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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.
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.
Hi everyone! I"m here. Thanks for setting this up, David.
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.
Hi folks! This should be a good one.
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:
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.
Hey all from my hospital room! Sorry, I'm a little late.
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
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.
What's up? I have 10 minutes
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?
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.
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.
Were officials in Mauritania helpful? Was it easy to get in touch with people there?
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.
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.
Were you concerned for your safety during your stay? Didn't people follow you while you were reporting?
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.
they must know
Feel free to ask John any questions you may have about the story, or about reporting in general.
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.
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.
How can we help them?
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.
Slavery is still the White mans fault.
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.
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?
The U.S. already took care of slavery.
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.
@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?
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.
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.
@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.
It's amazing that in 2012 that Slavery is still out there.
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.
@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.
Thanks all for the thoughtful comments.
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
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.
Thanks for the great coverage. gotta bounce. love and gratitude.
John also put together a thorough list of things you can do to help:
John has to leave in just a few minutes, so if you have any questions for him please shout them out now.
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?!?
John you can contact me at 6142161482, I am ready to work with you. Thanks for the coverage.
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:
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!
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"?
Thank you John,
I appreciate you coming by to talk about this.
John had to leave before he saw your question, but I will try to get an answer for you. Sorry about that.
Aamadu, Would you like me to email John your phone number and then deleted from the comments?
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.
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.
I'm not sure I understand what you're talking about TeaParty432, but I would encourage you to post an iReport with your perspective.
No problem. I jumped in kind of late!
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:
Here's Niena's from Saudi Arabia:
And here's one from a college student in Florida:
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.
Hi, everyone! Slavery is everywhere not only in Mauritania.
Hi, you finshed
A newest case of slavery discovred in Mauritania, two young girls escaped from thoer Master, they are right now at SOS esclave in Nouakchott