Police stopped Mauritanian rapper Yëro Gaynääko (real name Yéro Abdoulaye Sow) on 16 August 2016 while on the road back to the capital Nouakchott, forcibly removing the rapper out of the car, accusing him of being drugged and taking him to a police station where he was assaulted and verbally abused, reported human rights organisation FONADH on 19 August 2016.
The rapper explained he was returning home late at night after hosting a two-day conference entitled ‘Rap and Resistance’ in Boghe, some 300 kilometres south east of the capital, saying: “I had not slept enough. My eyes were red and I didn’t look fresh because of fatigue.”
After taking the rapper to the police station, policemen forced him to undress in front of them and other inmates, then proceeded to slap and spit on him while insulting him and accusing him of being part of FLAM, an outlawed paramilitary group. Without explanation, police released Yëro Gaynääko hours later.
The rapper has sought the help of FONADH lawyers to file an official complaint, telling Dakar Express on 31 August 2016 he “will go to the end to find out the cause of this violence”.
Police have not responded to the incident and it remains unclear if the rapper was targeted for his music.
In its stakeholder submission to the United Nations Human Right’s Council, non-profit organisation Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) reported that in Mauritania, between 2010 and 2015, there were 29 incidents of violations of the right to freedom of expression and assembly, 23 of which were at the hands of police or security forces who used excessive force and firearms. The MFWA noted that journalists and activists were particularly targeted in such actions.
Yëro Gaynääko is an outspoken rapper who describes himself as “the voice of the excluded and oppressed” who fights for a “just and respectful Mauritania”. His latest song ‘Allegory of Fire’, released in August 2016, addresses issues of racism, inequality, terrorism and radical Islam. The video shows the rapper in a car with friends who are stopped at a checkpoint and get into an altercation that eventually ends peacefully.
Photo: Artist’s Facebook page
» Arterial Network – 31 August 2016:
Mauritania: Rapper Yero Gaynaako assaulted and verbally abused
» Forum des Organisations Nationales de Droits Humains en Mauritanie (FONADH) – 19 August 2016:
Press release: Another attack by security forces on a young rapper on the “road to hope”
» Media Foundation for West Africa – 11 September 2015:
Mauritania: Police, security forces use excessive force to silence peaceful demonstrations
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