Slave masters in Mauritania exercise full ownership over their slaves. They can send them away at will, and it’s common for a master to give away a young slave as a wedding present. This practice tears families apart; Moulkheir never knew her mother and barely knew her father.
Most slave families in Mauritania consist of dark-skinned people whose ancestors were captured by lighter-skinned Arab Berbers centuries ago. Slaves typically are not bought and sold — only given as gifts, and bound for life. Their offspring automatically become slaves, too.