On August 7, the Islamic Republic of Mauritania arrested Biram Dah Abeid, the founding head of the Initiative for the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement (IRA), a human rights organization dedicated to eradicating slavery in the west African nation. Abeid described the police waking him in his home in the capital city of Nouakchott, and taking him into custody without charges.
Abeid and those petitioning for his release have good reason to suspect that his arrest – one of many over the past few years — is related not only to his persistent anti-slavery activism and critique of Islamic texts, but to the fact that he is running for a seat in parliament in the legislative elections slated for September 1.
Abeid, a member of the Haratin, Mauritania’s largest minority group, established the IRA in 2008, the year in which Mauritania’s first democratically elected president, Sidi Mohamed Ould Cheikh Abdallahi, was ousted in a coup led by General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, who has been in power ever since. Abeid has been described as a “thorn in the side” of Aziz, particularly when he challenged Aziz in the 2014 presidential election, and came in a “distant second.”