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February 12 2014

VIDEOS: Argentina's Melting Pot of Culinary Traditions

[All links lead to Spanish-language sites unless otherwise noted.]

The diverse migratory flows that have reached Argentina from the 1880′s and until now contributed to the richness and variety of the typical [en] cuisine in the country.

The various ‘ferias de colectividades’ (cultural fairs) that take place throughout Argentina are good illustrations of this. In these fairs we can witness not only a display of each community's traditions, folkloric dances, beauty pageants and souvenirs but also their traditional dishes. For instance, during the Fiesta de Colectividades in the city of Rosario that takes place every year, a varied menu is offered representing the multiple communities (Latin, European and Asian) that compose the Argentinian society. In this video, we can see how typical Paraguayan food is prepared and sold during that same fair in Rosario.


On Facebook, the page Encuentro Anual de Colectividades (Annual Gathering of Communities) shows some dishes that will be sold during the 2014 program in the city of Alta Gracia [es]. The city, located in the Córdoba province, is quite famous because it is where the revolutionary Che Guevara [en] lived for 12 years.

Imagen de la página de facebook Encuentro Anual de Colectividades

Photo posted on the Facebook Page of the Encuentro Anual de Colectividades event

Every September, the Misiones province [en] also celebrates its traditional Fiesta Nacional del Inmigrante (National Feast of the Immigrant). For the occasion, the Polish community, among other migrant groups, cooks Kursak Polski na Royezaj, better known as Polish chicken.

Ingredientes
1 pollo
1 cebolla grande
2 ajo puerro
1 morrón rojo mediano
1 morrón verde mediano
200 gramos crema de leche
200 gramos champiñones
sal y pimienta

Preparación de la salsa
Picar la cebolla bien fina, rehogar con una cucharada de aceite, agregar los morrones cortados en daditos, agregar el ajo puerro picado muy fino. Revolver muy bien, agregar crema de leche y los champignones.
Cocinar durante cinco minutos, agregar sal y pimienta a gusto.
Optativo nuez moscada.
Si queda muy espesa la salsa agregar leche para suavizar. Servir acompañado con pollo a la parrilla o al horno

Ingredients

1 Chicken

1 Large Onion

2 Leeks

1 Medium Red Pepper

1 Medium Green Pepper

200 g. Cream

200 g. Mushrooms

Salt and Pepper

Preparation of the sauce

Chop the onions very finely. Fry lightly with one tbsp of oil. Add the peppers after they've been diced followed by the leeks finely cut. Stir well. Add the cream and mushrooms.

Cook for 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. You can also add some nutmeg if you wish. If sauce gets too thick, add some milk. Serve with grilled or roast chicken.

In addition there are community-specific celebrations, such as the one by the Volga Germans [en], who settled mostly in the province of Entre Ríos. The Volga Germans lived in the region of southeastern European Russia, close to the Volga river [en]. They came to Argentina in 1878 and preserved their traditions as well as their language. Cuisine is naturally at the heart of these traditions. This video produced by the Asociación Argentina de Descendientes de Alemanes del Volga (Argentinian Association of the Volga Germans Descendants) demonstrates how to prepare a Kreppel:


There also many restaurants serving foreign food. The Croatian community in Argentina, for instance, keeps its culinary traditions with restaurants like Dobar Tek, offering a rich Croatian menu. This video shows the “art” of preparing an apple strudel.


The Armenian community is also quite influential in Argentina. Romina Boyadjian suggests the 5 best dishes in Armenian cuisine while pointing out that the Community in the diaspora has reinvented the typical dishes:

Algo curioso es que la comida armenia que se come en Argentina es muy distinta a la que se consume en Armenia. Esto tiene que ver con las reinvenciones que hacen los diferentes pueblos al partir de su tierra natal, las costumbres que traen consigo y lo que termina siendo valorado en la nueva comunidad. Hay comidas que acá se consideran típicas y que allá apenas se conocen.

It's quite intriguing that the Armenian cuisine we eat in Argentina is quite different from the one actually consumed in Armenia. This has to do with the reinventions done by the different populations based on their homeland, the traditions that they bring and what ends up being valued in the new community.  Some dishes are considered traditional yet they are barely known there (in Armenia).

One of the cities symbolizing the Jewish immigration to Argentina is Moisés Ville [en], established by the first immigrants who reached the country. On the YouTube account of the initiative Señal Santa Fe we can see the city and get to know how traditions are preserved through well-known dishes such as the strudel or the Knish [en] among others:


But which dish was quickly adopted by immigrants upon their arrival to the country? The asado [en] without any doubt, especially because the majority of the newcomers were peasants and meat was quite cheap. The Club Argentino de Asadores a la Estaca (Argetinian Club of Rotisseurs) has some photos for you to enjoy.

Asado a la Estaca - Imagen. Laura Schneider

Asado – Photo by Laura Schneider

February 06 2014

A Call for More Religious Tolerance in Mauritania

Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mohamed, a 28 year old blacksmith in Nouadhibou (a town 465 km north of Nouakchott, Mauritania), was charged with  apostasy by the penal court for questionning on online forum some of the decisions of the Prophet Muhammad regarding Djihad. Following the charges, Professor Mustapha Ely, author of a dozen books and an international consultant, came to the defense of the blacksmith on the blog kassataya [fr]:

Jusqu’où ira-t-on pour brandir l’Islam en toute occasion et détruire des vies. Sommes-nous devenus moins clément que le prophète Mohamed lui-même ? Pourquoi cet acharnement contre un individu qui veut dénoncer sa vile condition sociale ?
Une société qui entretient des castes et considère une partie de ses enfants comme des sous-hommes, a-t-elle d’ailleurs le droit de s’en offusquer ? Et si cela était ne devrait-elle pas prendre exemple sur son Prophète pour pardonner et conseiller pour remettre celui qui faute dans le droit chemin ?

How far do are we willing to go to wield Islam on any occasions and hence destroy lives of the common men. Have we become less tolerant than Prophet Muhammad himself? Why all this rage against an individual who just wants to denounce his harsh social condition ?
Can a society that maintains the cast system and considers some of its children as sub-human even take offense at such words? And if this society were indeed rightful offended, should it not follow the example of the Prophet and forgive the man, and guide him in order to not stray anymore ?

February 04 2014

Four Months in Jail and Counting for Algerian Blogger Who Criticized President

Algerian Abdelghani Aloui has been in jail since September 25, 2013. His crime? Sharing images on Facebook that are caricatures of Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika and Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal. 

Since his arrest, the 24-year-old blogger has been detained in Serkadji prison of Algiers, the capital city of Algeria, a prison known for hosting terrorists and criminals. A trial has yet to take place for Abdelghani Aloui.

caricature aloui boutef

“Blogs: No Mocking Allowed” says this poster. The poster shows Aloui on the right and one of the photo he posted on the left. The poster was originally published on the weekly online El Watan Weekend following the activist arrest then republished by the blog “Chouf el Djazair”- Posted with the permission of Chouf el Djazair's author.

 

Like many other young Algerians who make up the the majority of the Algerian society, Aloui believed or was made to believe that his country was different from Syria, Libya or other countries ruled by dictators. But after he exercised his right to express himself on social networks, he was arrested by Algerian police and was placed under custody warrant, a type of preventive detention that appears to have become indefinite in Aloui's case. Demands for his provisional release have been refused several times by the district attorney of Sidi M'hamed in Algiers, the latest being on October 9, 2013.

Aloui was first charged with insulting the president, and later a charge of glorifying terrorism was added on. In this French-language video, one the Aloui's lawyers explains that he believes his client is innocent of the charges against him.  The lawyer stated that he accepted to take his case because he believes Aloui is being harassed because of a political agenda and not because he broke any laws:

Many people, from activists to netizens, embraced Aloui's case and asked for his release. An online petition [fr] condemning the abuse of authority regarding his arrest was even created. The text of the petition read:

Ces graves dérives autoritaires qui portent atteinte aux acquis démocratiques des Algériens doivent sans cesse être dénoncées et combattues, afin que les citoyens algériens accèdent à une Algérie de droit, dans laquelle les libertés individuelles et collectives sont respectées

These dangerous authoritarian abuses that violate the democratic gains of all Algerians should always be denounced and fought so that Algerian citizens can fully live in an Algerian state where individual and collective freedoms are respected.

Philip Luther, the Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International, links this case to the upcoming elections in Algeria

The Algerian authorities appear to be trying to stifle criticism at a time of uncertainty ahead of presidential elections due next year.

