The Persistence of Islamic Slavery

The Persistence of Islamic Slavery

By Robert Spencer | July 20, 2007

The International Criminal Court recently issued warrants for the arrest of Ahmed Haroun, the minister for humanitarian affairs of Sudan, and Ali Kosheib, a leader of that country’s notorious janjaweed militia. The Sudanese government has refused to hand over the two for prosecution. Charges include murder, rape, torture and “imprisonment or severe deprivation of liberty.” Severe deprivation of liberty is a euphemism for slavery. Egypt’s Al-Ahram Weekly observed not long ago that in Sudan, “slavery, sanctioned by religious zealots, ravaged the southern parts of the country and much of the west as well.”

Muslim slavers in the Sudan primarily enslave non-Muslims, and chiefly Christians. According to the Coalition Against Slavery in Mauritania and Sudan (CASMAS), a human rights and abolitionist movement, “The current Khartoum government wants to bring the non-Muslim black South in line with Sharia law, laid down and interpreted by conservative Muslim clergy. The black animist and Christian South has been ravaged for many years of slave raids by Arabs from the north and east and resists Muslim religious rule and the perceived economic, cultural, and religious expansion behind it.”

The BBC reported in March 2007 that slave raids “were a common feature of Sudan’s 21-year north-south war, which ended in 2005….According to a study by the Kenya-based Rift Valley Institute, some 11,000 young boys and girls were seized and taken across the internal border — many to the states of South Darfur and West Kordofan….Most were forcibly converted to Islam, given Muslim names and told not to speak their mother tongue.” One modern-day Sudanese Christian slave, James Pareng Alier, was kidnapped and enslaved when he was twelve years old. Religion was a major element of his ordeal: “I was forced to learn the Koran and re-baptised “Ahmed.” They told me that Christianity was a bad religion. After a time we were given military training and they told us we would be sent to fight.” Alier has no idea of his family’s whereabouts. But while non-Muslims slaves are often forcibly converted to Islam, their conversion does not lead to their freedom. Mauritanian anti-slavery campaigner Boubacar Messaoud explains: “It’s like having sheep or goats. If a woman is a slave, her descendants are slaves.”

Anti-slavery crusaders like Messaoud have great difficulty working against this attitude because it is rooted in the Qur’an and Muhammad’s example. The Muslim prophet Muhammad owned slaves, and like the Bible, the Qur’an takes the existence of slavery for granted, even as it enjoins the freeing of slaves under certain circumstances, such as the breaking of an oath: “Allah will not call you to account for what is futile in your oaths, but He will call you to account for your deliberate oaths: for expiation, feed ten indigent persons, on a scale of the average for the food of your families; or clothe them; or give a slave his freedom” (5:89). But  while the freeing of a slave or two here and there is encouraged, the institution itself is never questioned. The Qur’an even gives a man permission to have sexual relations with his slave girls as well as with his wives: “The believers must (eventually) win through, those who humble themselves in their prayers; who avoid vain talk; who are active in deeds of charity; who abstain from sex, except with those joined to them in the marriage bond, or (the captives) whom their right hands possess, for (in their case) they are free from blame…” (23:1-6). A Muslim is not to have sexual relations with a woman who is married to someone else – except a slave girl: “And all married women (are forbidden unto you) save those (captives) whom your right hands possess. It is a decree of Allah for you” (4:24).

In the past, as today, most slaves in Islam were non-Muslims who had been captured during jihad warfare. The pioneering scholar of the treatment of non-Muslims in Islamic societies, Bat Ye’or, explains the system that developed out of jihad conquest:

The jihad slave system included contingents of both sexes delivered annually in conformity with the treaties of submission by sovereigns who were tributaries of the caliph. When Amr conquered Tripoli (Libya) in 643, he forced the Jewish and Christian Berbers to give their wives and children as slaves to the Arab army as part of their jizya [tax on non-Muslims]. From 652 until its conquest in 1276,

Nubia was forced to send an annual contingent of slaves to Cairo. Treaties concluded with the towns of Transoxiana, Sijistan, Armenia, and Fezzan (Maghreb) under the Umayyads and Abbasids stipulated an annual dispatch of slaves from both sexes. However, the main sources for the supply of slaves remained the regular raids on villages within the dar-al-harb [House of War, i.e., non-Islamic regions] and the military expeditions which swept more deeply into the infidel lands, emptying towns and provinces of their inhabitants.[1]

