Thursday, March 22, 2012
iReport roundtable: Thursday at 2:30 p.m. ET

John Sutter in Mauritania

 

Please join us here at 2:30 p.m. ET on Thursday for a special edition of our weekly roundtable discussion. CNN.com reporter John Sutter will be joining us to answer questions about his powerful series on slavery in Mauritania. In 1981, Mauritania was the last country to abolish slavery, but Sutter and video producer Edythe McNamee went there in December and found that slavery is still practiced.

 

Sutter will answer questions about how they got the story and we'll talk about what you can do to show your support for escaped slaves in Mauritania.

 

If you can’t make the roundtable, he is also hosting a hangout on Google+ at 1:30 p.m. ET today to talk about the project.

 

We'll also spend some time responding to any other questions, comments or suggestions you may have about iReport.

 

Comments will open at 2:30 p.m. ET. We'll talk with you then.

64 Comments
March 22, 2012
Click to view davidw's profile

Hi everyone and welcome to today's roundtable.

We're excited to be talking with John Sutter about his reporting in Mauritania.

 

He will be joining us in just a few minutes.

March 22, 2012
Click to view jdsutter's profile

Hi everyone! I"m here. Thanks for setting this up, David.

March 22, 2012
Click to view jdsutter's profile

Here's a link to the project we're talking about: http://cnn.com/mauritania. I'll also add that we did this story in collaboration with lots of good folks at CNN, including videographer Edythe McNamee, who traveled with me to Mauritania for the story.

March 22, 2012
Click to view jmsaba's profile

Hi folks! This should be a good one.

March 22, 2012
Click to view davidw's profile

While John is getting settled in, let me start by telling you about a related project we're working on. We are asking people to show their support for escaped slaves in Mauritania. Here's a link to the assignment with more details:

http://ireport.cnn.com/topics/761257

March 22, 2012
Click to view MelissaF's profile

Hi All!

 

March 22, 2012
Click to view jdsutter's profile

We're going to show some of the iReports you send in to people who escaped slavery and are still living in Mauritania. Please take a few minutes to send one. I think it will mean a lot to people who are attending training sessions at a center for escaped slaves.

March 22, 2012
Click to view k3vsDad's profile

Hey all from my hospital room! Sorry, I'm a little late.

March 22, 2012
Click to view davidw's profile

That assignment has some details on things you can do to help end slavery in Mauritania, such as making donations to groups that are working there.

But we are also asking people to say the phrase "Nahana maakum," which means we are with you.

Here's an example from Malaysia

http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-765053

 

 

March 22, 2012
Click to view jdsutter's profile

I'll kick it off with some of the stats: A UN expert estimates 10% to 20% of Mauritanians live in slavery; it was the last country to abolish the practice. That happened in 1981.

 

And for location: The country is in West Africa, on the edge of the Sahara.

March 22, 2012

What's up? I have 10 minutes

March 22, 2012
Click to view davidw's profile

Welcome everyone.

I'm going to go ahead and start asking John a few questions. Feel free to jump in too.

 

First off, how did you end up going to Mauritania? Did you find the story? What did you have to do to get ready?

 

March 22, 2012
Click to view jdsutter's profile

Thanks David. I read that Mauritania was the last country to abolish slavery and that's how I got interested. I started calling international groups that have done work there and eventually got put in contact with people from SOS Slaves, an abolitionist organization on the ground in Nouakchott, the capital.

March 22, 2012
Click to view jdsutter's profile

They intrigued me in part because that group was co-founded by a man whose family was enslaves -- and a man who grew up as a slave owner. Their partnership was unprecedented in Mauritania, and I found their story to be very compelling/amazing.

March 22, 2012
Click to view davidw's profile

Were officials in Mauritania helpful? Was it easy to get in touch with people there?

March 22, 2012
Click to view jdsutter's profile

The government minister we spoke with told us that slavery does not exist in Mauritania today. That's disputed both by our interview material as well as statements from the US Ambassador to Mauritania and a representative from the European Union, as well as human-rights groups. They generally don't let reporters into the country to talk about/report on slavery, so it was difficult to move about and get the info we needed.

March 22, 2012
Click to view jdsutter's profile

Many of our interviews, for example, were conducted in the middle of the night and in secret, to avoid the attention of authorities.

 

That said, some human rights groups and the UN have been allowed into the country to negotiate on the issue. So there are some small signs the government is or will soon be ready to address this.