Unfortunately, this public mobilization seems to be fading out. Many human rights activists in Algeria are afraid that Aloui's case will fade into oblivion. Indeed, the Algerian regime is orchestrating a campaign calling Aloui a dangerous terrorist supporting jihad, or the holy struggle against the enemies of Islam. To support this idea and assert Aloui's guilt, a video of him praising jihad was posted on YouTube:  

Amine Sidhoum, Aloui's laywer, immediately slammed the video as fake and denounced it as an alleged manipulation. The objective of the video, he said, is to discredit Aloui by portraying him as an Islamist. Sidhoum also raised doubts about the true identity of the user, who posted the video on Facebook under the name “Malik Liberter“, Aloui's nickname on YouTube. Sidhoum argues that someone used Aloui's Youtube nickname on Facebook to post videos that would implicate Aloui. Interviewed by Algerie Focus, Sidhoum noted:

On entend trois voix différentes sur cette vidéo et le décalage entre les lèvres d’Abdelghani et le son est flagrant. De plus, mon client a arrêté sa scolarité à la 9ème, à 15 ans, il ne maîtrise donc pas assez l’arabe classique pour tenir un tel discours sans note

We hear three different voices in this video and the mismatch between Abedelghani's lips and the actual sound is blatant. Moreover, my client stopped schooling at the age of 15. His command of classical Arabic is not good enough for him to hold such a speech without cue cards.

Algerian authorities are doing their best to make the public forget that Aloui was originally arrested for “insults against the President of the Republic”, which is far removed from conducting a terrorist act. To put things into historical perspective, in the 1990s Algeria suffered a violent civil war between Islamists and the state. Anyone contesting the legitimacy of the regime back then would automatically be labelled a ‘terrorist. 

After four months in jail, Aloui's future is gloomier than ever, especially if one considers that Article 87-bis of the Penal Code that deals with “the proponents of terrorism” remains quite vague and can often lead to dangerous interpretations. From Facebook to prison, the tragic fate of this Algerian cyber-activist proves that the so-called promise of ”democracy and freedom” waved by the Algerian regime might just be a front.  

August 10 2013

Mauritanian Blogger Babbah Weld Abidine Arrested

صورة للصحفي باباه ولد عابدين (من صفحته الشخصية على فيسبوك )

صورة للصحفي باباه ولد عابدين (من صفحته الشخصية على فيسبوك )

On August 7, Mauritanian authorities arrested [ar] Babbah Weld Abidine, a blogger (editor of Lebjawi News blog) [ar -fr] and  a correspondent in the Region of Tagant for the website “Reporters – Mourasiloun”. Two days before his arrest, Weld Abidine went to the Public Prosecution office to inquire about a rape case where there relatives of the victim accuse the authorities of closing the file and freeing the rapist. A warrant arrest was issued against him and he was taken to prison.

On his Facebook Page, journalist Sidi Mohammed Bellamech wonders

[ar]:

من يريد إسكات الصحفي الوحيد في ولاية تكانت، زميلنا المميز باباه ولد عابدين؟

Who wants to silence the only journalist in the region of Tagant, our distinguished colleague Babbag Weld Abidine ?

June 09 2013

Ahmed Jedou: Blogging for Change in Mauritania

He is the young activist son of an exiled activist, who had died leaving behind a widow and young children to continue the struggle after him. He is also prolific blogger. He has become the voice of his country on many platforms, including Global Voices in Arabic, Mideast Youth and Jadaliyya [ar], to name a few.

He also has his own blog [ar] and Twitter account, where he writes about his country Mauritania and its troubles. And his blog has been chosen by netizens as the best blog in Arabic for the Best of Blogs (BoBs) award, organised annually by the Deutsche Welle.

He is Ahmed Jedou from Mauritania and here's a discussion with him, a few days before the publication of the BoBs results.

Ahmed as a child. From the blogger's Facebook page

Ahmed as a child. From the blogger's Facebook page

Global Voices: Ahmed, can you please introduce yourself to our readers?

Ahmed Jedou: [ar]

أنا مدون وناشط موريتاني اكتب من اجل دولة مدنية ديمقراطية تقوم على المساواة والموطنة واحترام حقوق الإنسان
معارض للنظام العسكري  في بلدي واكره العنصرية والعبودية وكل أشكل استغلال الانسان لأخوه الانسان من مواليد مدينة بوتلميت التي تبعد عن العاصمة الموريتانية نواكشوط 150 كلم .

بدأت التدوين في عام 2006 من خلال منصة مكتوب من خلال مدونتي التي تحمل اسم (ياعرب)ثم انتقلت لاحقا إلى منصة البلوجر وذلك مع بداية الربيع العربي حيث فتحت مدونة تحمل إسمي .وقد قررت التدوين بعد أن  تخمرت في دهني  فكرة انه بالتدوين والكتابة وخلق ضجيج على الانترنت يمكنني ان أساهم في عملية التوعية في بلدي وأن أساعد في فضح النظام العسكري الذي يحكم موريتانيا مند 1978. كذلك لإعجابي بالحركة التدوينية المصرية  .لكن مع تفاعل رواد الانترنت من خارج موريتانيا  مع نشاطي التدوين بدأت طموحاتي تتوسع حيث اصبحت أسعى إلى التعريف ببلدي ونقل صوت شعبي إلى عالم أكبر .

I am a Mauritanian blogger and activist. I write for a civil and democratic state, established on the basis of equality, citizenship and respect for human rights. I am an opponent of the military regime in my country. I hate racism and slavery and all forms of exploitation of humans by their fellow brothers. I was born in the town of Boutilimit, around 150km South East of the capital Nouakchott.

I started blogging in 2006, through my Maktoob platform and my blog was entitled back then (ياعرب) meaning “Hey there Arabs”. I then moved to Blogger with the eruption of the Arab Spring. My blog simply held my name. The decision to blog came after I was convinced that by blogging and creating a buzz on the web, I can contribute to raising awareness in my country and help in unmasking the military regime ruling Mauritania since 1978. I was also influenced by the blogging movement in Egypt. But with the interaction of non-Mauritanian with my blog posts, my ambition started to grow and I strove to introduce my country and convey the voice of my people to a bigger world.

GV: How did you get to contribute to Global Voices?
Ahmed:

كان انضمامي للأصوات العالمية نقلت نوعية في مشواري التدويني وأظن انه كذلك في مشوار التدوين الموريتاني .فالأصوات العالمية ساعدتني في تحقيق أحد احلامي وهو التعريف بموريتانيا على الانترنت حيث اصبحت اكتب عن الاحداث الجارية في بلدي وأسوق ما يكتب المدونين الموريتانيين ليتم ترجمته إلى كل لغات العالم وهو ما جعل أصوات جديدة تتعرف على بلدي المجهول للعالم .كذلك ساعدتني في ربط علاقات مع نشطاء مهمين عبر العالم كان أغلبهم لا يعرف شيء عن موريتانيا وأصبحوا لديهم معلومات عنها وساعدوني في التعريف بها ونقل صوت شعبها المحتج إلى كل بقاع الأرض.

وهذا هو دور الأصوات العالمية وهو إعطاء الفرصة للشعوب التي تقع خارج نطاق التغطية من أجل أن تحكي قصصها وتتشارك مع العالم تجاربها ومعاناتها.

فقبل انضمامي للأصوات العالمية كان للاقتباسات التي يقوم ياخدها بعض كتابها من مدونتي دور مهم في الترويج لها حتى اخدتها الجزيرة الانجليزية مصدرا وكدالك ذكرتها الجار ديان ؟

Ahmed at the GV Summit in Nairobi, Kenya

Ahmed at the GV Summit in Nairobi, Kenya

Joining GV was a qualitative leap in my blogging path and I also reckon it is so for the Mauritanian blogging movement as well. GV has helped me in fulfilling one of my dreams, which is to introduce Mauritania globally on the web where I wrote on current affairs in my country and also promoted what other bloggers wrote. So through GV, their blogposts where translated into many languages, which made my unknown country known by new readers. GV also helped in getting me acquainted with renowned activists from all over the world. Most of them knew nothing of Mauritania and now they are informed about it. GV has helped me in conveying the voice of my country's protesting people to every corner in the world.

GV: What does blogging means to Ahmed ?

Ahmed:

التدوين بالنسبة هو الوسيط الذي أستطيع من خلاله ان انقل صوت الانسان الموريتاني إلى العالم واحكي قصة شعبنا وأودي دوري في مشروع التغيير في بلدي .وهو الهواية الأقرب إلى قلبي فقد اصبح جزء من وجداني ومن تفاصيل شخصيتي وحياتي وهو أفضل طريقة للنشر تلائم طريقة تفكيري فأنا ضد كل أنواع الرقابة .

Blogging for me is the medium through which I can convey the voice of the Mauritanians to the world and relate the history of my people and play my role in promoting the change project in my country. It is my most cherished hobby and it even became part of my conscience, and an integral part of my personality and my life. It is the best means, which suits my way of thinking because I am against all forms of censure.

GV: Aside from blogging, what are the other platforms on which you are active online?

Ahmed:

أنا أنشط على مواقع فيسبوك وتويتر وبنسبة أقل على جوجل + .

