Mauritania: diaspora activists protest “forced Arabization”

Members of the Mauritanian diaspora in the United States are organizing a demonstration to protest against the recent incendiary statement of Prime Minster Moulaye Ould Mohamed Laghdaf that his government will generalize the use of Arabic at all levels of the administration and educational system. “If such a policy is implemented, it will amount to a cultural genocide against Black Mauritanians who have been discriminated against for too long,” reads a statement by protest organizers. The statement also notes a recent comment by Minister of Culture and Youth Cisse Mint Boide that “The national languages are obstacles to the emergence of the Arabic language.”

“Any attempt to wipe out other national languages for benefit of Arabic is an assault on our multicultural and multiracial heritage,” the statement reads. “We strongly believe that all the national languages, (Arabic, Pulaar, Soninke, Wolof, and Bambara) must be treated on equal footing and be given the same opportunities for growth and usage.”

The statement wars that “the politicization of our national identity” is being used as a social distraction, leading to “the awakening of old demons, thus fueling tensions between Arab and Black Mauritanians, two communities who are bound to live together… The tragic events of 1989-1991 resulting in extra-judicial killings and mass deportations of Black Mauritanians had their origin in such tensions. The recent protests organized by students of the University of Nouakchott against forced arabization, are a clear reminder of this ongoing problem.”

The statement emphasizes that “our protest should not be construed as an opposition to Arabic. We are protesting against the exclusive use of Arabic as an instrument of oppression against Black Mauritanians.”

The demonstration will take place Monday May 10, from noon to 2 PM, in front of the Mauritanian Embassy, 2129 Leroy Place NW in Washington, DC

See our last post on Mauritania.

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  1. Agenda
    Be careful, it’s just a ridiculous propaganda. All most of black Mauritanians use an Arabic dialect called hassaniya. The word black is used here only to make confuses.

    1. And what is this Black Mauritanian “agenda”?
      Please do tell us, since you seem to be imputing ulterior motives. And are you dismissing speakers of Fulani, Soninke, Wolof and Bambara as non-existent, or merely as not entitled to rights?

      1. agenda
        A hassani arab dialect speakers represent more than 90% mauritanian people. The color of skin or community don’t have any thing to do with this question. the choice of arabic as an officiel language of mauritania was prouven by 93% of mauritanian voters. we have to respect ourself. to be honnest we have to compy with our constitution.

        1. We ask again: What is this Black Mauritanian “agenda”?
          You again use the word “agenda” without explaining what the supposed “agenda” of the protesters is. Even if you are correct that Arabic is the native tongue of 90% of Mauritanians, the remaining 10% still have rights. If we oppose “English-only” initiatives in the United States, we should oppose Arabic-only policies in Mauritania.

          1. If you oppose arabic…
            If you oppose arabic to black in mauritania, it’s a big hidden agenda. a blak , white or any other color doesn’t have any thing to do whith identity or culture.
            I’m black skin but proud to be arab. you have to respect our choice our democracy, if you think that we deserve democracy. fulany, wolof and sonika are free to practice any language but the only official language is arabic, the choice of the majority of the mauritanian people.

            1. “Hidden agenda”?
              If the protest organizers are explicit about demanding a plurinational state (as in, for instance, Bolivia), in what sense is their agenda “hidden”?

              1. hidden agenda
                A hidden agenda because it is based on the mystifications and the lies. You have to know that Arabic is marginalized in Mauritania by French which is the working language and the African tongues are their last concern. To apply the constitution as it is to respect our so-called democracy by abandoning gradually French maintained with English as foreign language for the benefit of Arabic and progressive introduction and as choice local languages in the peace and the brotherhood . A country which does not respect its own laws is condemned to apply the law of whims then the disorder.

                1. Still not seeing any “hidden agenda”
                  The protesters state explicitly that they want “all the national languages [to] be treated on equal footing.” Do you feel that there is some unstated goal behind this demand?

                  If you didn’t like it when Arabic was marginalized by the French, why do you expect Fulani or Wolof speakers to accept it when their own tongues are marginalized by Arabic?

                  1. Respect the official language
                    These people have never spoken about their tongues which need to be developed because oral dialects mainly. This unexpected interest is only aroused by the will to introduce the Arabic language which is the official language of this country.

                    The naïve is the one who thinks that become identified with French by resentment or the aversion in Arabic by squabble will allow the national said tongues to develop, the only exit it is to be democratic, to respect the official language of this country and to begin in this frame to develop these tongues in the harmony and the coherence of set noiselessly and without noise and in the mutual respect and the brotherhood.

                    1. Fulani is not a “dialect”
                      Fulani, Soninke, Wolof, and Bambara are not “dialects,” they are languages. You are misinformed. “Brotherhood” cannot be imposed by fiat, or by insisting minority cultures submit to that of the majority.

                    2. Let us suppose that they are international languages…
                      Let us suppose that they are international languages.
                      Thus American Arabic can require in the United States that Arabic has the same treatment as English. The American Jews will demand the Hebrew.
                      To what is of use the democracy for you.

                    3. We oppose “English-only”
                      As stated above, we oppose “English-only” initiatives in the United States. Education in Arabic or Hebrew is fine with us.

                    4. We do not ask for the usage
                      We do not ask for the usage of a unique language but the status of an official language must be real and not imaginary as it is at present. The rest is only demagoguery.

