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Abdel Nasser Ould Ethmane

Abdel Nasser Ould Ethmane is a Mauritanian abolitionist and the co-founder of SOS Slaves, an organization that works to end slavery in Mauritania. Although Mauritania was the last country in the world to officially outlaw slavery in 1981, the practice continues. Ould Ethmane grew up a member of Mauritania’s slave-owning class. As a young man studying in Nouakchott, he learned about the history and ideals of the French Revolution at the French Cultural Center, which led him to renounce slavery. As a reformed slave owner, Ould Ethmane founded SOS Slaves in 1995 with Boubacar Messaoud, who was the son of slaves. Both Ould Ethmane and Messaoud were arrested and beaten by authorities several times for their activities. SOS Slaves successfully lobbied the Mauritanian government for legislation that criminalized slavery; a law was passed unanimously in 2007 that made it a crime to own slaves in Mauritania. The organization also publicizes the stories of slaves and works to aid and educate escaped slaves and their families.Slavery and forced labor still plague Mauritania despite laws prohibiting it. Today, Ould Ethmane gives interviews and acts as an advisor to the African Union and serves on the International Council for the Human Rights Foundation. He continues to draw attention to the difficulties persuading Mauritanians to reject slavery.

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