فالفيسبوك يساعدني في نشر ما اكتب على مدونتي الى جمهور أكبر خاصة الموريتانيين كذلك يساعدني أنا وبقية النشطاء المطالبين بالديمقراطية في الحشد لوقفاتنا الاحتجاجية التي ننظم فمن خلاله عبئنا لأول خروج للشباب الموريتاني للمطالبة بالدولة المدنية وذلك في 25 فبراير 2011 ومازلنا نحشد به . اما تويتر فيساعدني في نقل احتجاجاتنا إلى عالم أكبر وربط الصلات بنشاطاء من بقية البلدان .

I am quite active on Facebook and on a lesser degree on Google +. Facebook helps me in disseminating what I write and reaching to a bigger audience, especially among Mauritanians. It also helps me and other Mauritanians demanding Democracy, to mobilize for our protests, which we organize. Through Facebook, we mobilized for our first Mauritanian Youth Demonstration, demanding a civil state, on the 25th of February, 2011. We still resort to Facebook for that purpose. Twitter helps me in conveying our protests to a bigger number of people and to network with activists from other countries.

Ahmed at a protest in Nouakchott. From the blogger's Facebook page

Ahmed at a protest in Nouakchott. From the blogger's Facebook page

GV: How do the Mauritanian Authorities deal with bloggers and digital activists?

Ahmed:

يتعرض المدونون في موريتانيا وحتى الصحفيون لشتى انواع المضايقات فالشرطة حين تقمع المتظاهرات لا تفرق بين الصحفي والمدون والمحتج وتعتقل الجميع وتنكل به . صحيح أنه لا يوجد مدونون في السجون لكن كل حين يتم توقيف احدهم اثناء تغطيته لحدث ما .

لكن السلطات الموريتانية تحاول دائما قرصنة حسابات النشطاء وكذلك تتعمد إبطاء الانترنت في موريتانيا بحيث يصعب على الناشط تحميل الفيديوها او حتى ولوج مواقع التواصل الاجتماعي .

Bloggers in Mauritania and even journalists are subject to all kinds of harassment. When the police repress protests, they do not make the difference between a journalist, a blogger and protester and thus arrest everyone — and torture everyone. It is true that there are no bloggers in prisons but every now and then someone is arrested while covering a certain event. Moreover, Mauritanian authorities always try to hack activists’ accounts and resort to slowing the internet so that it is difficult for activists to upload videos or even access social networks.

GV: In that context, you have been arrested yourself a while ago. What can you tell us about this?

Ahmed:

انا سبق وتم توقفي مرتين أثناء الاحتجاجات التي ينظم الشباب الموريتاني والتي تعرف بانتفاضة 25 فبراير .فأول توقيف كان في 25 إبريل 2011 حيث كنت أصور قسم الشرطة بعد ان تم اعتقال مجموعة من النشطاء من أصدقائي والمرة الثانية كان يوم11 فبراير 2012 وذلك أثناء مسيرة تطالب برحيل النظام العسكري.لكن تم توقيفي مرة أخرى ولكن ليس في احتجاج ولا بسبب التدوين لكن في حظر تجول غير معلن وغير قانوني حيث رفضت الانصياع له وكتبت عنه على مدونتي وحاولت مع بعض النشطاء أن نخلق حالة من الرفض لحالة الطوارء التي تقوم بها السلطات في سرية وهو خرق للقانون.

I have already been arrested twice during protests held by Mauritanian youth, during what is known by 25 February Uprising. The first time was on the 25th of April, 2011, where I was photographing the police offices following the arrest of some of my activists friends. The second time was on the 11th of February, 2012, during a march calling for the end of the military regime. And the last time (on March 8, 2013) I was not arrested because of a protest or for a blog post but because I refused to yield to an unannounced and illegal curfew. I even blogged about it and attempted with some fellow bloggers to initiate a state of refusal for this emergency state enforced by the authorities.

GV: Even though you write mostly about Mauritanian affairs, we notice that from time to time you blog about other countries. Why is that?

Ahmed:

صحيح انني موريتاني واكتب غالبا عن واقع بلدي لكن في النهاية انا مواطن عالمي وإنسان يشعر بآلام الآخرين والظلم الذي يتعرضون له وتعجني نضالات كل الشعوب وتجعلني أتفاعل معها واكتب عنها . فأنا كل محتج في العالم يمثلني وكل طالب حق هو اخي وتوأم فكري.

فثورة البحرين ثورتي وكذاك ثورة مصر وتونس وليبيا وسوريا واليمن والمغرب وأنتظر بفارغ الصبر إنتفاضات في بقية بقاع الأرض الملطخة بالدكتاتورية والظلم واعتبر أن الكتابة عن الاخرين واجب فقيم الإنسانية تملي علي ذالك.فأنأ اعيش من اجل حرية الإنسان والفكر .

Though I am Mauritanian and I write mostly about my country, I am also I am a citizen of the world and human being who empathizes with the suffering and injustice incurred by others. I feel the struggle of other people and I interact with them and thus I write about them. Every protester in the world represents me and every right seeker is my brother and the twin of my intellect. The Bahraini revolution is my revolution, so are the ones in Egypt, Tunis, Libya, Syria, Yemen and Morocco and I am looking forward to uprisings in the rest of the countries tarnished by dictatorship and injustice and I consider that writing about others is a duty implied by the principles of humanity. I live for the freedom of the human being and of the freedom of the thought.

GV: Despite the low penetration rate in Mauritania, the country presence this year on the web is noticeable. The biggest proof is that you and and your fellow Mauritanian blogger Nasser Weddady have both been selected for this year's BoBs awards. Also, Weddady gave a speech in front of US President Barack Obama, representing the Muslim Community, following the Boston Marathon Bombings. How do you explain this?

Ahmed:

اعتقد ان ترشيحي انا لجوائز البوبز لهدا العام هو إفراز من إفرازات النشاط الذي بدأ به المدونين الموريتانيين على الانترنت وعملهم المكثف والمستمر ومحاولتهم التواصل ونقل أصواتهم للعالم رغم ضعف الوسائل وعدم انتشار الانترنت بالشكل المطلوب.كذلك ارى اني انضمامي للأصوات العالمية نقل مدونتي لعالم اوسع وعرف بها مجتمع أكبر وهو ما ساعد مدونتي في دخول المنافسة .أيضا كوني جزء من الحراك في موريتانيا والعالم العربي وأحد أصواته وأن مدونتي احدى منابره قد يكون عامل أخر.
اما بخصوص ناصر ودادي فهو شخص استثنائي في كل شيء فلغاته الخمس التي يتحدث وعلاقاته التي صنع طوال سنين ونشاطه المتميز على الشبكة ووقته وجهده الذي يبذل من اجل الدفاع عن الحريات والمظلومين. تجعل وقوفه امام اوباما والحديث باسم المسلمين في أمريكا وترشيحه للبوبز أمر طبيعي وغير مستغرب و ما وصل إليه هو مجهود فردي.فناصر معروف لدي الكثيرين من الذين لا يعرفون أين تقع موريتانيا ولا أي شعب يسكنها .

I think my selection for the BoBs this year is one of the results of the dynamic initiated by Mauritanian activists on the net and their extensive work and attempts to communicate and transmit their voice to the world despite the lack of means and the low internet penetration rates in my country. I also believe my contribution to Global Voices has transferred my blog to a wider world and made it known by more people, which helped in it being considered for the competition. Another factor could be the fact that I am part of the dynamics in Mauritania and in the Arab World and one of its voice and that my blog is one of this movement's platforms.

As for Nasser Weddady, he is an exceptional person who speaks five languages and who has built relations for years and has an exceptional activity on the net, where he spends lots of time, deploying great efforts to defend freedoms and oppressed people. All these elements made his speech in front of Obama and the fact he was representing Muslims something natural and not surprising. All this is the fruit of an individual effort. Nasser is known by many who ignore where Mauritania is even located and where its people live.

GV: Finally, let's suppose you're tweeting and so in just 140 characters you have to tell GV readers about your country, using the hash-tag #Mauritania. What would you say?

Ahmed:

#موريتانيا بلد غني بالموارد قليل السكان متعدد الأعراق.تجري فيه احداث صراع سرميدي بين المواطنبن الحالمين بالديمقراطية والنظام العسكري الفاسد!

#Mauritania a country rich in resources, multi-ethnic. An eternal conflict between the citizens dreaming of democracy and the rotten military regime is taking place.

All photographs in this post were taken from Ahmed's Facebook account and used with permission.

June 07 2013

Mauritania Faces Deadly Unprecedented Heatwave

More than two dozen people have died from heat stroke, dehydration or suspected heat-related conditions in Mauritania, which is witnessing scorching temperatures exceeding 50°C (122°F), for the first time in 50 years.

