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Mauritania is almost 100% Muslim, with most inhabitants adhering to the Sunni denomination.[1] The Sufi orders, the Tijaniyah and the Qadiriyyah, have great influence not only in the country, but in Morocco, Algeria, Senegal and other neighborhood countries as well. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Nouakchott, founded in 1965, serves the 4,500 Catholics in Mauritania (mostly foreign residents from West Africa and Europe).

There are extreme restrictions on freedom of religion and belief in Mauritania; it is one of thirteen countries in the world which punishes atheism by death.[54] On 27 April 2018, The National Assembly passed a law that makes the death penalty mandatory for anyone convicted of "blasphemous speech" and acts deemed "sacrilegious". The new law eliminates the possibility under article 306 of substituting prison terms for the death penalty for certain apostasy-related crimes if the offender promptly repents. The law also provides for a sentence of up to two years in prison and a fine of up to 600,000 Ouguiyas (approximately EUR 14,630) for "offending public indecency and Islamic values" and for "breaching Allah’s prohibitions" or assisting in their breach.[55]

Languages

Arabic is the official and national language of Mauritania. The local spoken variety, known as Hassaniya, contains many Berber words and significantly differs from the Modern Standard Arabic that is used for official communication. Pulaar, Soninke and Wolof also serve as national languages.[1] French is widely used in the media and among educated classes.[56]

Health

As of 2011, life expectancy at birt

There are extreme restrictions on freedom of religion and belief in Mauritania; it is one of thirteen countries in the world which punishes atheism by death.[54] On 27 April 2018, The National Assembly passed a law that makes the death penalty mandatory for anyone convicted of "blasphemous speech" and acts deemed "sacrilegious". The new law eliminates the possibility under article 306 of substituting prison terms for the death penalty for certain apostasy-related crimes if the offender promptly repents. The law also provides for a sentence of up to two years in prison and a fine of up to 600,000 Ouguiyas (approximately EUR 14,630) for "offending public indecency and Islamic values" and for "breaching Allah’s prohibitions" or assisting in their breach.[55]

Arabic is the official and national language of Mauritania. The local spoken variety, known as Hassaniya, contains many Berber words and significantly differs from the Modern Standard Arabic that is used for official communication. Pulaar, Soninke and Wolof also serve as national languages.[1] French is widely used in the media and among educated classes.[56]

Health

As of 2011, As of 2011, life expectancy at birth was 61.14 years.[1] Per capita expenditure on health was 43 US$ (PPP) in 2004.[57] Public expenditure was 2% of the GDP in 2004 and private 0.9% of the GDP in 2004.[57] In the early 21st century, there were 11 physicians per 100,000 people.[57] Infant mortality is 60.42 deaths/1,000 live births (2011 estimate).[57]

The obesity rate among Mauritanian women is high, perhaps in part due to the traditional standards of beauty (in some regions in the country), in which obese women are considered beautiful while thin women are considered sickly.[58]

Education[58]

Since 1999, all teaching in the first year of primary school is in Modern Standard Arabic; French is introduced in the second year, and is used to teach all scientific courses.[59] The use of English is increasing.[60]

Mauritania has the University of Nouakchott and other institutions of higher education, but the majority of highly educated Mauritanians have studied outside the country. Public expenditure on education was at 10.1% of 2000–2007 government expenditure.[57]

Mauritania has the University of Nouakchott and other institutions of higher education, but the majority of highly educated Mauritanians have studied outside the country. Public expenditure on education was at 10.1% of 2000–2007 government expenditure.[57]

The government bureaucracy is composed of traditional ministries, special agencies, and parastatal companies. The Ministry of Interior spearheads a system of regional governors and prefects modeled on the French system of local administration. Under this system, Mauritania is divided into 15 regions (wilaya or régions).