Historian Speros Vryonis observes that “since the beginning of the Arab razzias [raids] into the land of Rum [the Byzantine Empire], human booty had come to constitute a very important portion of the spoils.” As they steadily conquered more and more of Anatolia, the Turks reduced many of the Greeks and other non-Muslims there to slave status: “They enslaved men, women, and children from all major urban centers and from the countryside where the populations were defenseless.”[2] The Indian historian K. S. Lal states that wherever jihadists conquered a territory, “there developed a system of slavery peculiar to the clime, terrain and populace of the place.” When Muslim armies invaded India, “its people began to be enslaved in droves to be sold in foreign lands or employed in various capacities on menial and not-so-menial jobs within the country.”[3]

Slaves faced pressure to convert to Islam.  In an analysis of Islamic political theories, Patricia Crone notes that after a jihad battle was concluded, “male captives might be killed or enslaved…Dispersed in Muslim households, slaves almost always converted, encouraged or pressurized [sic] by their masters, driven by a need to bond with others, or slowly, becoming accustomed to seeing things through Muslim eyes even if they tried to resist.”[4] Thomas Pellow, an Englishman who was enslaved in Morocco for twenty-three years after being captured as a cabin boy on a small English vessel in 1716, was tortured until he accepted Islam. For weeks he was beaten and starved, and finally gave in after his torturer resorted to “burning my flesh off my bones by fire, which the tyrant did, by frequent repetitions, after a most cruel manner.”[5]

Slavery was taken for granted throughout Islamic history, as it was, of course, in the West as well up until relatively recent times. Yet while the European and American slave trade get stern treatment attention from historians (as well as from reparations advocates and guilt-ridden politicians), the Islamic slave trade, which actually lasted longer and brought suffering to a larger number of people, is virtually ignored. (This fact magnifies the irony of Islam being presented to American blacks as the egalitarian alternative to the “white man’s slave religion” of Christianity.) While historians estimate that the transatlantic slave trade, which operated between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries, involved around 10.5 million people, the Islamic slave trade in the Sahara, the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean areas began in the seventh century and lasted into the nineteenth, and involved 17 million people.[6]

And when pressure came to end slavery, it moved from Christendom into Islam, not the other way around. There was no Muslim William Wilberforce or William Lloyd Garrison. In fact, when the British government in the nineteenth century adopted the view of Wilberforce and the other abolitionists and began to put pressure on pro-slavery regimes, the Sultan of Morocco was incredulous. “The traffic in slaves,” he noted, “is a matter on which all sects and nations have agreed from the time of the sons of Adam…up to this day.” He said that he was “not aware of its being prohibited by the laws of any sect” and that the very idea that anyone would question its morality was absurd: “No one need ask this question, the same being manifest to both high and low and requires no more demonstration than the light of day.”[7]

However, it was not the unanimity of human practice, but the words of the Qur’an and Muhammad that were decisive in stifling abolitionist movements within the Islamic world. Slavery was abolished only as a result of Western pressure; the Arab Muslim slave trade in Africa was ended by the force of British arms in the nineteenth century.

Besides being practiced more or less openly today in Sudan and Mauritania, there is evidence that slavery still continues beneath the surface in some majority-Muslim countries as well — notably Saudi Arabia, which only abolished slavery in 1962, Yemen and Oman, both of which ended legal slavery in 1970, and Niger, which didn’t abolish slavery until 2004. In Niger, the ban is widely ignored, and as many as one million people remain in bondage. Slaves are bred, often raped, and generally treated like animals.

A shadow cast by the strength and perdurability of Islamic slavery can be seen in instances where Muslims have managed to import this institution to the United States. A Saudi named Homaidan Al-Turki, for instance, was sentenced in September 2006 to 27 years to life in prison, for keeping a woman as a slave in his home in Colorado. For his part, Al-Turki claimed that he was a victim of anti-Muslim bias. He told the judge: “Your honor, I am not here to apologize, for I cannot apologize for things I did not do and for crimes I did not commit. The state has criminalized these basic Muslim behaviors. Attacking traditional Muslim behaviors was the focal point of the prosecution.” The following month, an Egyptian couple living in Southern California received a fine and prison terms, to be followed by deportation, after pleading guilty to holding a ten-year-old girl as a slave. And in January 2007, an attaché of the Kuwaiti embassy in Washington, Waleed Al Saleh, and his wife were charged with keeping three Christian domestic workers from India in slave-like conditions in al-Saleh’s Virginia home. One of the women remarked: “I believed that I had no choice but to continue working for them even though they beat me and treated me worse than a slave.”