Medical sources and locals have reported deaths in various regions. On May 26, 2013 three people died in the Province of Hodh Ech Chargui (can be translated into Eastern Basin) in Timbedra due to high temperatures. Twelve others suffered a similar fate in Brakna Province. Two women also succumbed to dehydration the town of Boulahrath in the Region of Assaba. In  the town of Al Syasa, in Tagant, the local population talks about a mysterious disease – some sort of fever [ar] which had spread along with the heatwave, killing three people. Medical and health authorities, sent samples from the victims to the Mauritanian capital Nouakchott to determine the cause of death. By the time this post is online, the number of victims could have increased. In Boutlimit, 64km south east of Nouakchott, after nine people also died from that odd disease, primary schools directors decided to reduce the daily teaching hours so as to avoid exposing students to the scorching sun.

Another kind of wave is also sweeping the country: Complaints and protests across Mauritanian cities against the shortage of drinking water.

Lack of drinking water is causing widespread protests in Mauritania. Photograph from Dedda Ould Sheikh Ebrahim blog

Lack of drinking water is causing widespread protests in Mauritania. Photograph from Dedda Ould Cheikh Brahim blog. Used with permission.

Dedda Ould Cheikh Brahim blogs about this heatwave and about the reported death cases [ar]:

خلال يومين من الحر، خسرت بلادنا موريتانيا 17 شخصًا، بسبب الحرارة المرتفعة مات 12 منهم في ولاية لبراكنة وسيدتين في قرية بولحراث التابعة لولاية لعصابة. و3 أشخاص في قرية تسمى السياسة تتبع لولاية تكانت.

هذه الوفيات خلفت هلعا بين السكان المحليين، الذين ربطوا بين هذه الوفيات وموجة الحر التي تضرب المنطقة التي وصلت فيها درجات الحرارة إلى مستويات قياسية، تجاوزت حاجز الخمسين درجة مئوية، وهو أعلى مستوى تصله درجات الحرارة في موريتانيا خلال الخمسين سنة الماضية.

During two days of intense heat, our country Mauritania lost 17 people. Because of the heatwave, 12 died in the Brakna Province and two women in the Town of Boulahrath affiliated to the Assaba province, not to mention three from Al Syasa town in Tagant province.

These deaths instilled panic among the population who linked them with the heatwave hitting the region with temperatures reaching records and exceeding the threshold of 50°C. This is the highest level reached in Mauritania in the past 50 years.

Meanwhile, Alegcom blog cites an official source, attributing the causes of the deaths to Meningitis:

تربط الأوساط المحلية هذه الوفيات بموجة الحر التي تضرب المنطقة، التي وصلت فيها درجات الحرارة إلى مستويات قياسية، تجاوزت حاجز الخمسين درجة مئوية، وهو أعلى مستوى تصله درجات الحرارة في موريتانيا خلال الخمسين سنة الماضية.

Local experts tie these deaths with the heatwave hitting the region with temperatures reaching record numbers, exceeding 50° C which is the highest temperature on record in Mauritania during the past 50 years.

kankossainfo also spoke about how meningitis caused victims in Assaba province:

علمت كنكوصه إنفو من مصادر طبية متطابقة أن 14 شخصًا توفي حتي الآن في ولاية “لعصابة” جراء الإصابة بمرض التهاب السحايا المعروف محليا ببورويص الذي سُجلت منه حتى كتابة السطورر 34 حالة لدي الجهات الصحية  تماثلت منها 18 للشفاء ولا يزال اثنان رهن الحجز الطبي في مستشفي كيفة يتلقون العلاج، وبين مجموع الحالات 3 من كنكوصه توفيت منها حالة واحدة في مستوصف كنكوصه وهي طفلة من منطقة (وسط المدينة) فجر السبت 5 من مايو/ أيار وهي آخر حالة تُسجل في المقاطعة إلي الآن.

Kankossain Info knew from medical sources that 14 persons died so far in Assaba province because of Meningitis known locally by “Bibourouis”. So far, and at the time of writing these lines, 34 cases were registered by the Health Authorities, 18 of whom healed and two are still under quarantine at Kifa Hospital for treatment. And out of the three cases in Kankossa, one passed away at Kankossa clinic. The victim, a 5-year-old child died in the early hours of May 5 and this is the last case to be reported so far.

Activist and journalist Djibril Diallo resorts to sarcasm when describing the situation:

العطش يحصد أرواح المواطنين في بلد يقول ولد عبد العزيز إن خزائنه مليئة بفائض من العملات الصعبة. الخزينة العامة ليست جعبة جنرال.

Thirst is claiming the lives of citizens in a country which treasury boasts a surplus of hard currencies says Ould Abdelaziz. The Public Treasury is not a general's pocket.

Mohammed Val Ould Cheik also describes the suffering of the Mauritanians:

حالات الوفاة جراء موجة الحر الحالية حصدت 12 شخصا حتي الآن في ولاية لبراكنة وحدها وخمسة قري في لبراكنه تتظاهر عطشا، وخمسة وعشرون قرية أخري يمنعها العطش والحر من التظاهر!!! لك الله من مفجوعة يالبراكنة!!!

Death cases due to the current heatwave killed 12 people so far in Brakna region alone. Five towns in that province are protesting because of thirst while 25 other villages are unable to do so because of the thirst and heat precisely. Oh Brakna, May God be with you in your affliction !!!

Mauritanian doctor Moktar Ould Weddih casts doubts on his Facebook about the real reason behind deaths. According to him it is not the heatwave but a pandemic disease:

منذ ايام وحالات وفاة غامضة تظهر هنا وهناك في البدء صرّح مسئولو وزارة الصحة أن السبب هو التعرض لأشعة الشمس الحارقة وهو الأمر المعروف طبيا بضربة شمس!!!

لكن حالات الوفيات ازدادت وظهرت أمور جديدة تدل على أن السبب ليس ضربة شمس وإنما هو وباء ينتشر بين الناس، ومن الغريب أن المسئولين بدلا من الاضطلاع بمهامهم في البحث والاستنتاج وتوجيه الموارد اللازمة والاستعانة بخبراء في مجال الأوبئة مازالو متمسكين بنفس النظرية!!!

لذا أطالب بأن يعرض أصحاب هذه النظرية السخيفة إلى أشعة الشمس الحارقة هذه الأيام لكي يدركوا جيدا ما هي أعراض ضربة الشمس!!!

Mysterious death cases have been showing here and there for days. In the beginning, officials at the Ministry of Health stated that the reason is exposure to the burning sun rays. Which is medically known as heat stroke.
But deaths increased and new elements appeared showing that the reason is not heat stroke but an epidemic spreading among people. What is rather odd about that is that officials instead of carrying out their tasks in looking, analyzing, deducing and allocating the necessary resources and resorting to experts in epidemiology are still holding on to the same theory.!!!
That's why I demand to expose those who profess that silly theory to scorching sun rays these days so they truly realize what are the symptoms of heat stroke!!!

May 31 2013

Mauritania: Protests in Nouakchott Harbour

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Protesters holding tear gas used by the authorities against them. Photo by activist Abdel Fetah Ould Habib on his Facebook page.

(more…)

May 30 2013

May 20 2013

Mauritania Through a Portuguese Artist's Eyes

Portuguese artist Isabel Fiadeiro (@Isabelfiadeiro) lives in Nouakchott, Mauritania, where she paints and runs an art gallery. Fiadeiro also sketches from observation, filling her blog Sketching in Mauritania with images of daily life in the West African nation.

Global Voices spoke to Fiadeiro about her art and how sketching has helped her get to know Mauritania.

Global Voices (GV): Where are you from originally? How long have you lived in Mauritania and what took you there in the first place?

Isabel Fiadeiro (IF): My father is Portuguese and my mother Spanish. I grew up in Portugal and I feel Portuguese. I also lived in England for almost 15 years (on and off). Actually I left London in March 2003 to go back and settle in Portugal; I had finished a BA in Fine Arts at the Wimbledon School of Arts in 2000, and I stopped painting for the next three years, so I decided it was time to go.

In November 2003, a Portuguese friend and I decided to travel to Guinea-Bissau in a Renault 4L. The car broke down in the Parc National du Banc d'Arguin on the Mauritanian coast. My friend stayed in Nouakchott and I went off with a group of French people to discover the Adrar Region.

We went on off-road tracks and through the desert stopping occasionally in small villages to buy bread or repair the tyres. I had a sketch book with me and for the first time I started drawing from observation. It was this curiosity of knowing more about the people that lived in the middle of these vast empty spaces that made me come back in January 2004, and in September 2004 I moved to Nouakchott and I'm still here.

Diallo and Mamadou, tailors in Nouakchott. Sketch by Isabel Fiadeiro.

Diallo and Mamadou, tailors in Nouakchott. Sketch by Isabel Fiadeiro.

GV: How does sketching help you understand a place?

