Grounds for a beating

cor-ht002213Regarding the stoning of Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi’s home last week. Taqadoumy reported that Allal Ould Hadj was involved in organizing the protests that surrounded Sidioca’s abode. This, according to relatives of Ould Hadj, is false: He was in Nouadhibou when the stoning occurred, not in Nouakchott. Ould Hadj’s relatives and the man himself have reportedly received menacing phone calls threatening them with beatings, though not death. Organizers of the Sidioca stoning received beatings in Nouakchott.

A Mauritanian gave me permission to relate the following story. Sometime during the early 1980’s, a Mauritanian who had tried for years to be admitted into the army finally realized his dream. Because of contemporary circumstances, his last name prevented him from joining the armed services which caused him great consternation. But he remained troubled even after joining the military: The lieutenant found out through chitter chatter that a major had asked for his female cousin’s hand in marriage by very overt and tactless means. While the marriage was sanctioned, the lack of disrespect was not. The major had to be taught some manners and the family honor had to be upheld. On an afternoon soon thereafter he made his way to the major’s office at HQ in Nouakchott. When the office emptied out for the day, he entered the major’s quarters locked the door and proceeded to beat the man until his displeasure was fully understood. He then stepped outside, closed the door, breaking the key in the lock, and went on his way. The dispute over the family honor was settled by tribal elders, after which the incident was “forgotten.”

Beatings and the threat of beatings are signs of high disrespect in Mauritania. In the town of Aghshorgit, whose people are related to Sidioca, it is said that if the former president passed through they would beat him senseless. The same comes from villagers in the vicinity of Boutilimit. To express the desire to beat a member of high society is an expression of an especially Mauritanian form of disrespect. Honor killings are not normal in Mauritania. Honor beatings often serve a similar function, usually between men, allowing those feeling debased to defend their honor in hand to hand combat. A desire to physically confront a leader, especially an elderly one, is at once a sign of grumpiness and an expression of the sense that the individual in question has sullied the collective honor.

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