Slaves liberated in Timbuktu as their Muslim owners flee
TIMBUKTU, Mali — Her light-skinned master no longer beats her with a camel whip. He no longer makes her work from dawn to night without pay. He fled with his family four months ago, along with the Islamists who briefly ruled this historic city.I think the Tuareg are the very same Berber tribe the Volkswagen utility vehicle is named after. And the Moors? I think that name is basically synonymous with Muslim; Cervantes himself said westerners should trust no Moors, because they're all deceitful. Why name a car after a community that's still slavemongering? Better still, why buy it?
“I am free,” said Aminaya Traore, a 50-year-old woman who was born into slavery. “I can do whatever I want.”
Across this sand-swept city, hundreds of modern-day slaves are experiencing a sense of liberation, many for the first time. Nearly all the lighter-skinned Tuaregs and Arab Moors who for generations exploited them have fled the city, fearing reprisal attacks for supporting supporting the Islamists or the Tuareg separatists whose rebellion helped ignite the Islamist takeover of Mali’s north last year.
“Under the Islamists, blacks were exploited even more by the pink-skinned people,” said Roukiatou Cisse, a social worker with Temedt, a human rights group, referring to the Tuaregs and Arab Moors. “They told them, ‘We are with the Islamists. We are in power. We are the masters and you are our slaves. We will do what we want.’ ”
“Now, the slaves have profited by the pink-skinned people leaving.”
The jubilation underscores how deeply divided Mali’s northern communities became during the 10-month rule of the Islamists, who included homegrown jihadists, such as the Tuaregs and Arab Moors, as well as foreigners with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the terror network’s West and North Africa branch. A French-led military intervention that began in January ousted the Islamists from towns in the north, though a guerrilla war continues.
Under the Islamists, many Tuaregs and Arab Moors took advantage of their shared ethnic backgrounds with the jihadists and asserted themselves over their black neighbors. The widened rift between the communities could take years, if not decades, to close, residents say....
Slavery was abolished in 1960 after the West African nation gained independence, and all people are considered equal under Mali’s constitution. Yet there’s no law that criminalizes slavery, making it hard to seek legal action. And there’s little political will to address the problem: Many government officials deny the practice exists.
Today, an estimated 200,000 people live as slaves or in slavelike conditions in Mali, mostly in rural areas, according to Temedt, which means “solidarity.” The advocacy group Anti-Slavery International says that “descent-based slavery” exists in other West African countries as well, including Mauritania and Niger.
Those who have been freed, often by running away, still face discrimination because of their family’s historical status as slaves. Most of the people who have slaves are Tuareg, though some black ethnic groups in northern Mali have also been known to have slaves, who are known as Bella, which means both “black” and “slave.”
Those slaves who were freed are very lucky to be saved from the nightmare they went through. But there's still many more who still suffer, because of weak-willed politicians who won't come to their aid.