IF: Drawing and the observation that comes with it makes you see the world in a different way. You slow down, you look and you discover things. For me this act of drawing is also a sort of memory and questioning.

People around you come to see what you're doing so it works in two ways. You're recording what attracted your attention, but by your action communication becomes possible, even if you don't speak the language.

Police at demonstration, Nouakchott. Sketch by Isabel Fiadeiro.

Police at demonstration, Nouakchott. Sketch by Isabel Fiadeiro.

For years I would go to a remote village for a month and stay with a local family, drawing their daily life. I did that in two fishing villages in the Banc d'Arguin but also in Oualata, Goungel and Ouadane. My last long stay was in Tindouf in the Western Sahara refugee camps where I went to sketch the women and their work in the camps. All those people became friends and we still exchange mails and phone calls and meet if they happen to come to Nouakchott.

Also in each area I discovered a new vocabulary to do with the sea or the land and the cattle or the revolution.

Griots at the Fondation Malouma. Sketch by Isabel Fiadeiro.

Griots at the Fondation Malouma. Sketch by Isabel Fiadeiro.

GV: You are also a member of the online community Urban Sketchers. Can you tell us about them?

IF: Urban Sketchers is a non-profitmaking, international organisation, dedicated to fostering the art of on-location drawing and painting. I am one of 100 correspondents invited from around the globe. Our aim is to inspire others to sketch daily, this way improving their skills and observation capacities.

I discovered them in 2008, and it was a great discovery because until then I was isolated, and finding this community suddenly made me want to sketch more and better. The founder of Urban Sketchers, Gabi Campanario, uses sketches as a reportage tool; his work is published in the Seattle Times. This way of using sketches made a strong impression on me.

Discussing The Great Gatsby at a reading club. Sketch by Isabel Fiadeiro.

Discussing The Great Gatsby at a reading club. Sketch by Isabel Fiadeiro.

I have participated in a number of Urban Sketchers symposiums. The next one is in Barcelona. We now have another correspondent from Mauritania, Oumar Ball, who started sketching from observation a few years ago and publishes his work on Flickr. Later this year I would like to hold some talks and workshops to encourage more people in Mauritania to sketch from observation. Citymag, a free magazine distributed monthly in Nouakchott has started to publish my drawings. Maybe that will inspire more people to pick up a pen or pencil and start sketching.

March 10 2013

The State of Torture in the World in 2013

On January 23, 2013, an excerpt from the annual report of l'ACAT-France, A World of Torture 2013, makes a fresh assessment of the state of torture in the world [fr]:

“A report called A World of Torture in 2013, assesses torture practices that continue to be alarming, from Pakistan to Italy, by way of South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Australia and Bolivia. From authoritarian regimes to democratic countries, none are exempt from criticism on the topic. In 2013, torture remains as endemic, omnipresent and multi-faceted as ever”.

March 04 2013

The Conflict in Mali: Who is Fighting Whom, and Why?

Since the bloody conflict in Mali began one year ago, the crisis has evolved in fits and starts, all the while immersed in a historical framework that the mainstream media too often oversimplifies. Here we will try to unpack the complexities of the conflict by putting into context the violent fighting currently engulfing the northern African country.

The conflict in the north of Mali pits the Malian army and its allies against many rebels groups fighting for greater autonomy or independence in the region. These groups include Islamist groups such as Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Mahgreb, the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in Western Africa, and Ansar Dine, and Tuareg nomads who belong to the political and military Azawad National Liberation Movement.

Let's try to look at what the real causes of the war in Mali are [fr]:

Tout était en place pour que le Mali s’effondre et que le Sahel explose. Affaibli par les politiques d’austérité du FMI, longtemps paralysé par la Françafrique, victime du réchauffement climatique et de multiples sécheresses, le Mali est devenu l’une des pièces centrales du nouveau grand jeu sahélien. Revendication touarègue, djihadistes enrichis par le narcotrafic, déstabilisation libyenne et ambiguïtés algériennes, financements occultes saoudiens, stratégie à court terme des États-Unis et de l’Union européenne… Voici toutes les raisons de la guerre.

Everything was ripe for Mali to collapse and for Sahel to explode. Weakened by austerity policies that had been imposed by the IMF [fr], paralyzed for so long by the policies of Françafrique, and a victim of global warming [fr] and multiple droughts [fr], Mali became one of the key players in the great new Sahelian game. The Tuareg demands; the Jihadis who had become powerful from drug trafficking; the destabilization of Libya and the uncertainty in Algeria; hidden investments from Saudi Arabia; short-sighted strategies of the United States and Europe… These are all the reasons for the war.

Timbuktu residents protest against extremism on Wikpedia CC-License

Timbuktu residents protest against extremism on Wikipedia CC-License-2.0

How did modern Mali come to be? Mouhamadou el Hady Ba and Pierre Amath Mbaye in their work “The Malian crisis and lessons for Senegal” [fr] explain how Mali emerged from the post-colonial failure of a federation in the region [fr]:

Conscients des risques liés à une fragmentation de la région et suivant leur idéal panafricaniste, Léopold Sédar Senghor, Mamadou Dia, Modibo Keïta et d’autres dirigeants avaient pourtant formé l’idée de reprendre l’ensemble constitué par l’administration coloniale, l’Afrique Occidentale Française, en le portant vers l’indépendance sous la forme d’une fédération. … l’opposition marquée des autorités françaises de l’époque associée à celle de Félix Houphouët Boigny futur Chef de l’Etat ivoirien, réduiront cette fédération à un face à face entre le Soudan français (aujourd’hui Mali)  et le Sénégal, au sein de la Fédération du Mali . Cette tentative échouera sur fond d’options politiques différentes et de compétition pour le pouvoir, avec, en arrière-plan, l’engagement du Mali aux côtés des partisans algériens, lors de leur guerre d’indépendance. Le 20 aout 1960, voit donc s’éteindre avec la dissolution de la Fédération du Mali …

Keenly aware of the risks tied to a fragmented region, and following their Pan-African ideals, Léopold Sédar Senghor, Mamadou Dia, Modibo Keïta and other leaders still had the idea to carry on with the group that had made up the colonial administration known as l’Afrique Occidentale Française, by pushing for independence as a federation. …However, there was strong opposition from the French authorities, which at the time were linked to Félix Houphouët Boigny — an eventual Head of State of Côte d'Ivoire. This gave rise to a power struggle between French Sudan (today Mali) and Senegal, within the Mali Federation. This attempt at federation would eventually fail based on various political options and power struggles, while the Malian engagement in support of Algerian independence played out in the background. August 20, 1960, ends with the dissolution of the Federation of Mali…

Eros Sana on bastamag.net continues in his article, Mali : les véritables causes de la guerre (Mali: the Real Causes of the War [fr]) describing how Mali then experienced a brief window of socialism before a military coup brought a dictator to power:

Nous sommes en 1960, le Mali accède à l’indépendance. Le premier président malien, Modibo Keïta, instituteur et panafricaniste, élu démocratiquement, a à peine le temps d’entamer une profonde réforme agraire avant d’être renversé en 1968 lors d’un coup d’état mené par Moussa Traoré, soutenu par la France. [Les vingt-trois ans de règne seront sanglants]. Moussa Traoré ne se contente pas d’appauvrir et d’affamer son peuple, il mène aussi une forte répression contre la minorité Touareg du Mali. Les Touaregs représentent environ 2 % de la population malienne. Ils sont également présents au Niger, au Burkina-Faso, en Mauritanie, en Libye et en Algérie.

We are in 1960, Mali is gaining independence. The first president of Mali, Modibo Keïta, teacher and Pan-Africanist, democratically elected, barely has time to begin sweeping agricultural reforms before being overthrown in 1968 during a France-backed coup d’état orchestrated by Moussa Traoré. (The 23 years of rule that followed would be bloody). Moussa Traoré was not happy with simply impoverishing and starving his people, he also carried out powerful repressive measures against the Tuareg minority group in Mali. The Tuaregs represented about 2 percent of the Malian population. They are also present in Niger, Burkina-Faso, Mauritania, Libya and in Algeria.

Mouhamadou el Hady Ba and Pierre Amath Mbaye add another important factor to the equation: the rise of drug trafficking [fr]:

L’Afrique de l’ouest est ainsi devenue un espace stratégique de négoce des stupéfiants, à la suite du renforcement de la répression aux Etats-Unis et au Canada. Cette situation va amener les narcotrafiquants à se redéployer vers l’Europe en trouvant de nouvelles routes, et à exploiter le potentiel de corruptibilité de l’Administration des Etats de la région pour assurer leur tranquillité. En 2009, la drogue était expédiée de Colombie, du Venezuela et du Brésil, et arrivait par les ports de Guinée Bissau et du Cap-Vert au Nord, et ceux du Ghana au Sud. Les cargaisons étaient ensuite réparties entre le Nigéria, la Guinée, le Sénégal, la Mauritanie, puis, remontaient vers le Maroc et l’Algérie. En novembre de la même année, le monde entier découvrait l’atterrissage clandestin dans le nord du Mali d’un triréacteur Boeing 727 chargé de cocaïne, l’évènement donnant lieu à une affaire popularisée sous le nom d’Air Cocaïne, avec des ramifications en Amérique du sud et en Europe. Un symbole stupéfiant d’insertion de l’Afrique dans l’économie mondialisée, pourrait-on dire avec malice, si la situation n’était à ce point inquiétante.

