Reports of up to 500 Mauritanian women trafficked to Saudi Arabia have recently emerged in the Mauritanian press. Many of these women have been reduced to slavery. Aminetou Moctar, president of Women Heads of Family (Association Femmes Chef de Famille or AFCF), published an alert in early August, noting that Mauritanian officials had worked with Saudi officials to arrange for 500 Mauritanian women to travel for work in Mauritania.
A Mauritanian union, the Confederation Libre deTravailleurs de la Mauritanie (CLTM), has also denounced this trafficking to Saudi Arabia. The CLTM claims that a Saudi, Manea Aly Assiry, Directeur du Centre mobilier d’EBHA , travels every two weeks from Mauritania to Saudi Arabia to bring Mauritanian women to work in the Kingdom. CLTM reports that this has been a regular practice for the past three months and that 1,000 Mauritanian women have been transported at this time.
[In an effort to provide persuasive details for this alarming report, CLTM gives the address and telephone of Manea Aly Assiry: Hôtel Ghaser Salam, Medine- Tel. 00 966 557553573-Arabie Saoudite]
The women given passports and travel arrangements all come from the Haratine population of Mauritania. This is the ex-slave population, most of which is desperately poor and uneducated.
The women were promised good jobs with medical care and the protection of labor laws. They were also promised the chance to perform a religious pilgrimage to Mecca, and the opportunity to remain in contact with their families. The women have been deeply disappointed. Once arrived in the Saudi kingdom their new employers confiscated their passports, no medical care and no labor protections govern their work. They have had no opportunity to make a pilgrimage, and many landed in viciously exploitative and abusive situations. Employed as domestic laborers, the women commonly are forced to work around the clock with no rest and no food. Some of them have been forced into sexual relationships with elderly men, while others have suffered rapes. Women who complain are denounced as thieves and delivered to the police.
Mauritania has a history of sending women to Saudi Arabia, although previously the transactions tended to be for marriages rather than labor. The women or girls sent often became disadvantaged junior wives in polygamous marriages. Some became virtual prostitutes, married to a different man each day.
CLTM and AFCF both call for the repatriation of all the Mauritanian women. CLTM calls for the Mauritanian state to pay an indemnity to each trafficked woman.