We dont know anything about Mauritania

We don’t know anything about Mauritania

(excerpt) At night, I hear the noise of a biogas plant from two kilometers away. That steady and almost inaudible sound fills the air like a car standing next to me with the engine running. At dawn, the wind rises with the sun, becomes loud and overwhelming. I live in Schleswig-Holstein (the northernmost federal state of Germany) on dripping wet marshland between two oceans. Wherever I am, it’s never more than 60 kilometers to a shore and it rains almost all year.

When I heard about Mauritania for the first time, I knew nothing about the country. I didn’t know its people or its location on a map. Most Germans have that in common. As Europeans, we usually get interested in a foreign country when there is economic potential or a threat. Non of this applies to Mauritania.

I live on green grass and lush meadows. But Mauritania  is pale as if the whole country was painted with watercolors. I see photos of brick shaped houses, hues of sand and rock. Desert wind blurs the horizon.

I look outside my window where the sponge wet earth is sucking on the fog. These days, people nearby rebell against the village rules. One article allows only matt pan tiles on the roofs, but a group of villagers fight for the use of glazed ones. Shiny! What a luxury life.

In Mauritania people fight against article 306. It’s the blasphemy and apostasy law. In 2018, it became the harshest one in the world. Anyone can be sentenced to death. The smell of insecticide dwells in crowded cells.

I am blown away by the wind that storms outside. Here, even in a calm most branches look like waving flags due to the west wind that has shaped them. All growth is pushed to the east coast where the bigger cities lie.

Trees in Mauritania, if there are any, stand alone, thin and small with shriveled barks and with treetops fanning out like fountains. Slaves rest in their shadows, herding goats until a master orders them to do else. For generations hundreds of thousands of Haratin were born without history, but as property justified by Islamic law. The whole desert would be the perfect monument for a culture of remembrance that commemorates the erasement of identity. Or maybe there should be an empty plateau as a memorial? – Cleaning it daily from wafting sand would be a gesture that symbols the will to keep remembrance alive. […]

Jan-Christian Petersen (11.7.2020)

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