And so, West Africa became a strategic point for the drug trade, following heightened efforts to snuff it out in the US and Canada. This situation would eventually cause drug traffickers to focus their efforts more on Europe by finding new routes, and to exploit the state administrations of the region that were susceptible to corruption, in exchange for guaranteeing peace. In 2009, drugs were exported from Colombia, Venezuela, and Brasil, and arrived at ports in Guinea-Bissau and Cape-Verde in the north, and at those of Ghana in the south. The cargo was then split up between Nigeria, Guinea, Senegal, Mauritania, and reassembled once again near Morocco and Algeria. In November of the same year, the entire world would come to know of the clandestine landing of a three-engine Boeing 727 loaded with cocaine. The event gave rise to a scandal popularly known as Air Cocaine, which had repercussions in South America and Europe. A confounding symbol of Africa's insertion in the world economy, one may say mischievously, if the situation had not been so perplexing.

With respect to Saudi influence, Sahel expert Maurice Freund explained in an interview on website Afrik.com that Islamic extremism began to take root more than two decades ago when Saudi-financed organizations helped Malian people where their government failed them. “It's too late for Mali, we should have acted 20 years ago!” he said:

Il y a déjà plus de 20 ans, je rencontrais des Pakistanais et des Soudanais financés par les Saoudiens qui prêchaient le wahhabisme sous forme d’organisation humanitaire, en effectuant la construction de puits, de mosquées. Ils comblaient les carences des autorités dans le domaine social. D’où la prolifération des djihadistes. Le développement du wahhabisme dans le nord-Mali a commencé il y a déjà 25 ans.

More than 20 years ago now, I met Pakistanis and Sudanese people financed by Saudis. They preached [ultra-conservative branch of Sunni Islam] Wahhabism through humanitarian organizations by building wells and mosques. They made up for the shortcomings of the authorities on the social level. Hence the proliferation of the Jihadist movement. Wahabbism in the north of Mali began 25 years ago.

While trying to trace the genesis of the Djihadi movement in Sahel,  Abou Djaffar explains on his blog that:

En 1996, pourtant, il ne s’agissait même pas d’un front secondaire, mais simplement de l’arrière-cour de la guerre civile algérienne.

In 1996, however, it wasn't even a question of a being secondary front in the Algerian civil war, but it was in fact the Algerian civil war that just extended in the backyard.

Repercussions [fr] of the overthrow of Muammar Kadhafi, who supplied Mali with large amounts of funding, during the Libyan Civil War in 2011 added to the volatile situation brewing in Mali, Eros Sana writes:

En plus d’investissements lourds, Kadhafi multiplie les financements à petite échelle : écoles, dispensaires ou routes dans l’ensemble du Mali. Lorsque Kadhafi et son régime disparaissent, ce sont d’un côté de très nombreuses armes et des centaines d’hommes aguerris qui s’exilent dans le Sahel ; et de l’autre, des flux de plusieurs centaines de milliers d’euros qui se tarissent. Pour un pays dont plus de la moitié de la population vit avec moins d’un dollar par jour, c’est une importante manne qui s’envole. Après avoir appuyé militairement le renversement du régime libyen, les puissances de l’Otan auraient dû prévoir ce vide causé par la chute du colonel et le combler. Cela n’a pas été fait.

Aside from large investments, Kadhafi increased financing on the smaller scale: schools, health centers, roads throughout all of Mali. When Kadhafi and his regime disappeared, there was, on one side a large number of weapons, and hundreds of hardened men who were exiled in the Sahel region; and on the other side the evaporation of several hundred thousands of euros that had once flowed in. For a country where half of the population lives on less than one dollar a day, it is an important source of bread and butter that disappears. After having lent military support to the overthrow of the Libyan regime the NATO forces should have foreseen this vacuum that was was caused by the fall of the Colonel and worked to address it. That was not done.

Twitter user @Abdou_diarra foresaw on his blog the creation of new regions [fr] in northern Mali prior to the military coup that would overthrow President Amadou Toumani Touré in March 2012:

Blogger ASKIAMOHAMED writes about the Tuareg [fr] and their demands::

Elle commence le 17 janvier 2012 soit 2 mois avant le coup de force à Bamako, les rebelles attaquent Menaka, Tessalit et Aguel’hoc avant d’y être chassés par l’armée malienne.
Un véritable jeu de chaises musicales a lieu durant près de un mois dans les villes à la frontière algérienne entre l’armée, le Mouvement national de libération de l’Azawad (MNLA) ainsi que le groupe Ansar Dine et leurs alliés d’ al Qaida au Maghreb islamique.

Le massacre de militaires maliens par les rebelles et leurs alliés à Aguel’hoc, à l’arme blanche va profondément choquer le peuple malien et mettre à jour les failles de l’armée et l’animosité de cette rébellion.

Début avril le coup d’état consommé le MNLA et leurs alliés islamistes contrôlent les deux tiers du Mali, l’armée malienne désorganisée par le coup ayant déserté.

En effet le coup d’état a désorganisé la chaine de commandement de l’armée et a mis à jour la fragilité de cette dernière et a donc conduit à cette débandade ou « retrait stratégique ».

Le MNLA proclame l’indépendance de cette zone le 6 avril 2012 car elle considère que c’est le berceau de la civilisation touareg, un fait inédit dans l’histoire car aucun peuple nomade ne s’est jamais réclamé d’un territoire avec des frontières bien dessinées.

De plus historiquement sur cette terre il y avait l’empire Songhaï fondé à Koukia au 7ieme siècle, par les Sonrhaïs, et les Berbères et dirigés par le chef Za el-Ayamen, qui fuyaient devant l’invasion arabe.

Ce métissage entre Sonrhaïs et Berbères donnera la dynastie des Dia. Puis vint la dynastie de Sonni ali ber et des Askia avec Gao pur capitale, avant de sombrer au 16ieme siecle sous l’invasion marocaine. Il y a également eu l’empire peul du Macina et l’empire toucouleur au 19ieme siècle. De plus de nombreuses tribus, Bozos (pécheurs) et dogons peuplaient cette zone.

Donc il n’y a aucune légitimité historique à cette demande.

It begins on the January 17, 2012, about two months before the showing of force at Bamako, the rebels attack Menaka, Tessalit, and Aguel’hoc before being driven out by the Malian Army.

A bonafide game of musical chairs takes place for almost one month in the towns on the Algerian border between the army, the National Azawad Liberation Movement (MNLA) as well as the group Ansar Dine and their Al-Qaeda allies from the Islamic Maghreb.

The massacre at knifepoint of Malian soldiers by Malian rebels and their allies at Aguel’hoc, severely shocks the Malian people and bring to light the failings of the army and the bitterness of this rebellion.

At the start of April, the coup [against President Amandou Toumani Touré] already executed, the MNLA and their Islamic allies control two-thirds of Mali. The Malian army, having been taken by the surprise by the coup, have deserted.

In fact, the coup ambushed the chain of command within the army and highlighted its vulnerability thereby driving this disbanding or “strategic withdrawal”.

The MNLA proclaims the independence of this zone on the April 6, 2012 because it believes that the region is the cradle of the Tuareg civilization, an unprecedented act because no nomadic people have ever claimed a territory with precisely defined borders.

Moreover, historically in this region there was the Songhai empire founded at Koukia in the 7th century by the Songhai and Berbers and led by chief Za el-Ayamen. They fled before the Arab invasion.

The mixing of Songhai and Berber people would eventually give rise to the Dia dynasty. After this came the Sonni Ali Ber dynasty and the Askia with Gao being the capital, before succumbing, in the 16th century to the Moroccan invasion. There was also the Massina Empire and the Toucouleur Empire of the 19th century. Not to mention various tribes, Bozos (a tribe of fishermen) and Dogons inhabited this zone. Therefore, there is no historical legitimacy to this demand.

It is in this context that France is intervening [fr] in its former colony to oust the Islamists, a move known as Operation Serval.

Though some think that France's intervention in Mali is driven purely by self interest, such as the author of this article entitled Nouvelles de la turbulence (News of the Unrest) [fr], such speculation [fr] should be treated with caution:

… il y aurait plus d’uranium au Mali qu’au Niger, et après avoir sécurisé les ressources libyennes (en excluant les émergents), les Français chercheraient à faire de même dans le Sahel. … qu’on ne fait pas de guerre pour des ressources qui ne sont encore que spéculatives, puisqu’on n’en connaît pas la quantité réelle et qu’on n’en voit pas encore la couleur. Arguments assez naïfs mais peut-être corrects pour le cas d’espèce.

