this story started 11 months ago, after we stumbled upon a few of those statistics. As part of  The CNN Freedom Project, a multi-year effort to report on modern slavery, we began talking with anti-slavery organizations and government workers who deal with Mauritania in hopes that we could get a sense of what life is like in this place where slavery is so shockingly common. Eventually we found SOS Slaves, an abolitionist group in Mauritania that was founded by a former slave owner and a man whose family was enslaved.

Think about that for a second: A slave and a slave owner came together to start an organization that is now trying to liberate people in a place where slavery is arguably more intractable and more common than anywhere else on Earth. It's such a powerful symbol of hope, cooperation and reconciliation. Of putting aside differences for the greater good.

We wanted to meet these men and tell their stories. FULL POST

March 17th, 2012
08:57 AM ET

Join the conversation: Slavery's last stronghold

[Updated 3:25 p.m. ET March 29] It's clear from the conversation that many are strongly affected by this story. "I get angry that anyone could treat others in the way that has been reported here," wrote one commenter. There were also questions on how to help. Here's a post with suggestions of where to send donations and how to get involved. CNN iReport is also collecting messages of hope for a school of escaped slaves in the Mauritanian capital, Nouakchott. Read more highlights of the conversation

[Original post] In "Slavery's Last Stronghold," CNN explores a woman's journey from slavery to freedom. Moulkheir Mint Yarba had been one of the estimated 10 to 20 percent of the 3.4 million people in slavery in the African country of Mauritania.

That's 340,000 to 680,000 people in modern-day slavery inside this one country.

If that's not unbelievable enough, consider that Mauritania was the last country in the world to abolish slavery - in 1981, nearly 120 years after Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in the United States. It wasn’t until 2007 that Mauritania passed a law that criminalized the act of owning another person.

And what's just as shocking as the statistics is the fact that Mauritania's slaves are not necessarily restrained physically, but instead are held in mental shackles. Many don't know what the concept of freedom is.

What do you think? Were you aware the problem still exists in the world today? Why do you think slavery continues in the 21st century? How would you try to explain the concept of freedom to someone who never knew it? Join the conversation below.

March 15th, 2012
04:43 PM ET

Human trafficking 'a national security issue,' Obama task force told

By Hyun Soo Suh, CNN

Washington (CNN) - Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and heads of various U.S. government departments made clear Thursday that preventing human trafficking is a priority of the Obama administration.

The 27 million men, women and children victims of human trafficking are an "affront to our most fundamental values," Clinton said at the annual meeting at the White House of the President's Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.

Clinton chaired the meeting of the task force, which is a Cabinet-level unit that coordinates federal efforts.

Those in attendance - including Attorney General Eric Holder, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper - highlighted recent successes and the new collaborative efforts to combat human trafficking around the world and on the domestic front.

"For us at the national security staff, this is a national security issue," said Deputy National Security Adviser Denis McDonough. "... Human trafficking is at the nexus of organized crime, is a source for funding for international terrorist groups, (and) is a source for funding for transnational terrorist groups. It fundamentally endangers international security."

FULL POST

Post by:
Topics: In The News • TIP Report • Uncategorized
« older posts