All this indicates that the problem of Islamic slavery is not restricted to recent events in the Sudan; it is much larger and more deeply rooted. The United Nations and human rights organizations have noted the phenomenon, but nevertheless little has been done to move decisively against those who still hold human beings in bondage, or aid or tolerate others doing so. The UN has tried to place peacekeeping forces in Darfur, over the objections of the Sudanese government, but its remonstrations against slavery in Sudan and elsewhere have likewise not resulted in significant government action against the practice. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have also noted the problem, but as HRW observes, “the government of Sudan has stonewalled on the issue of slavery, claiming it was a matter of rival tribes engaging in hostage taking, over which it had little control. That is simply untrue, as myriad reports coming out of southern Sudan have made abundantly clear.” For Islamic slavery to disappear, a powerful state would have to move against it decisively, not with mere words, and accept no equivocation of half-measures. In today’s international geopolitical climate, nothing could be less likely.

[1] Bat Ye’or, The Decline of Eastern Christianity Under Islam: From Jihad to Dhimmitude, Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1996, p. 108.

[2] Speros Vryonis, The Decline of Medieval Hellenism in Asia Minor and the Process of Islamization from the Eleventh through the Fifteenth Century, Berkeley, 1971. P. 174-5. Quoted in Bostom, Legacy of Jihad, p. 87.

[3] K. S. Lal, Muslim Slave System in Medieval India, Aditya Prakashan, 1994. P. 9.

[4] Patricia Crone, God’s Rule: Government and Islam, Columbia University Press, 2004. Pp. 371-372. Quoted in Bostom, Legacy of Jihad, p. 86.

[5] Giles Milton, White Gold: The Extraordinary Story of Thomas Pellow and Islam’s One Million White Slaves, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2004. P. 84.

[6] Andrew Bostom, The Legacy of Jihad, Prometheus, 2005, pp. 89-90.

[7] Quoted in Bernard Lewis, Race and Slavery in the Middle East, Oxford University Press, 1994. Reprinted at[color=”#FF0000″][/color]

The Scourge of Slavery


Muslim slave traders

Over 28 Million Africans have been enslaved over the Muslim world over the past 14 centuries

While much has been written concerning the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, surprisingly little attention has been given to the Islamic slave trade across the Sahara, the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean.  While the European involvement in the Trans Atlantic slave trade to the Americas lasted for just over three centuries, the Arab involvement in the slave trade has lasted fourteen centuries, and in some parts of the Muslim world is still continuing to this day.


Slave routes

A comparison of the Islamic slave trade to the American slave trade reveals some interesting contrasts.  While two out of every three slaves shipped across the Atlantic were men, the proportions were reversed in the Islamic slave trade.  Two women for every man were enslaved by the Muslims.

While the mortality rate for slaves being transported across the Atlantic was as high as 10%, the percentage of slaves dying in transit in the Trans Sahara and East African slave trade was between 80 and 90%!

While almost all the slaves shipped across the Atlantic were for agricultural work, most of the slaves destined for the Muslim Middle East were for sexual exploitation as concubines, in harems, and for military service.

While many children were born to slaves in the Americas, and millions of their descendants are citizens in Brazil and the USA to this day, very few descendants of the slaves that ended up in the Middle East survive.

While most slaves who went to the Americas could marry and have families, most of the male slaves destined for the Middle East were castrated, and most of the children born to the women were killed at birth.

It is estimated that possibly as many as 11 million Africans were transported across the Atlantic (95% of which went to South and Central America, mainly to Portuguese, Spanish and French possessions.  Only 5% of the slaves went to the United States).

African Slaves

Slaves in Africa – in the early 20th century.

However, at least 28 million Africans were enslaved in the Muslim Middle East.  As at least 80% of those captured by Muslim slave traders were calculated to have died before reaching the slave markets, it is believed that the death toll from the 14 centuries of Muslim slave raids into Africa could have been over 112 million.  When added to the number of those sold in the slave markets, the total number of African victims of the Trans Saharan and East African slave trade could be significantly higher than 140 million people.


William Wilberforce led the campaign against slavery for 59 years.

While Christian Reformers spearheaded the anti-slavery abolitionist movements in Europe and North America, and Great Britain mobilised her Navy, throughout most of the 19th Century, to intercept slave ships and set the captives free, there was no comparable opposition to slavery within the Muslim world.

Even after Britain outlawed the slave trade in 1807 and Europe abolished the slave trade in 1815, Muslim slave traders enslaved a further 2 million Africans.  This despite vigorous British Naval activity and military intervention to limit the Islamic slave trade.  By some calculations the number of victims of the 14 centuries of Islamic slave trade could exceed 180 million.

Nearly 100 years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in America, and 130 years after all slaves within the British Empire were set free by parliamentary decree, Saudi Arabia and Yemen, in 1962, and Mauritania in 1980, begrudgingly removed legalised slavery from their statute books.  And this only after international pressure was brought to bear.  Today numerous international organisations document that slavery still continues in some Muslim countries.


