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Mauritania: Outrage Over the Murder of a Worker

Since the beginning of 2011, there has been an active protest movement in Mauritania, calling upon the government to enact political, economic, and legal reforms. Workers, have also been protesting regularly.

In the early hours of Sunday [July, 15], Guard Forces (police) in Mauritania attacked a group of workers on strike, at the headquarters of the Mauritanian Copper Company [MCM], where they work. The attack led to the death [ar] of a worker for the first time since the sixties of the last century.

It all started with the workers’ strike on July 12, when the deadline they gave to the company's management to execute their demands, came to an end. As a result, the workers closed all entrances leading to the company, and prevented non-foreigners from entering it. Workers at different ranks took part in the strike [ar], namely contractors, porters, and drivers.

There are conflicting reports about the reason for the death. Colleagues, of the victim Mohamed Ould Machdhoufi and eyewitnesses asserted that one officer from the Guard Forces, hit him on the head, which led to his immediate death.

Photo of the Murdered Worker Published by Page

Photo of the murdered worker published on the “We are all Martyr Ould Machdhoufi” Facebook page

In order to investigate the death causes, an autopsy was performed on the victim's body, in response to a family request. After finishing the autopsy, the Deputy Prosecutor of the Republic asserted that the victim died of natural causes, and that no clear death reasons were found.The victim's mother [ar], on the other hand, affirmed that as it was proved by all testimonies the murder [of her son] was done on purpose. She also stated that she does not look for any compensation, but only asks for equal retaliation for what was inflicted on her son, and that she is ready and asks for the repetition of the autopsy.

The case sparked the interest of Mauritanian activists, whose reactions were all over the web. Once the news about the death spread, a Facebook page called “We are all Ould Machdhoufi”, was created in solidarity with the victim.

The Facebook page Mauritania Tomorrow published a photograph for the victim's mother accompanied by poetic verses written by Mauritanian poet Ahmed Ould Abd Kader [ar].

Mauritanian blogger, and writer Mohamed Lamin Ould Fadhel wrote about the case on his blog [ar]:

لقد أعلنت الحداد على صفحتي الخاصة لمدة ثلاثة أيام، وكان من المفترض أن أنهي ذلك الحداد في صبيحة الأحد (15 7 2012)، ولكن في صبيحة الأحد استيقظت على فاجعة أخرى راح ضحيتها عامل موريتاني بسيط كان ذنبه الوحيد أنه سعى مع غيره من العمال إلى تحسين ظروفه في العمل، لذلك فقد كان لزاما عليَّ أن أمدد ذلك الحداد ثلاثة أيام أخرى، وأسأل الله تعالى أن لا يجعلني أضطر لتمديده لثلاثة أيام أُخَّرْ.

I declared mourning for three days on my own page, and I was supposed to end this mourning on July 15. However, on Sunday morning I woke up to the news of another tragedy which caused the death of a common Mauritanian worker, whose single guilt was seeking, along with other workers, to improve their work conditions. Thus, I had to further extend my mourning to three more days. I ask God not to oblige me to extend this mourning to three more days.

He added:

في يوم الخميس رحل موريتانيون عن دنيانا وكانوا في مهمة لصالح شركة أجنبية، وهي الشركة التي سخرت لها الحكومة كل شيء: طائرات عسكرية، أوامر عسكرية عليا للضباط والجنود، نسبة تفوق 90% من المستغل من معادننا.

On Thursday, Mauritanians who were on a mission for a foreign company passed away. The government devoted everything to this company: military air crafts, high military orders to officers and soldiers, and more than 90% of our exploited minerals

Blogger and activist Ahmed Ould Jedou [ar] wrote:

“المشظوفي قضى نحبه نتيجة للتعذيب والتنكيل على أيدي عناصر الحرس.فبعد أن سقط نتيجة الاستخدام المفرط للهراوات ومسيلات الدموع أتخذه عناصر الحرس كرة يلعبون بها ويتلذذون بتعذيبها.
المشظوفي ليس الضحية الاولى ولن يكون الأخيرة في ظل نظام الجنرال عزيز الذي يهوى قمع وقتل وتجويع الشعب.”
Machdhoufi died as a result of torture, and abuse by the Guard Forces. After falling to the ground, as a result of the use of excessive force, the Guard Forces used him like a ball to play with, a ball which they enjoyed torturing. Machdhoufi is neither the first nor the last victim of the regime of General Aziz, who is in love with oppression and killing.

Outraged at the incident, and at the ignorance of the workers’ issues, Mauritanian Twitter users reacted heavily:

Activist Baba Ould Hourma wrote:

@hourmababa عاش الشهيد ‎#ولد المشظوفي بيننا من الأيام ماشاء الله له أن يعيش وهو يقاسي ظلم الأيام وصعوبة الحياة.. عاش على راتب هزيل مقابل عمل شاق ومضن!!”

@hourmababa Martyr Ould Machdhoufi lived the days God wanted him to spend among us, enduring unjust days, and life's hardships…He lived on a meager salary, while doing a hard, and exhausting work.

Mohamed Lemine Ould Echvagha said:

‏@eddennine في ‎‫#موريتانيا فقط، الدرك والجيش يحميان الاجانب والحرس غير الوطني يقتل العمال البسطاء “

‏@eddennine Only in #Maritania, the gendarmerie and the army protect foreigners, and the non-National Guard kills local workers

Mohamed Salem criticized the silence of the official media outlets, and their disregard of the murder of Ould Machdhoufi:

@Sirius_MR التلفزة الوطنية تتحدث في نشرتها عن إقامة الرئيس في فندق هيلتون وعن حفلة السفارة الفرنسية !! طبعا لا ذكر لمقتل ‎‫#ولد_المشظوفي

@Sirius_MR The National TV reports about the President's residence in Hilton Hotel, and the French embassy's party!! Of course, it did not report about the murder of Ould Machdhoufi

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