This chapter provides a brief historical background and a description of major events in Mauritania. It also provides basic political, economic, and social data arranged in the following categories: polity, economy, population, purchasing power parities, life expectancy, ethnic groups, capital, political rights, civil liberties, and status. The chapter discusses the progress and decline of political rights and civil liberties in Mauritania. Mauritania took a step towards political reform in October 2001 when it held municipal and national assembly elections that included a range of opposition parties. Mauritanians for the first time in 2001 were permitted to exercise their constitutional right to choose their representatives in relatively open competitive elections. Mauritania's judicial system is heavily influenced by the government. Many decisions are shaped by Sharia (Islamic law), especially in family and civil matters. Mauritania is an Islamic state in which, by statute, all citizens are Sunni Muslims who may not possess other religious texts or enter non-Muslim households.