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Mauritania: Workers March 700km for Justice

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

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