Control is tightly concentrated in the executive branch of the central government, but a series of national and municipal elections since 1992 have produced limited decentralization. These regions are subdivided into 44 departments (moughataa). The regions and capital district (in alphabetical order) and their capitals are:

Adrar RegionAssaba RegionBrakna RegionDakhlet Nouadhibou RegionGorgol RegionGuidimaka RegionHodh Ech Chargui RegionHodh El Gharbi RegionInchiri RegionNouakchottTagant RegionTiris Zemmour Regiondecentralization. These regions are subdivided into 44 departments (moughataa). The regions and capital district (in alphabetical order) and their capitals are:

Mauritania is in the western region of the continent of Africa, and is generally flat, its 1,030,700 square kilometres forming vast, arid plains broken by occasional ridges and clifflike outcroppings.[61] It borders the North Atlantic Ocean, between Senegal and Western Sahara, Mali and Algeria.[61] It is considered part of both the Sahel and the Maghreb. A series of scarps face southwest, longitudinally bisecting these plains in the center of the country. The scarps also separate a series of sandstone plateaus, the highest of which is the Adrar Plateau, reaching an elevation of 500 metres.[62] Spring-fed oases lie at the foot of some of the scarps. Isolated peaks, often rich in minerals, rise above the plateaus; the smaller peaks are called guelbs and the larger ones kedias. The concentric Guelb er Richat is a prominent feature of the north-central region. Kediet ej Jill, near the city of Zouîrât, has an elevation of 1,000 metres and is the highest peak.

Approximately three-quarters of Mauritania is desert or semidesert.[63] As a result of extended, severe drought, the desert has been expanding since the mid-1960s. The plateaus gradually descend toward the northeast to the barren El Djouf, or "Empty Quarter," a vast region of large sand dunes that merges into the Sahara Desert. To the west, between the ocean and the plateaus, are alternating areas of clayey plains (regs) and sand dunes (ergs), some of which shift from place to place, gradually moved by high winds. The dunes generally increase in size and mobility toward the north.

Belts of natural vegetation, corresponding to the rainfall pattern, extend from east to west and range from traces of tropical forest along the Sénégal River to brush and savanna in the southeast. Only sandy desert is found in the centre and north of the country.

The Richat Structure, dubbed the "Eye of the Sahara", is a formation of rock resembling concentric circles in the Adrar Plateau, near Ouadane, west–central Mauritania.

Economy

Graphical depiction of Mauritania's product exports in 28 color-coded categories

Despite being rich in natural resources, Mauritania has a low GDP.[64] A majority of the population still depends on agriculture and livestock for a livelihood, even though most of the nomads and many subsistence farmers were forced into the cities by recurrent droughts in the 1970s and 1980s.[64] Mauritania has extensive deposits of iron ore, which account for almost 50% of total exports. Gold and copper mining companies are opening mines in the interior.

The country's first deepwater port opened near Nouakchott in 1986. In recent years, drought and economic mismanagement have resulted in a buildup of foreign debt. In March 1999, the government signed an agreement with a joint World Bank-International Monetary Fund mission on a $54 million enhanced structural adjustment facility (ESAF). Privatization remains one of the key issues. Mauritania is unlikely to meet ESAF's annual GDP growth objectives of 4–5%.

Oil was discovered in Mauritania in 2001 in the offshore Chinguetti field. Although potentially significant for the Mauritanian economy, its overall influence is difficult to predict. Mauritania has been described as a "desperately poor desert nation, which straddles the Arab and African worlds and is Africa's newest, if small-scale, oil producer."[65] There may be additional oil reserves inland in the Taoudeni basin, although the harsh environment will make extraction expensive.[66]

The United Arab Emirates government, via its pilot green city Masdar, installed new solar plants supply an additional 16.6 megawatts of electricity. The plants will power about 39,000 homes and save 27,850 tonnes of carbon emissions per year.[67] Mauritania is ranked second in the index of geopolitical gains and losses after energy transition (GeGaLo Index), making it potentially one of the main winners in the global transition to renewable energy.[68]

Human rights

Mauritanian blogger and political prisoner Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mkhaitir

The Abdallahi government was widely perceived as corrupt and restricted access to government information. Sexism, racism, female genital mutilation, child labour, human trafficking, and the political marginalization of largely southern-based ethnic groups continued to be problems.[69] Homosexuality is illegal and is a capital offense in Mauritania.[70]

Following the 2008 coup, the military government of Mauritania faced severe international sanctions and internal unrest. Amnesty International accused it of practicing coordinated torture against criminal and political detainees.[71] Amnesty has accused the Mauritanian legal system, both before and after the 2008 coup, of functioning with complete disregard for legal procedure, fair trial, or humane imprisonment. The organization has said that the Mauritanian government has practiced institutionalized and continuous use of torture throughout its post-independence history, under all its leaders.[72][73][74]

