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.
The master who raped Moulkheir to produce the child wanted to punish his slave. He told her she would work faster without the child on her back.
Trying to pull herself together, Moulkheir asked if she could take a break to give her daughter a proper burial. Her master’s reply: Get back to work.
“Her soul is a dog’s soul,” she recalls him saying.
Moulkheir, who is in her 40s, told her story to CNN in December, when a reporter and videographer visited Mauritania - a vast, bone-dry nation on the western fringe of the Sahara - to investigate slavery in the place where the practice is arguably more common, more readily accepted and more
intractable than anywhere else on Earth.
Listening to her story, two facts became painfully clear: In Mauritania, the shackles of slavery are mental as well as physical.
And breaking them - an unthinkably long process - requires unlikely allies.