March 22, 2012
Click to view davidw's profile

Were you concerned for your safety during your stay? Didn't people follow you while you were reporting?

March 22, 2012
Click to view Niena's profile

hi david & john, my heart goes out to them but I'm glad this has come out to raise more awareness about them. I didn't know about Mauritania until I read the Slavery's Last Stronghold.  I had posted my message of hope already.

 

They must that they are not alone....we are here for them.

March 22, 2012
Click to view Aamadu's profile

Hi everybody

March 22, 2012
Click to view Niena's profile

they must know

March 22, 2012
Click to view davidw's profile

Welcome Niena,

Feel free to ask John any questions you may have about the story, or about reporting in general.

March 22, 2012
Click to view jdsutter's profile

There were a few tense moments but I never felt as though I was in real physical danger. I was more concerned that we could be thrown out of the country or detained or put in jail for trying to report on slavery. I didn't feel like we would be harmed.

 

At a couple points, it appeared that people were following us or at the very least tracking our location and trying to see where we were going and who we were talking to. Those moments were tense and we did call off one interview because we feared it would blow our cover and could have caused us to get in trouble with authorities.

March 22, 2012
Click to view jdsutter's profile

Thanks Niena. I'm so glad you sent in an iReport. And I'm glad the story was able to help shed some light on this topic. The people who spoke with us were very brave to do so and I'm glad their stories are being heard and have been well received.

March 22, 2012
Click to view AdirondackD's profile

How can we help them?

 

March 22, 2012
Click to view davidw's profile

One more question John,

How do you go about telling a story that's that big. I think it would be really helpful to hear the steps that go into this sort of reporting.

March 22, 2012
Click to view dirtball's profile

Slavery is still the White mans fault.

March 22, 2012
Click to view Aamadu's profile

I am black Mauritanian from the south, I am not slave but I was born and grew up in this world of exteme discrination. I live now in America for the last 12 years, never went back, no doubt why.

March 22, 2012
Click to view CharWhyte90's profile

Why don't you think any of the world's "powers" have stepped in and tried aid in this crime against humanity? Do you believe that this goes along the lines of what is happening in the Middle East in regards to the world's approach?

March 22, 2012
Click to view mhoward1814's profile

The U.S. already took care of slavery.

March 22, 2012
Click to view jdsutter's profile

Here's a comment from Twitter I'll address:

 

@cnnireport @jdsutter What is amazing about #slavery? Talk of insightful, informative, objective etc story on slavery, not amazing.

 

I meant that the collaboration between a slave owner and a man whose family was enslaved is amazing. Truly amazing when you think about it. Their partnership helped for a group that is fighting for freedom in Mauritania. It's pretty incredible.

March 22, 2012
Click to view jdsutter's profile

@Aamadu: Thanks for joining this discussion. Is there anything you want to add on the topic? Did you observe slavery when you lived in Mauritania?

March 22, 2012
Click to view Niena's profile

How do you go around there? Where do you stay? As what I've seen in your photos, there are no concrete buildings in the area. 

March 22, 2012
Click to view Arjany's profile

Hello everyone I am at work right now but it's okay because it is a little slow, i hope i havent missed anything. I really want to help these people and unslave them for once in all.

March 22, 2012
Click to view jdsutter's profile

@Niena, Thanks for this question. We actually stayed in hotels at times. There are plenty of concrete buildings in the country, particularly in the capital. It is a remote, isolated place, but there places where you can find some creature comforts.

March 22, 2012
Click to view MelissaF's profile

It's amazing that in 2012 that Slavery is still out there.

 

March 22, 2012
Click to view Aamadu's profile

I only hope that one day that John can gather enough resource to be able to do like those of "forgotten children", that are fighting now the Ugangan killer.

I will be available at any time, for anything to help so this world shame come to an end.

March 22, 2012
Click to view CharWhyte90's profile

@mhoward1814 The U.S abolished slavery, but it had a clause in there that I think you should check out. For that matter, just because there is amendment forbidding something, does not mean they have addressed it. We still have ugly racial conflicts in this country because of the country not facing it's past.

March 22, 2012
Click to view jdsutter's profile

Thanks all for the thoughtful comments.

March 22, 2012
Click to view davidw's profile

Here are a couple of resources for people who want to help eliminate slavery. Anti-Slavery International has created a special donations page for Mauritania: http://www.antislaveryfundraising.org/sos_esclaves

 

March 22, 2012
Click to view Niena's profile

Thanks John!