Slavery long predated Christianity and many of the early Christians were slaves in the Roman Empire.  Without exception, the pre-Christian world accepted slavery as normal and desirable.  The Greek philosopher Aristotle claimed:  “From the hour of their birth, some are marked out for subjection, others for rule.” The great civilisations of Mesopotamia, Babylon, Egypt, Greece, Rome, and all the civilisations in Central America and Africa were built upon slave labour.

People became slaves by being an insolvent debtor, or sold into slavery by their parents, or by being born to slave parents, or by being captured in war, or through kidnapping by slave raiders and pirates.  Slave dealing was an accepted way of life, fully established in all societies.  Most of these slaves were white people, or Europeans.  In fact the very word “slave”, comes from the people of Eastern Europe, the Slavs.

St. Patrick, the English missionary to the Irish, was once  a slave himself, kidnapped from his home and taken to Ireland against his will. Patrick spoke out strongly against slavery.  He wrote:  “But it is the women kept in slavery who suffer the most.”

Captured Slaves

About 80% of those captured by Muslim slave raiders died before reaching the slave markets.

The Greeks, from whom we derive so many modern, humanistic ideas, were utterly dependent on slavery.  Even Plato’s Republic was firmly based on slave labour.  Plato said that 50 or more slaves represented the possessions of a wealthy man.

Under Roman law, when a slave owner was found murdered, all his slaves were to be executed.  In one case, when a certain Pedanius Secundas was murdered, all 400 of his slaves were put to death.

Before the coming of Christ, the heathen nations despised manual work and confined it to slaves.  When Christ was born, half of the population of the Roman Empire were slaves.  Three quarters of the population of Athens were slaves.

Slavery was indigenous to African and Arab countries before it made its way to Europe. Slavery was widely practiced by the tribes of the American Indians long before Columbus set foot on the shores of the New World.  Ethiopia had slavery until 1942, Saudi Arabia until 1962, Peru until 1968, India until 1976 and Mauritania until 1980.  What is also seldom remembered is that many black Americans in the 19th Century owned slaves.  For example, according to the United States census of 1830, in just the one town of Charleston, South Carolina, 407 black Americans owned slaves themselves.           


But Jesus revolutionised labour.  By taking up the axe, the saw, the hammer and the plane, our Lord endued labour with a new dignity.  Christianity undercut slavery by giving dignity to work.  By reforming work, Christianity transformed the entire social order.

Our Lord Jesus Christ began His ministry in Nazareth with these words:  “The Spirit of the Lord is on proclaim freedom for the prisoners.and release to the oppressed.”  Luke 4:18

When the apostle Paul wrote to Philemon, concerning his escaped slave, he urged him to welcome back Onesimus “no longer as a slave, a dear a man and as a brother in the Lord.”  Philemon 16.

Because of these and other Scriptural commands to love our neighbour, to be a good Samaritan and to do for others what you would want them to do for you, Christians like William Wilberforce, John Newton, William Carey, David Livingstone, Lord Shaftsbury and General Charles Gordon worked tirelessly to end the slave trade, stop child labour, and set the captives free.

From the very beginning of the Christian Church, Christians freed slaves.  During the 2nd and 3rd Centuries many tens of thousands of slaves were freed by people who converted to Christ.  St. Melania was said to have emancipated 8000 slaves, St. Ovidius freed 5000, Chromatius freed 1400, Hermes 1200.  Many of the Christian clergy at Hippo under St. Augustine “freed their slaves as an act of piety.” In AD315, the Emperor Constantine, just two years after he issued the edict of Milan, legalising Christianity, imposed the death penalty on those who stole children to bring them up as slaves.

The Emperor Justinian abolished all laws that prevented the freeing of slaves.  St. Augustine (354 – 430) saw slavery as the product of sin and as contrary to God’s Divine plan (The City of God).  St. Chrysostom in the 4th Century, taught that when Christ came He annulled slavery.  He proclaimed “in Christ Jesus there is no slave.therefore it is not necessary to have a them, and after you have taught them some skill by which they can maintain themselves, set them free.”

For centuries, throughout the Middle Ages, bishops and church councils recommended the redemption of captive slaves, and for five centuries the Trinitarian monks redeemed Christian slaves from Moorish (Muslim) servitude.

In 1102AD, the London Church Council outlawed slavery and the slave trade.  By the 12th Century slaves in Europe were rare, and by the 14th Century slavery was almost unknown on the continent of Europe.


However, with the birth of Islam came a rebirth of the slave trade.  As Ronald Segal in “Islam’s Black Slaves” documents:  “When Islam conquered the Persian Sassanid Empire and much of the Byzantine Empire, including Syria and Egypt, in the 7th Century, it acquired immense quantities of gold.stripping churches and monasteries.either directly or by taxes, payable in gold, imposed on the clergy and looting gold from.tombs.the state encouraged the search and sanctioned the seizure, in return for a fifth of the finds.”