Amnesty International in 2008 alleged that torture was common in Mauritania, stating that its usage is "deeply anchored in the culture of the security forces", which use it "as a system of investigation and repression". Forms of torture employed include cigarette burns, electric shocks and sexual violence, stated Amnesty International.[75][76] In 2014, the United States Department of State identified torture by Mauritanian law enforcement as one of the "central human rights problems" in the country.[77] Juan E. Méndez, an independent expert on human rights from the United Nations, reported in 2016 that legal protections against torture were present but not applied in Mauritania, pointing to an "almost total absence of investigations into allegations of torture".[78][79]

According to the US State Department 2010 Human Rights Report,[80] abuses in Mauritania include:

...mistreatment of detainees and prisoners; security force impunity; lengthy pretrial detention; harsh prison conditions; arbitrary arrests; limits on freedom of the press and assembly; corruption; discrimination against women; female genital mutilation (FGM); child marriage; political marginalization of southern-based ethnic groups; racial and ethnic discrimination; slavery and slavery-related practices; and child labor.

Modern slavery

Slavery persists in Mauritania, despite it being outlawed.[81] It is the result of a historical caste system, resulting in descent-based slavery.[81]Approximately three-quarters of Mauritania is desert or semidesert.[63] As a result of extended, severe drought, the desert has been expanding since the mid-1960s. The plateaus gradually descend toward the northeast to the barren El Djouf, or "Empty Quarter," a vast region of large sand dunes that merges into the Sahara Desert. To the west, between the ocean and the plateaus, are alternating areas of clayey plains (regs) and sand dunes (ergs), some of which shift from place to place, gradually moved by high winds. The dunes generally increase in size and mobility toward the north.

Belts of natural vegetation, corresponding to the rainfall pattern, extend from east to west and range from traces of tropical forest along the Sénégal River to brush and savanna in the southeast. Only sandy desert is found in the centre and north of the country.

The Richat Structure, dubbed the "Eye of the Sahara", is a formation of rock resembling concentric circles in the Adrar Plateau, near Ouadane, west–central Mauritania.

Despite being rich in natural resources, Mauritania has a low GDP.[64] A majority of the population still depends on agriculture and livestock for a livelihood, even though most of the nomads and many subsistence farmers were forced into the cities by recurrent droughts in the 1970s and 1980s.[64] Mauritania has extensive deposits of iron ore, which account for almost 50% of total exports. Gold and copper mining companies are opening mines in the interior.

The country's first deepwater port opened near Nouakchott in 1986. In recent years, drought and economic mismanagement have resulted in a buildup of foreign debt. In March 1999, the government signed an agreement with a joint World Bank-International Monetary Fund mission on a $54 million enhanced structural adjustment facility (ESAF). Privatization remains one of the key issues. Mauritania is unlikely to meet ESAF's annual GDP growth objectives of 4–5%.

Oil was discovered in Mauritania in 2001 in the offshore Chinguetti field. Although potentially significant for the Mauritanian economy, its overall influence is difficult to predict. Mauritania has been described as a "desperately poor desert nation, which straddles the Arab and African worlds and is Africa's newest, if small-scale, oil producer."[65] There may be additional oil reserves inland in the Taoudeni basin, although the harsh environment will make extraction expensive.deepwater port opened near Nouakchott in 1986. In recent years, drought and economic mismanagement have resulted in a buildup of foreign debt. In March 1999, the government signed an agreement with a joint World Bank-International Monetary Fund mission on a $54 million enhanced structural adjustment facility (ESAF). Privatization remains one of the key issues. Mauritania is unlikely to meet ESAF's annual GDP growth objectives of 4–5%.

