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The New Arab

Mauritania bans 'slave' youth football team from travel

The Haratine people are still considered a slave caste in Mauritania [File Photo:Getty]

Date of publication: 10 February, 2016

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Say no to racism in football? Tell that to Mauritania which recently banned a school football team from travelling abroad because the young players belong to a 'slave caste'.
Human rights groups in Mauritania have condemned the government for recently preventing a youth football team from travelling to take part in a tournament abroad because the players are "slaves", The New Arab's Arabic service has reported.

The Mauritanian Observatory for Human Rights [MOHR] on Tuesday called on the government to open an investigation into the case and hold officials responsible for the institutionalised racism.

The Nussaiba School football team was recently stopped from travelling to Qatar to compete in the Jeem Cup being held in Doha because, according to authorities, the children "do not represent Mauritania's diversity".

Protesters held a demonstration in front of the ministry of education on Monday in the Mauritanian capital Nouakchott against the youth team's treatment.

Police attacked the protesters and arrested 19, according to local media.

The MOHR condemned the police's actions as "violent oppression" and a "flagrant violation" of human rights.

Slavery and racism are deeply rooted in Mauritania's caste-based society. It was the last country in the world to abolish slavery, in 1981.

     
      Police attacked protesters on Monday [Facebook]
The Haratine people, one of Mauritania's largest ethnic groups, are still considered a slave caste in many parts of the country, with human rights campaigners estimating that four percent of the population live in conditions of domestic or agricultural slavery.

The Walk Free Foundation, an Australian NGO that produces an annual global slavery index, estimates there are up to 156,000 people in Mauritania still trapped in caste-based slavery.

Mauritania social media users launched the Arabic-language hashtag #TheyWontChangeTheirSkinColour in protest of the footballers being kept from playing in the tournament of youth teams from around the Arab world.

"Is there anything more blatantly racist than the ministry's explanation? 'The team does not represent Mauritania's diversity'," said Hocein Sidi.

Ahmed Haymoudane tweeted: "Excluding the students, who have rightfully won, beating all the competition and displaying their abilities, is a really cheap thing to do."

Yahya Sghair summed up the situation: "The reason they have been prevented from going because they are black Haratines."

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