Segal notes:  “Female slaves were required in considerable numbers for.musicians, singers and dancers.many more were bought for domestic workers.and many were in demand as concubines.  The harems of rulers could be enormous.  The harem of Abdal Rahman III (912 – 961) in Cordoba contained over 6000 concubines!  And the one in the Fatimid Palace in Cairo had twice as many.”

Slave raid

An Arab slave raid in East Africa 1888. The death toll from 14 centuries of the Islamic slave trade in
Africa is estimated at over 112 million.

Islam’s Black Slaves also reveals that the castration of male slaves was common place.  “The Calipha in Baghdad at the beginning of the 10th Century had 7000 black eunuchs and 4000 white eunuchs in his palace.” It was noted that there were widespread “homosexual relations” as well.  Islam’s Black Slaves notes that Islamic teachers throughout the centuries consistently defended slavery:  “For there must be masters and slaves.” Others noted that blacks “lack self-control and steadiness of mind and they are overcome by fickleness, foolishness and ignorance.  Such are the blacks who live in the extremity of the land of Ethiopia, the Nubians, Zanj and the like.”

Ibn Khaldun (1332 – 1406) the pre-eminent Islamic medieval historian and social thinker wrote:  “The Negro nations are as a rule submissive to slavery.because they have attributes that are quite similar to dumb animals.”

By the Middle Ages, the Arab word “abd” was in general use to denote a black slave while the word “mamluk” referred to a white slave.  Even as late as the 19th Century, it was noted that in Mecca “there are few families.that do not keep slaves.they all keep mistresses in common with their lawful wives.”

It was noted that black slaves were castrated “based on the assumption that the blacks had an ungovernable sexual appetite.”

When the Fatimids came to power they slaughtered all the tens of thousands of black military slaves and raised an entirely new slave army.  Some of these slaves were conscripted into the army at age ten.  From Persia to Egypt to Morocco, slave armies from 30000 to up to 250000 became common-place.

Even Ronald Segal, who is most sympathetic to Islam and clearly prejudiced against Christianity, admits that well over 30 million black Africans would have died at the hands of Muslim slave traders or ended up in Islamic slavery.

Dhow vessel

A dhow, the favourite slave carrying vessel of Arab slave traders.

Arab traders beat their cargo into submission on the run from the African coast to Zanzibar.

The Islamic slave trade took place across the Sahara Desert, from the coast of the Red Sea, and from East Africa across the Indian Ocean.  The Trans Sahara trade was conducted along six major slave routes.  Just in the 19th Century, for which we have more accurate records, 1.2 million slaves were brought across the Sahara into the Middle East, 450000 down the Red Sea and 442000 from East African coastal ports.  That is a total of 2 million black slaves – just in the 1800’s.  At least 8 million more were calculated to have died before reaching the Muslim slave markets.

Islam’s Black Slaves records:  “In the 1570’s, a Frenchman visiting Egypt found many thousands of blacks on sale in Cairo on market days.  In 1665 Father Antonios Gonzalis, a Spanish/Belgian traveller, reported 800 – 1000 slaves on sale in the Cairo market on a single day.  In 1796, a British traveller reported a caravan of 5000 slaves departing from Darfur.  In 1838, it was estimated that 10000 to 12000 slaves were arriving in Cairo each year.” Just in the Arabic plantations off the East Coast of Africa, on the islands of Zanzibar and Pemba, there were 769000 black slaves.

Slave Market

The slave market in Zanzibar sold an average of 300 slaves every day.

In the 19th Century, the East African black slave trade included 347 000 slaves shipped to Arabia, Persia and India;  95 000 slaves were shipped to the Arab plantations in the Mascareme Islands.

Segal notes “The high death rate and low birth rate among black slaves in the Middle East and the astonishingly low birth rate amongst black slave women” in North Africa and the Middle East.  “Islamic civilisation.lagged increasingly behind the West in protecting public health.  The arithmetic of the Islamic black slave trade must also not ignore the lives of those men, women and children taken or lost during the procurement, storage and transport.the sale of a single captive for slavery might represent a loss of ten in the population  from defenders killed in attacks on villages, the deaths of women and children from related famine and the loss of children, the old and the sick, unable to keep up with their captors or killed along the way in hostile encounters, or dying of sheer misery.”

One British explorer encountered over 100 human skeletons from a slave caravan en route for Tripoli.

The explorer, Heinrich Barth, recorded that a slave caravan lost 40 slaves in the course of a single night at Benghazi.

The British explorer, Richard Lander, came across a group of 30 slaves in West Africa, all of them stricken with smallpox, all bound neck to neck with twisted strips of bullock hide.