Oil was discovered in Mauritania in 2001 in the offshore Chinguetti field. Although potentially significant for the Mauritanian economy, its overall influence is difficult to predict. Mauritania has been described as a "desperately poor desert nation, which straddles the Arab and African worlds and is Africa's newest, if small-scale, oil producer."[65] There may be additional oil reserves inland in the Taoudeni basin, although the harsh environment will make extraction expensive.[66]

The United Arab Emirates government, via its pilot green city Masdar, installed new solar plants supply an additional 16.6 megawatts of electricity. The plants will power about 39,000 homes and save 27,850 tonnes of carbon emissions per year.[67] Mauritania is ranked second in the index of geopolitical gains and losses after energy transition (GeGaLo Index), making it potentially one of the main winners in the global transition to renewable energy.[68]

The Abdallahi government was widely perceived as corrupt and restricted access to government information. Sexism, racism, female genital mutilation, child labour, human trafficking, and the political marginalization of largely southern-based ethnic groups continued to be problems.[69] Homosexuality is illegal and is a capital offense in Mauritania.[70]

Following the 2008 coup, the military government of Mauritania faced severe international sanctions and internal unrest. Amnesty International accused it of practicing coordinated torture against criminal and political detainees.[71] Amnesty has accused the Mauritanian legal system, both before and after the 2008 coup, of functioning with complete disregard for legal procedure, fair trial, or humane imprisonment. The organization has said that the Mauritanian government has practiced institutionalized and continuous use of torture throughout its post-independence history, under all its leaders.[72][73][74]

Amnesty International in 2008 alleged that torture was common in Mauritania, stating that its usage is "deeply anchored in the culture of the security forces", which use it "as a system of investigation and repression". Forms of torture employed include cigarette burns, electric shocks and sexual violence, stated Amnesty International.Amnesty International accused it of practicing coordinated torture against criminal and political detainees.[71] Amnesty has accused the Mauritanian legal system, both before and after the 2008 coup, of functioning with complete disregard for legal procedure, fair trial, or humane imprisonment. The organization has said that the Mauritanian government has practiced institutionalized and continuous use of torture throughout its post-independence history, under all its leaders.[72][73][74]

Amnesty International in 2008 alleged that torture was common in Mauritania, stating that its usage is "deeply anchored in the culture of the security forces", which use it "as a system of investigation and repression". Forms of torture employed include cigarette burns, electric shocks and sexual violence, stated Amnesty International.[75][76] In 2014, the United States Department of State identified torture by Mauritanian law enforcement as one of the "central human rights problems" in the country.[77] Juan E. Méndez, an independent expert on human rights from the United Nations, reported in 2016 that legal protections against torture were present but not applied in Mauritania, pointing to an "almost total absence of investigations into allegations of torture".[78][79]

According to the US State Department 2010 Human Rights Report,[80] abuses in Mauritania include:

...mistreatment of detainees and prisoners; security force impunity; lengthy pretrial detention; harsh prison conditions; arbitrary arrests; limits on freedom of the press and assembly; corruption; discrimination against women; female genital mutilation (FGM); child marriage; political marginalization of southern-based ethnic groups; racial and ethnic discrimination; slavery and slavery-related practices; and child labor.

Slavery persists in Mauritania, despite it being outlawed.[81] It is the result of a historical caste system, resulting in descent-based slavery.[81][82] Those enslaved are darker-skinned Haratin, with their owners being lighter-skinned Moors.[82]

In 1905, the French colonial administration declared an end of slavery in Mauritania, with very little success.[83] Although nominally abolished in 1981, it was not illegal to own slaves until 2007.

The US State Department 2010 Human Rights Report states, "Government efforts were not sufficient to enforce the antislavery law. No cases have been successfully prosecuted under the antislavery law despite th

In 1905, the French colonial administration declared an end of slavery in Mauritania, with very little success.[83] Although nominally abolished in 1981, it was not illegal to own slaves until 2007.

The US State Department 2010 Human Rights Report states, "Government efforts were not sufficient to enforce the antislavery law. No cases have been successfully prosecuted under the antislavery law despite the fact that de facto slavery exists in Mauritania."[80]

In 2012, it was estimated that 10% to 20% of the population of Mauritania (between 340,000 and 680,000 people) live in slavery.[84]

In 2012, a government minister stated that slavery "no longer exists" in Mauritania.[85] However, according to the Walk Free Foundation's Global Slavery Index, there were an estimated 90,000 enslaved people in Mauritania in 2018 or around 2% of the population.[86]

Obstacles to ending slavery in Mauritania include:

Filming for several documentaries and films has taken place in Mauritania, including Fort Saganne (1984), The Fifth Element (1997), Winged Migration (2001), and Timbuktu (2014).

The T'heydinn is part of Moorish oral tradition.[87]

The libraries of Chinguetti contain thousands of medieval manuscripts.[88][89][90][91]

See also