Silent Terror

The plight of Kosovar Albanians, sadly, is only the latest example of ethnic cleansing or outright genocide. Our century began with massacres and expulsions of Armenians from Turkey, culminated in the Holocaust of Jews, Romanis (Gypsies) and other so-called "sub- humans," continued with the "killing fields" of Cambodia and Rwanda, and is now concluding with the atrocities committed in Yugoslavia and its former constituent republics.

While we properly focus our attention on the slaughter of human beings, we cannot ignore other, less bloody, but highly pernicious acts of inhumanity that still exist as the twentieth century closes. I refer specifically to the enslavement of human beings throughout the world - in Africa, Asia and in the Americas. Moctar Teyeb, the outreach director of the American Anti-Slavery Group, told a group of seventy people in Meriden at Temple B'nai Abraham earlier this month about his own experiences as a slave in Mauritania, west Africa.

The Record-Journal devoted much space to Mr. Teyeb's story. Allow me, therefore, to go beyond his words to report on the work of both the American Anti-Slavery Group, based in Boston, and an allied organization, the Coalition Against Slavery in Mauritania and Sudan, based in New York. Samuel Cotton, a journalist, heads the latter organization and serves on the board of the former. Mr. Cotton authored Silent Terror: A Journey Into Contemporary African Slavery (Harlem River Press, NY: 1998), based on his academic research and his visit to Mauritania.

Silent Terror details particularly gruesome accounts of brutality. Captured escapees in Mauritania, for example, are often castrated or branded like cattle. There is also the "burning coals" torture, wherein the victim is immobilized with burning coals placed between the uppermost portions of his thighs. The "camel treatment" is yet another method of torture. The master causes his male victim to be strapped atop a camel that has been deliberately denied water for up to two weeks. The slave's ankles are tied together under the belly of the animal. The camel is then allowed to drink, expanding its abdomen, slowly causing the victim's legs, thighs and groin to become dislocated. The slave remains bound to the camel for as long as five days and receives no medical treatment. Women are usually spared, lest their breeding value be diminished. The book reports extensively on slavery by white northerners against black southerners in Sudan. However, slaves and enslavers are not confined to only particular ethnic groups or religions. President Clinton this week called attention to the enslavement of children in Asia and elsewhere. Even in the United States, a number of instances of the enslavement of immigrants and illegal aliens have occurred during this decade. We cannot ignore slavery, even if events in Kosovar appear more pressing.

Samuel Cotton writes: "I place my hope in those who hate injustice in every form it takes, who owe no allegiance to a particular religious or political belief. People who are brothers and sisters of spirit because they hear the call to correct an evil and are compelled to answer it, I welcome their help.

"Are you one of those people?"

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