Mauritania 🇲🇷| Police Detain Youth for Hosting Debate Program on Individual Freedoms While Giving the Green Light to Demonstrations Calling for the Death Penalty for Apostasy and Blasphemy

MAY 2021| Mauritania cracks down on debate programme discussing individual freedoms, calling for the separation of state and religion and equality for women while remaining silent on demonstrations calling for the death penalty for apostates.

Lumières Sans Frontières — an international human rights organisation working to combat religious and racial persecution — released a press statement about the recent crackdown of secular activists in Mauritania.

On April 25, 2021 at 10:00PM police in Nouadhibou, Mauritania arrested youth activists and free-thinkers who hosted a virtual debate program discussing religion and individual rights — specifically focusing on the rights of women to enjoy equality in marriage in regards to rights and duties and were also calling for a secular Mauritania.

The Islamist party Tawassol however, did not approve of these developments and organised a campaign against the activists to place societal pressure on them. They said the youths were, “Destroying the values of Islamic society,” and were calling on the societal actors to put pressure for the youth to be tried under sharia law — which according to the 306 Penal Code would mandate the death penalty.

Penal Code 306 makes the death penalty mandatory for anyone convicted of “blasphemous speech” and acts deemed “sacrilegous” with the possiblity to reverse the death penalty if the individual “repents.” — more info Human Rights Watch :

The youth — interrogated by the police — were eventually released due to the vagueness of the charges but not after being pressured on their religious and personal views. They were released on 28th April 2021, at 1:00AM.

At the end of Friday prayers on April 30, 2021 the Tawassol supporters obtained legal approval to host a demonstration despite slogans of hatred, calling for the murder of apostates and those who dare question their beliefs.

More concerning is that the unfounded police interrogation and harassment of the youth has led to the family of Aïchetou Isselmou M’bareck — the only woman activist in the program — locking her up and her employer firing her from her job. Most of the other activists have also had their employers fire them — leaving them with no livelihood and making them vulnerable to the harassment and persecution of society where leaving Islam or questioning Islam is criminal.

When the government and legal system condones the death penalty for apostasy and blasphemy it leaves the activists and youth under the societies’ ire and places the youths’ lives at risk.

The debate programme released on April 25th was popular and received over 52 thousand views.