One caravan with 3000 proceeding from the coast in East Africa, lost two thirds of its number from starvation, disease and murder.

In the Nubian desert, one slave caravan of 2000 slaves literally vanished as every slave died.


In 1818, Captain Lyon of the Royal Navy reported that the Al-Mukani in Tripoli “waged war on all its defenceless neighbours and annually carried off 4000 to 5000 slaves.a piteous spectacle!  These poor oppressed beings were, many of them, so exhausted as to be scarcely able to walk, their legs and feet were much swelled, and by their enormous size formed a striking contrast with their emaciated bodies.  They were all borne down with loads of firewood, and even poor little children, worn to skeletons by fatigue and hardships, were obliged to bear their burden, while many of their inhuman masters with dreadful whip suspended from their waist.all the traders speak of slaves as farmers do of cattle.the defenceless state of the Negro kingdoms to the southward are temptations too strong to be resisted, a force is therefore annually pillage these defenceless people, to carry them off as slaves, burn their towns, kill the aged and infants, destroy their crops and inflict on them every possible misery.all slavery is for an unlimited time.none of their owners ever moved without their whips – which were in constant use.drinking too much water, bringing too little wood or falling asleep before the cooking was finished, were considered nearly capital crimes, and it was in vain for these poor creatures to plead the excuse of being tired.  Nothing could withhold the application of the whip.  No slaves dared to be ill or unable to walk, but when the poor sufferer dies, the master suspects that there must have been something ‘wrong inside’ and regrets not having liberally applied their usual remedy of burning the belly with a red-hot iron.”

Slave Traders

Arab slave traders along the Ruvuma River, East Africa, 1866, axe a straggler.

Records for Morocco in 1876 show that market prices for slaves varied from £10 ($48) to £30 ($140).  Female slaves comprised the vast majority of sales with “attractive virgins” fetching between £40 to £80 ($192 – $386).  It was reported that “a considerable majority of the slaves crossing the Sahara were destined to become concubines in North Africa, the Middle East and occasionally even further afield.”


Segal also observed that:  “White slaves from Christian Spain, Central and Eastern Europe” were also shipped into the Middle East and served in the “palaces of rulers and the establishments of the rich.”

Muslim raiders kidnapping women

Muslim slave raiders kidnapped women from Europe for harems in the Middle East.

Historian Robert Davis in his book “Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters – White Slavery In the Mediterranean, the Barbary Coast and Italy”, estimates that North African Muslim pirates abducted and enslaved more than 1 million Europeans between 1530 and 1780.  These Christians were seized in a series of raids which depopulated coastal towns from Sicily to Cornwall.  Thousands of Christians in coastal areas were seized every year to work as galley slaves, labourers and concubines for Muslim slave masters in what is today Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria and Libya.  Villages and towns on the coast of Italy, Spain, Portugal and France were the hardest hit, but the Muslim slave raiders also seized people as far afield as Britain, Ireland and Iceland.  They even captured 130 American seamen from ships they boarded in the Atlantic between 1785 and 1793.

According to one report, 7000 English people were abducted between 1622 to 1644, many of them ship crews and passengers.  But the Corsairs also landed on unguarded beaches, often at night, to snatch the unwary.  Almost all the inhabitants of the village of Baltimore, in Ireland, were captured in 1631, and there were other raids in Devon and Cornwall.  Many of these white, Christian slaves were put to work in quarries, building sites and galleys and endured malnutrition, disease and mistreatment at the hands of their Muslim slave masters.  Many of them were used for public works such as building harbours.

Female captives were sexually abused in palace harems and others were held as hostages and bargained for ransom.  “The most unlucky ended up stuck and forgotten out in the desert, in some sleepy town such as Suez, or in Turkish Sultanate galleys, where some slaves rowed for decades without ever setting foot on shore.” Professor Davis estimates that up to 1,25 million Europeans were enslaved by Muslim slave raiders between 1500 to 1800.


While Islam dominated the slave trade from the 7th to the 15th Century, between 1519 and 1815 Europe also joined in this trade in human flesh.  And it was those European nations which had suffered the most at the hands of Muslim slave raiders, and under centuries of Muslim military occupation, Spain and Portugal, who dominated the European slave trade.

Because of Pope Alexander VI’s Line of Demarcation Bill of 1493 which barred Spain from Africa, Spain issued Asientos (a monopoly) to other nations to supply slaves for her South American colonies.  First Portugal had this lucrative franchise, then the Dutch, then the French.  Finally, by the treaty of Utrecht 1713, the Asientos was transferred from France to Britain.  Britain’s involvement in slavery was first authorised in 1631 by King Charles I.  His son, Charles II, reintroduced it by Royal  Charter in 1672.

