Mr. Abeid, a lawyer, researcher, human rights activist, writer, translator (French-Arabic), and President of the Initiative for the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement (IRA), and Mr. Ramdhane, a professor of philosophy and Arabic language, and Vice President of IRA, are both the children of slaves who have chosen careers focused on confronting injustice in Mauritania.
Mr. Abeid and Mr. Ramdhane have successfully mounted provocative and high-profile anti-trafficking campaigns that have significantly contributed to new government institutions, laws, and specialized courts designed to combat human trafficking. These advances facilitated the first indictment in Mauritania for slave-holding and the first prison sentence in 2011 under the 2007 anti-slavery law and the 2012 Constitutional reform that made slavery a crime against humanity.
In November 2014, Mr. Abeid and Mr. Ramdhane were arrested together for their leading roles in a protest against the continued practice of slavery in Mauritania as well as discriminatory land use policies and related abuses suffered by non-Arab, sub-Saharan minorities. Both the Haratine (slave descendants) and sub-Saharan communities are grossly underrepresented in government, military, and economic leadership positions due to systematic discrimination in favor of the Beydane (white Moor) minority. The men shared a cell until their release in May 2016.
The organization they established, IRA, and its leaders have been recognized internationally on numerous occasions, including the 2016 James Lawson Award from the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict, the 2015 Human Rights Tulip awarded by the Dutch government, the 2013 Front Line Defenders Award, and the 2013 United Nations Human Rights prize, among others.