March 22, 2012
Click to view Aamadu's profile

I observed slavery all my life in Mauritania. The problem in Mauritania is the corruption. All those UN organizations that were sent to investigate slavery in Mauritania were caught in the local trap.

March 22, 2012
Click to view MelissaF's profile

Thanks for the great coverage.  gotta bounce.  love and gratitude.

March 22, 2012
Click to view davidw's profile

John also put together a thorough list of things you can do to help:

http://thecnnfreedomproject.blogs.cnn.com/2012/03/17/how-to-help-end-slavery-in-mauritania/?hpt=hp_c2

March 22, 2012
Click to view jdsutter's profile

Thanks David

March 22, 2012
Click to view davidw's profile

John has to leave in just a few minutes, so if you have any questions for him please shout them out now.

 

March 22, 2012
Click to view Arjany's profile

In The stories I read about these cruelty in Mauritania, The women said that many mauritanians were not aware of a world outside their deserts. Most are afraid to even been helped; mostly because they are not educated to know what's out there for them. How can we help them know that there is freedom and that they have all the rights to even bring down their own government if they unite? I know its not an easy task but what are some steps that we can perhaps help Mauritanians realize that the world is just more than been abuse?!?

March 22, 2012
Click to view Aamadu's profile

John you can contact me at 6142161482, I am ready to work with you. Thanks for the coverage.

March 22, 2012
Click to view davidw's profile

Hi Arjany,

CNN iReport is collecting messages of support that will be shown to students at a school in Mauritania for escaped slaves.

 

We would really like for you to participate: Here's a link with instructions:

http://ireport.cnn.com/topics/761257

 

March 22, 2012
Click to view jdsutter's profile

Hi all, I need to head out to a meeting. Thanks so much for joining and for reading this story. Please feel free to send in more questions and I'll come back later to answer some. Thanks!

March 22, 2012
Click to view jessica1229's profile

In reading and watching the various interviews many of the sources stated that slavery was as much about the physical restraint/threat and mental restraint of the inslaved. How much does lack of education play a role in this mental enslavement?  For those who are "free" what does life hold for them afterward if they stay in Mauritania?  Do they have resources to help those who are "freed," or does governmental denial hinder this "recovery"?

March 22, 2012
Click to view davidw's profile

Thank you John,

I appreciate you coming by to talk about this.

 

March 22, 2012
Click to view Niena's profile

bye !!!

March 22, 2012
Click to view davidw's profile

Hi Jessica1229,

John had to leave before he saw your question, but I will try to get an answer for you. Sorry about that.

March 22, 2012
Click to view davidw's profile

Aamadu, Would you like me to email John your phone number and then deleted from the comments?

March 22, 2012
Click to view davidw's profile

We have a few minutes left, so if anyone has any other questions about iReport or how it works, I'll be happy to answer them.

 

I noticed there are a lot of new faces today, which is very exciting.

March 22, 2012

Maybe we can draw attention to the Enslaved Americans of this country since 1913?  You know help people here at home become more free.  Its nice and good for media attention to bring attention to the fact that nothing has changed from the civil war other than allowing people to just keep a portion of their labor. 

March 22, 2012
Click to view davidw's profile

I'm not sure I understand what you're talking about TeaParty432, but I would encourage you to post an iReport with your perspective.

March 22, 2012
Click to view jessica1229's profile

No problem.  I jumped in kind of late!

March 22, 2012
Click to view davidw's profile

Before we go,

I want to show you a couple of more examples of videos people have submitted from all over the world.

 

We've gotten reports from the Philippines:

http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-764184

 

Here's Niena's from Saudi Arabia:

http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-764346

 

And here's one from a college student in Florida:

http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-764093

 

 

 

 

 

 

March 22, 2012
Click to view davidw's profile

Thanks for joining us everyone.

We do this every Thursday at 2:30 p.m. ET, so I hope you'll join us again soon.

Take care

March 22, 2012
Click to view markpel's profile

Hi, everyone! Slavery is everywhere not only in Mauritania.

March 24, 2012
Click to view Nouakchott's profile

Hi, you finshed

March 24, 2012
Click to view Nouakchott's profile

A newest case of slavery discovred in Mauritania, two young girls escaped from thoer Master, they are right now at SOS esclave in Nouakchott

You must be logged in to post a comment.



About the iReport Blog

The latest and greatest on CNN iReport, brought to you by Team iReport.