According to “The Slave Trade” by Hugh Thomas, approximately 4 million (35.4%) went to Portuguese controlled Brazil; 2,5 million (22.1%) to the Spanish nations of South and Central America; 2 million (17.7%) to the British West Indies (mostly Jamaica); 1,6 million (14.1%) to French West Indies; half a million (4.4%) to Dutch West Indies and half a million (4.4%) to North America.


Freed Slaves

Slaves freed by the British Navy.

It is extraordinary that, considering that less than 5% of all the Trans Atlantic slaves ended up in North America, the vast majority of films, books and articles concerning the slave trade concentrate only on the American involvement in the slave trade, as though slavery was a uniquely American aberration.  However, the vastly greater involvement of Portugal, Spain and France seem to be largely ignored.  Even more so the far greater and longer running Islamic slave trade into the Middle East has been so ignored as to make it one of history’s best-kept secrets.

We tend to focus on what happened in North America because the United States would eventually fight a war, in part over slavery, and because of the enormous and vocal American opposition to slavery.  This was in sharp contrast to the indifference that Muslims, Africans and many Europeans evidenced towards it.


A steam pinnache of HMS London puts a warning shot across the bow of a slaving dhow in 1881.

The legends of European slave raiders venturing into the jungles of Africa to capture free peoples are generally just that:  myths.

The embarrassing fact of history, is that the Europeans did not have to use any force to obtain these slaves.  The slaves were “sold” by their black owners.  There was no need for the slave raiders to risk their lives or venture into the jungles of Africa, they simply purchased the people from African chiefs and Muslim slave traders at the coast.

However, while the slave trade and slavery itself was always criticised vigorously in Britain and America, no comparable criticism was evident in the Muslim Middle East or amongst the African tribes which sold their own people, and neighbouring tribes, into slavery.  Almost all of the African slaves transported across the Atlantic were captured and sold by African rulers and merchants.

Many chiefs found it more profitable to sell their enemies, criminals and debtors than to kill or imprison them.  Many were weaker neighbouring tribes conquered for the express purpose of selling their people into slavery.  The disgraceful fact is that there were three equally guilty partners in the crime of the Trans Atlantic slave trade:  pagan African chiefs, Muslim Arabs and Christian Europeans.

The Trade, as it became known, involved a triangular voyage.  Slave ships sailed from Bristol or Liverpool loaded with cloths, beads, muskets, iron bars and brandy.  This merchandise was then traded in West Africa in exchange for slaves.  Mostly African chiefs sold their own people, or engaged in wars and slave raids against neighbouring tribes to capture victims for this trade.  Often professional Arab slave traders provided the victims.

The middle passage transported the slaves to the West Indies.  Here the slaves were sold and the ships loaded with spices, rum, molasses and sugar.  The third leg of the journey was the return to England.  The average Englishman on the street was kept in the dark as to what was actually happening on the middle passage, until, in 1785, Thomas Clarkson’s landmark study “Slavery and Commerce In the Human Species” was first published at Cambridge.  According to Clarkson’s research, 10% of the slaves would normally die during the middle passage.  Strong men would fetch as much as £40 while the women and children were sold in cheap batches with the sick and weak men.  In England 18 000 people were employed simply on making the goods to trade for slaves in Africa.  This trade constituted 4.4% of British exports.


On Sunday 28 October 1787, William Wilberforce wrote in his diary:  “God Almighty has set before me two great objects, the suppression of the slave trade and the Reformation of society.” For the rest of his life, William Wilberforce dedicated his life as a Member of Parliament to opposing the slave trade and working for the abolition of slavery throughout the British Empire.

On 22 February 1807, twenty years after he first began his crusade, and in the middle of Britain’s war with France, Wilberforce and his team’s labours were rewarded with victory.  By an overwhelming 283 votes for to 16 against, the motion to abolish the slave trade was carried in the House of Commons.  The parliamentarians leapt to their feet with great cheers and gave Wilberforce the greatest ovation ever seen in British history.  William bent forward in his seat, his head in his hands, tears of gratitude streaming down his face.

In 1809, the British government mobilised its Navy to search suspected slave ships, even foreign vessels on the high seas.  In 1810, the British Parliament declared slave trading a felony, punishable by fourteen years hard labour.  In 1814, the British representative at the Congress of Vienna insisted on the abolition of the slave trade being included in the International Treaty.  This Treaty was signed by all the European powers on 9 June 1815.  In 1825, Britain passed a bill making slave trading punishable by death.

Finally, just three days before William Wilberforce died, by an Act of Parliament in 1833, the British abolished slavery itself – setting all 700 000 slaves in British overseas territories free.  Wilberforce’s lifetime campaign of 59 years was now fully successful.  “Thank God that I’ve lived to witness the day in which England is willing to give 20 million pounds sterling for the abolition of slavery!” he exclaimed.  Within three days he died rejoicing.  (For the story of how slavery was abolished see the chapter on William Wilberforce – Missionary to Parliament in The Greatest Century of Missions).