                    5. Why is it “demagoguery”?
                      There are many countries around the world, from Canada to Bolivia, with more than one official language. Why is it “demagoguery” to demand as much in Mauritania?

                    6. good idea
                      It is a good idea but we do not have to forget the other Mauritanian languages such as zeneta, temachek, cheleh and other. thanks

                    7. Ignorance proven here
                      By using words like tongues you are tring to undermine the relevance of these languages. I believe nobody talked about French in this release. Also, I know for fact Arabic has been always the official language in Mauritania and it has never been a problem until this “illeterate” Pm brought it out. Mauritania is plurial, live with that or go find a place where your dreams of “holly Arab” will become true.

    2. Mauritania’s blooming is clearly not for tomorrow
      Sir or madam, I am puzzled by your erroneous assertion that almost all black Mauritanians speak Hassaniya. I cannot help, but laugh at your stinky lies. You are either a brute slaver who wants to annihilate the other ethnic groups in Mauritania, or you are a henchman who is being marinated in some dangerous demagogies. Let me refresh your memory in case you forgot. Half of the Mauritanian population inhabits the southern part of this country. These populations speak, Fulani, Wolof or Soninke in their biggest majority. They live in regions like, Trarza, Brakna, Gorgol, and Guidimakha. Furthermore, Mauritania’s ‘big cities’, like the Capital Nouakchott, or Nouadhibou, Zouearatt, and Kiffa are populated by a considerable fringe of people of African descent, and guess what these marginalized and brutalized communities do not give a hoot about Arabic let alone Hassaniya. However, I could have agreed with you, had you said almost all ‘Haratines’ (black slaves) speak Hassaniya. It’s alas the sad truth, but these enslaved people never opted to speak Hassaniya or Arab nor have they asked to be kept in bondage. I have yet to decipher what the heck is going on in your mind, but you are for sure a breed that constitutes a nuisance to the blooming of Mauritania.

      Mohamed Sow Ex Nouakchott-Info Journalist

        1. RE: Please tone it down
          It is not an allegation or speculation to say the poster was a slaver; because it is a reality. this might be unbelievable in this century but please go to Mauritania or search deeper you will find there are more slavers that doctors.
          Truly, no exageration.

          1. Slavery in Mauritania
            I am not doubting the existence of slavery in Mauritania, which is well-documented. But you do not know that the poster is a “slaver” and it adds nothing to the discussion to engage in such speculation. Please respect this.

            1. Forced Arabization in Mauritania
              Mr Weinberg what exactly is your agenda with this topic. If allow myself to guess the genus of your surname, you in all likelihood must be Jewish. I do not comprehend your interest in defending any forceful action from the Arabic/Muslim world, justified or otherwise. I think you are on the wrong side of the fence here.
              However, if I were to think “outside the box” as it were, I would then realize that your intentions for vociferously supporting this Arab/Muslim campaign is self-serving (surprise!). By supporting this, you are laying the path for some in your audience to accept as well what is happening as we speak in Israel, in Jerusalem and other Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories. This is nothing but a veiled attempt to put a palatable coat, a preemptive strike so to speak, to defend Israel’s attempt at imposing Hebrew as an official language in the occupied grounds. Not so clever, but rather shallow and transparent. I hope you can prove me wrong in which case I will respectfully withdraw my postulation.
              BTW, I cannot fathom how you seem to innocuously accept/dismiss the existence of slavery in Mauritania, as if this campaign for language change was so much more a weighty subject than slavery itself. This reaction only seem to reaffirm my observations in the text above, since it is also well documented that Palestinians under Israeli control are effectively slaves in their own land.

              1. Confused propaganda on my website
                Your post is so garbled that I can’t even tell which side you are on. Are you accusing me of “accepting” or “dismissing” the existence of slavery in Mauritania? It can’t be both. If you think I am supporting Mauritania’s “forced Arabization” policies, you are evidently more interested in my last name than in what I have written.

                As for my agenda—that should be obvious, and has nothing to do with my surname. This website supports the cultural rights, dignity and self-determination of oppressed peoples all over the world—including the Palestinians. That you can conclude otherwise makes me wonder what your “agenda” is…

      1. Languages in Mauritania
        Thank you Mohamed Sow, for this valuable contribution. The truth can just be hidden for so long, sooner or later it will pop up. The mauritanian racists and slavers are counting on a lack of education and opportunity that they imposed on the Blacks to continue their sytem. It will no longuer work because conscience is now here and resistance has already started.
        Mauritanian Pulaar, Soninke and Wolof are not the minority and even if they were they have the right to chose what they want to be. It seems right now as we all against Arabization. The fight continues.

        1. 10% Hassaniya/Arabic
          10% Hassaniya/Arabic speakers or 50 % – both representations are unsupported. The CIA Factbook says its 30% African (those who speak the current “national languages of Soninke, Wolof, etc.). Googling will seem to confirm the 30% claim.

          So, Mr. Sow is more accurate than not, though his speculative conclusions may be a bit drastic. If 93% vote is accurate, I think it says more about the free and fair nature of the vote than anything else. The fact that the Haratines speak Hassaniya not out of choice does not change the fact that they do speak it and so discussions of slaving in this context are irrelevant. Forced arabization can not be supported by a website that has the purpose described.

          1. Who supports “forced Arabization”?
            Which website are you talking about? If you think this website supports “forced Arabization,” you are paying no attention.