The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars held an online panel discussion, “The Cost of Afro-Arab Social Exclusion in MENA,” in the echo of the words of Tunisian President Kais Saied calling for “urgent measures” to address the entry of irregular immigrants from sub-Saharan countries, “with their lot of violence, crimes, and unacceptable practices.” (MENA is an English language acronym for Middle East and North Africa.)
At a meeting of the National Security Council, the Tunisian president added, “The undeclared goal of the successive waves of illegal immigration is to consider Tunisia a purely African country that has no affiliation to the Arab and Islamic nations.”
Once panelist Khaled Esseissah was at a wedding with his lighter skinned Bizan friends, and one other guest said, “Oh, they got an abeed” with them. Abeed is Arabic for slave.
Panelist Khaled Esseissah, a University of Wisconsin-Madison assistant history professor, explained the ethnic nuances of North Africa by telling his personal story. “People of African descent, they are dark, they are Black,” explained the Mauritania native, who was born Haratin. Generally, a Haratin can be culturally like any other Mauritanian, but since they are descended of enslaved people, they are not treated as such by the Bizan, or privileged class. Haratins also live in Morocco, Western Sahara, and Algeria.
As a youngster, his being a “other” was not a part of his consciousness, but his awareness grew as he got older. Once he was at a wedding with his lighter skinned Bizan friends, and one other guest said, “Oh, they got an abeed” with them. Abeed is Arabic for slave.