Supposedly, there could be be more uranium in Mali than in Niger, and after having secured the Libyan resources (not counting those currently being currently explored), the French would be seeking to do the same thing in the Sahel region. …We wouldn't go to war for “potential” resources unless we knew the real quantity and quality of these resources. The resource-speculating arguments might be naive at first but perhaps not entirely off-base in this case.

Wirriyamu responds in this article Ne pas laisser dire (3) [fr] (Do not let it be said):

Je suis convaincu désormais que certains trouvent totalement anormal le soutien de l’opinion malienne, et au-delà africaine, à cette intervention. Ils mettent cette adhésion le plus souvent sur le dos de la naïveté ou de l’ignorance, c’est selon. Ce qui montre que beaucoup, trop nombreux à mon goût, pensent encore que les Africains n’ont pas leur place sur le chemin de l’histoire qui se fait sans eux, hors d’eux. Bref, ils subissent tout.

I am now convinced that some find the support of the Malian public, not to mention African support for this intervention, to be completely abnormal. They usually place the blame for this support squarely on the back of naivete or ignorance, as the case may be. This shows that many — too many for my taste — still think that Africans have had no active role in the course of history [fr]. It happens without them. In sum, they are victims.

February 20 2013

January 25 2013

Mauritania: A 700 km march

On Saturday, January 5 [ar], a group of illegal or “Journalia” (temporary or seasonal) workers, started a long march from the city of Zouerat in order to reach the Mauritanian capital Nouakchott. In total, these workers would have walked 700km in order to protest against the injustice they are being subjected to and the deceit of President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, who had promised to solve their problems and put and end to their suffering. These workers wanted to convey a message centered about the fact that journalia are persecuted in their own country and deprived from benefiting from any modest wage increment, in addition to being left as preys to a group of business tycoons who don't apply the laws.

According to activist Mohamed Salem Oul Kilani, the plan was to cross this distance within 22 days and thus reach the presidential palace. At the start of the march, many sympathizers bid good bye to the protesters, expressing their solidarity and warning the authorities from turning a deaf ear to their plight. Last year also witnessed a number of protests held in mining cities by those workers demanding the improvement of their dire conditions.

Photo by @mezid_cheikh on Twitter showing some of the participants in the march

This is not the first time that such an event takes place. Two similar marches took place last year, the first one being in March 2012, when a group of Mauritanian activists walked more then 470km to demand justice for their city, Nouadhibou, eventually reaching the presidential palace. The second was when Mouzarzra residents embarked on a 50km march demanding to put asphalt on the road between their town and the city of Tikend.

Ahmed Salem blogged about the march:

من هم هؤلاء ؟ إنهم الجرنالية كما يعرفون بالصطلح المحلي لدينا هنا في موريتانيا. ظل الجرنالية لعقود يعملون في مناجم الحديد عندما كنا نشاهدم ونحن صغار كنا نقول إنهم أبطال لأنهم يحملون الحديد لكننا وبعد أن كبرنا ومرت علي آذاننا قصصا عن المستعمر, أي مستعمر يضطهد سكان مستعمرته تذكرنا هؤلاء وتذكرنا حملهم للحديد والحجارة فهمناهم وفهمنا عملهم إنهم في مستعمرة نعم مستعمرة داخل دولة إستعمار العصر( تاشرون)مقاولة الباطن ذلك الوسيط الذي يتبع له هؤلاء في غالب الأحيان يكون شخصاواحدا أومؤسسات صغيرة موجودة داخل حقيبة وصفهم مناديب العمال ذات يوم ب(التيفاي) البائع المتجول , كيف لنا أن نتخيل العامل لدي هذه المستعمرة الصغيرة كيف لنا أن نتخيل حاله ؟؟؟؟ إنه يعيش في جحيم إنه معرض للخطر أكثر من غيره في هذه المستعمرة وحتي في هذا البلد وينتج للبلد من أحد أكبر وارداتها الإقتصادية الشركة الوطنية للصناعة والمناجم كل هذا وبراتب شهري زهيد 70 ألف أوقية أي أقل من 200أورو.

Who are they? They are the Journalia, as they are known here in Mauritania. For decades, journalia worked in iron mines and when we used to watch them when we were kids we used to say they are heroes because they carry iron but now that we are older and we've heard stories on the colonizer, which persecuted the inhabitants of his colony, we remember them and we remember them carrying iron and we understand their work. They are in a colony, yes in a colony within a colonizing state (Tachron), held by a sub-contractor, this intermediate to whom these people are most affiliated, is usually one person or small companies. How shall we imagine the worker in this small colony? How shall we imagine his situation? He is living in hell; he is subjected to danger more than anyone in this colony and even in this country; and yet produces one of this country's most important economic export resources at the national company for mining and industry in return for a monthly salary of less than 200 Euros.

Abdellahi Med Abdelrrahmane also sympathized with the workers, criticizing the way the regime and the media dealt with their cause:

 المسيرة انطلقت و تحمل رسالة معبأة بكل المعاني في دولة لم تعرف أن تنصف أبنائها من العمال، و إعلام و حقوقيون لم يصلوا مرحلة من النضج يتفهموا فيها مواقف كهذه.
كلنا مطالبون بالوقوف مع هؤلاء لإستعادة حقهم و علينا أن نعمل معهم جنبا إلى جنب حتى يحققوا غاياتهم و تعود إليهم كرامتهم كعمال يحترقون و يسهرون و يتألمون ليحمل الحديد من الموانيء فيتحول دورا و سيارات و قصورا في العالم اجمع، هؤلاء الذين على اكتافهم حملوا كل عبئ…

كان الله لعمال لم يتنصفهم دولتهم و لم ينصفهم إعلامهم……

The march started and carries a letter full of all meaning in a country which didn't know that half of its people are workers and journalists and lawyers who are not mature enough to understand such a situation. We are all asked to stand by them to retrieve their rights and we should work with them hand in hand till they attain their objective and their dignity as workers who stay the nights, burn and suffer in carrying iron which is then transformed into houses, cars and palaces in all over the world. Those who on their shoulders have carried every burden. May God be with workers whose state and media didn't give them justice.

Mejdi Ahmed tweeted on the conditions of Journalia workers:

@mejdmr يعمل الجرنالية في موريتانيا بدون عقد عمل ولا ضمانات سواء كانت صحية أو اجتماعية.. كنوع من الرق!

Journalia work in Mauritania without a contract or guarantees, either social or health ones, it is a kind of slavery.

Raby Idoumou also shares his solidarity with the protesters and writes:

 @rabyidoumou5 نتضامن مع مسيرة زويرات الراجلة باتجاه نواكشوط.. في بلد على راس البلدان المصدرة للحديد في العالم، “الجرنالية” يفتقدون لابسط حقوقهم المشروعة!

We sympathise with Zouerat march towards Nouakchott. In a country among the leading exporters of Iron in the world, Journalia lack their basic legal rights.

Dedda Cheikh Brahim  accompanied the march in its first hours:

@dedda04 عاجل: وصول مسيرة العمال الراجلة إلى مدينة افديرك #موريتانيا #نحن_معكم_في_رحلة_الحقوق 780 كيلو متر من أزويرات وحتى القصر الرئاسي بالعاصمة

Breaking alert: Journalia march reaches the city of Afdirk in #Mauritania. We are with you in the journey of rights. 780 km from Zouerat till the presidential palace.

Sid Ahmed Baba also posted on his Facebook page:

من مدينة أزويرات سيرا علي الأقدام .. لك الله من أمة منكوبة رئيسك يعد ويخلف ويتعهد ويكذب وعمالك وعاطلوك يدفعون الثمن كل يوم بفعل مرارة الظلم وكذب الرئيس

From the city of Zouerate, walking on foot. This nation is doomed by a president who lies and makes false promises while the workers and unemployed pay every day the price of this injustice and lies of the president

January 21 2013

Blame Jihadis Financial Incentives, not Gaddafi's Fall, for Troubles in Mali

Jihadis venture capitalism extended to an even more lucrative business: kidnapping western hostages all over the Sahara yielded over 90 Million Euros over a decade [..] The modus operandi was very simple: why get killed trying to create an Islamist emirate in “apostate-ruled” neighboring countries when you can build your own sanctuary AND have the West pay for it?

Nasser Weddady unpacks the reasons for the current troubles in Mali. He opines that the roots of the problem are more complex than the existing narratives in the media lead us to believe.

January 06 2013

January 02 2013

Mauritanian Women Speak up against Rape

A group of Mauritanian women launched an initiative against rape and all other forms of violence against women in their country. Entitled “Etkelmi or Speak up” [ar and fr], this campaign aims according the blog “Al Tasfera” [ar] to break the wall of silence surrounding rape and encourage victims to demand their rights and to be integrated in society.
Al Tasfera adds:

نسعى إلي توصيل رسالة لكافة أطياف المجتمع تتلخص في ضرورة مؤازرة المغتصبة ومعاقبة الجاني طبقا لقوانين الجريمة.
كما تسعي المبادرة إلي توطيد العلاقات ما بين الأهل والضحية في سبيل التكافل الأسري وتهدف المبادرة إلي تشجيع المغتصبات علي الإندماج في الحياة الاجتماعية والانخراط في السلك المهني كما تأخذ علي كاهلها رفع القضايا الراكدة للمغتصبات وتسليط الضوء علي المعاناة التي تحضنها المراكز والمنظمات

We strive to convey a message to all segments of society about the necessity of supporting the victims of rape and punishing the rapist according to the penal and criminal code. The initiative also aims to strengthen the ties between the victims and their parents in order to ensure the family solidarity. In addition, it aims to encourage those who were subjected to the act of rape to integrate in social life and engage in a career. Moreover, it shall endeavor to voice their issues and highlight their suffering which are now confined to centers and organizations.

Sixteen Teachers Arrested in Mauritania

On December 23, Mauritanian authorities arrested 16 teachers who had heckled the Education Minister in protest against their arbitrary transfer to remote posts, for having taken part in last year's demonstrations. The police sent these teachers to its various offices in Nouakchott. Journalist Mohamed Salem comments:

 يجدد نظام العقيد ولد باهية اعتقال 16 أستاذا من خيرة أساتذة موريتانيا لأنهم طالبوا برفع الظلم

@medsa20 : Ould Bahia's regime once again arrests 16 of Mauritania's best teachers because they demanded to put an end to injustice

December 30 2012

New GV e-book: African Voices of Hope and Change

Here is a perfect gift to salute the new year: our new e-book dedicated to Africa's Sub-Saharan region. “African Voices of Hope and Change,”  gives you an intimate perspective into the stories and people of Sub-Saharan Africa through our best English-language posts from 2012. From a total of about 800 posts produced over the year from the region, we hand-picked 13 posts to feature from Senegal, Uganda, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, Ghana, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Mauritania, Kenya, Angola and other countries.

African Voices of Hope & ChangeYou are welcome to download it here. You can even send a copy (in PDF, ePub or Mobipocket format) to your relatives or friends across the world, maybe as a present for their donation to GV. Most important, please spread the word in your global circles, social networks and anywhere you deem fit!

African Voices of Hope and Change is more evidence of the power of we‘, a collective effort focusing on places and people too often ‘forgotten' by mainstream media worldwide, despite Africa’s diverse but promising growth in the upcoming years. As stated in the ebook introduction, “At the start of the new millennium, it felt as though the African continent was essentially written off by the international community… [but] recent statistics suggest that nine of the fastest-growing economies in the world are in Sub-Saharan Africa.”

And while many experts actually believe that new technology's most lasting influence will be on a broadening field of education, “also important is the potential for leveraging technology towards a more general transparency and accountability, as shown by initiatives based on social and citizen media for monitoring local elections or making government data available on the Internet.”

Aimed at providing a larger context and fostering the Global Voices mission, this collection of 2012 posts will try to parse out such complex framework and open up the horizon for the upcoming year. These voices tell us about moving forward in hope and change, their accounts reveal a path infused with struggle and collaboration.

Thanks to Mohamed Adel for technical support and to those who variously contributed to articles selected for this new e-book: Afef Abrougui, Ahmed Jedou, Anna Gueye, Eleanor Staniforth, Endalk, James Propa, Kofi Yeboah, Lova Rakotomalala, Nwachukwu Egbunike, Richard Wanjohi, Sara Gold, Sara Moreira, and Ndesanjo Macha.

December 29 2012

Mauritanians Find a Voice Online in 2012

Few people know about Mauritania, that African state. Even fewer know that it is a member of the Arab League, thus part of the Arab World.

But too much has happened in 2012 in Mauritania - the latest being the shooting of President Mohammed Ould Abdel Aziz on October 13 and its implication on the internal scene.

Despite the low rate of internet penetration, young people and activists are resorting to social media platforms in an attempt to say: “We exist” and to draw the world's attention to their country.

According to Nasser Weddady, a US based Mauritanian activist (@weddady) “Facebook is at the center of the new e-dissent” in Mauritania, where opposition groups and human rights movements as well as independent activists are expressing themselves. Twitter is also gaining importance among Mauritanian netizens.

Yearning for the Arab Spring

Fed up with a military regime and dictatorship, coupled with dire socio-economic conditions, Mauritanians saw in the Arab Spring, a fresh breath for them.

They seized the opportunity to call for reforms and demand for the end of Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz's rule.

Sit ins, marches, rallies and protests were held by the opposition, spearheaded by the 25th of February Movement [ar, fr].

They were met by brutality and repression by the regime, who naturally support other dictatorships like Syria.

Opposition sit-in in Nouakchott on May 2. Image by Twitter user @ahmedj85.

Suppression of the protests on May 18. Image from the Facebook page of the ‘youth bloc' - used with permission

A blog post by Ahmed Jedou explains the state of affairs in the country [ar]:

“Today it is obvious that the military look at us as if we are a ball they are playing with. Our war should be for the establishment of a civil state which fights all the remnants of military rule and French guardianship, through a transitional period, which should be lead by civil society forces.”

Photo of a protest held on June 23, 2012. Used with permission from the page “Latest News “ آخر خبرا

The February 25 Youth held a symbolic burial of the Constitutional Institutions on November 12.

Tah Ould Habib posts this photo and tweets:

February 25 youth stage a symbolic funeral of Mauritania Constitutional Institutions

هنا ترقد المؤسسات الدستورية برحمته المولى تغمدها

@tahabib: Herein, lay the Constitutional Institutions, May the Lord have mercy upon them

A gloomy record in human rights

The year 2012 was also marked by the arrest of various activists and journalists.

The regime even tried to bribe students so as to convince them to stop their activism.

Blogger Dada Ould Sheikh Ibrahim wrote about the case:

فجر الطالب: ألمين ولد حمادي عضو المكتب التنفيذي للإتحاد الوطني لطلبة موريتانيا حقائق قوية عن إغرائه بالتوظيف والمال من طرف مدير ديوان رئيس الجمهورية ورئيس جامعة انواكشوط السابق السيد إسلك ولد إزيد بيه لشق صفوف الاتحاد الوطني بإشراف مباشر من العضو السابق بنفس الاتحاد السيد إطول عمر.

Almeen Ould Hamadi, member of the executive office of the National Union of Mauritanian Students, surprised everyone. He revealed that Isselkou Ould Izidbih, the president's chief of staff and the former president of the University of Nouakchott, had offered him a job and money to split the union, under the direct supervision of a former member of the same union, Mr Itwal Omar

Mauritanian journalist Obeid Ould Amegn was detained on April 29. His health is said to be deteriorating.

Obeid Ould Amegn- photo source: boutilimit blog

But if one is to speak about Mauritania's violation of human rights, then we can definitely not omit slavery. Despite it being abolished by the government since 1981 and considered as a crime in 2007, slavery is still rampant in the country.

On December 10th, Mauritania was elected Vice President of the UN Human Rights Council which outraged various associations and prompted UN Watch to slam that decision. Also, discrimination is a daily fact of life for black Mauritanians.

“It is obscene for the U.N. to use the occasion of Human Rights Day, when we commemorate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to elect the world's worst enabler of slavery to this prestigious post,” said Hillel Neuer, UN Watch executive director. According to a recent report by the Guardian, “up to 800,000 people in a nation of 3.5 million remain chattels,” with power and wealth overwhelmingly concentrated among
lighter-skinned Moors, “leaving slave-descended darker-skinned Moors and black Africans on the edges of society.”

Foreign Interference

Mauritania was once a French colony. Despite its independence in 1960, strong ties still exist between both countries, angering Mauritanians who demand an end to the French guardianship over their country.

Mauritanian journalist and blogger Dr Elycheikh Bah Ahhmedtolba explains the reasons behind this feeling of resentment:

The question of French-dependency exists since the advent of colonization and reached its peak during the so-presumed “independence”, since then there has been a generation living on its rewards. [..] It is our duty as the young generation to, at least, discuss and share ideas about the doubtful positioning of the “Old Political Guardians” within the French negotiation with the military junta about the possibilities of keeping the disappeared Aziz on the top of the state or to push forward another accomplice for the looming war in Northern Mali

Poster for February 25th Movement “No to Guardianship” (”Yes to Partnership”) via Ahmed Jedou used with permission

Mauritania is a country rich in mineral resources.

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