The “History of European Morals” suggests that “the unweary, unostentatious and inglorious crusade of England against slavery may probably be regarded as among the three or four perfectly virtuous pages comprised in the history of nations.”

The abolition of slavery was one of the great turning points in history.  And the long and vigorous crusade by the British Navy throughout the 19th Century against the slave trade ranks as one of the most extraordinary and unselfish applications of national policy ever seen in the history of nations.

“.where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”     2 Cor 3:17


Samual Crowther

Rescued from slavery by the British Navy, Samual Crowther became the first African
bishop of the Church of England.

One of the many fruits of William Wilberforce’s life long crusade against the slave trade was that Samuel Ajayi Crowther, who was born in 1807 (the year Great Britain abolished the slave trade) in Yorubaland (modern Western Nigeria) was rescued by a British naval squadron.  When Samuel was just thirteen years old, he was captured by Muslim slave traders for transport across the Atlantic, but rescued by the Navy.  Samuel received an education in Sierra Leone, where he converted to Christ, and after further education in England he was ordained as a minister of the Church of England for service with the Church Missionary Society.

Liberated Slaves

Newly liberated slaves in Zanzibar.

Samuel participated in the expedition up the Niger River Valley to overcome the ravages of the slave industry still entrenched there.  Of the 145 Europeans on that expedition, 130 were struck down with Malaria, and 40 died.  Yet the expedition succeeded in establishing a Missionary Center at Fourah Bay for training liberated slaves to evangelise West Africa.  It was built on the very place where a slave market had once stood.  The rafters of the roof were made almost entirely from the masts of old slave ships.

Samuel Crowther was one of the first four students to graduate from Fourah Bay’s College, Sub-Saharan Africa’s first university.  In 1864, Samuel Crowther was ordained as the first African Bishop of the Church of England in an overflowing Canterbury cathedral.  Today there are eighteen times more Anglicans worshipping in church every Sunday in Nigeria than there are in Great Britain.


Livingstone and his team free slaves from Arab slave raiders in the Shire Valley.

However, as the British Navy was defeating the slave trade in the Atlantic, the East African slave trade was increasing.  It was missionary explorer David Livingstone whose graphic descriptions brought the ravages of the East African slave trade to light.  His Missionary Travels and Narrative of an Expedition to the Zambezi exposed the horrors of the slave trade:  “Two of the women had been shot the day before for attempting to untie their thongs.  One woman had her infants brains knocked out because she could not carry her load and it; and a man was dispatched with an axe because he had broken down with fatigue.those taken out of the country are but a very small section of the sufferers.  We never realised the atrocious nature of the traffic until we saw it at the fountain head.  ‘There truly Satan has his seat.’  Besides those actually captured thousands are killed and die of their wounds and famine, driven from their villages by the internecine war waged for slaves with their own clansmen and neighbours, slain by the lust of gain, which is stimulated, be it remembered always, by the slave purchases of Cuba and elsewhere.”


The British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society reported that most slaves were captured in the Lake Niassa area (Malawi and Mozambique), the Bahr El Ghazal region and in areas of Ethiopia.  Slaves were taken to East African markets like Zanzibar, Kilwa and Quelimane and then shipped to Turkey, India, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, Iraq, Iran and to the islands of Pemba, Reunion and Madagascar.

The Anti-Slavery Reporter estimated the Muslim slave trade as exporting 63000 slaves per year.  Some estimates went as high as 500000 slaves exported in a single year. One researcher, Ralph Austen calculated that between 1830 and 1861 imports of slaves to the Persian Gulf averaged 3700 to 3100 per annum.  This same researcher noted that about 8855 slaves a year were retained as slaves on the East African coast as slaves of African slave masters.

1833 Free slaves

1833 – All slaves in the British Empire are set free by Parliamentary decree.

Few authors dared describe the horrors involved in the Trans- Sahara slave trade:  kidnapping and castrating young boys to be sold as eunuchs (“the living dead”) in the homes of wealthy Arab landlords and force marching young women across endless miles of scorching sand in the Sahara desert to become slave concubines, most dying in transit.  The Muslim slave trade typically dealt in the sale of castrated male slaves:  eunuchs.  Eunuchs were created by completely amputating the scrotum and penis of eight to twelve year old African boys.  Hundreds of thousands of young boys bled to death during this gory procedure.  The survival rate from this process ranged from 1 in 10 to 1 in 30.  These castrated boys brought the highest price at the slave market.


Islam’s Black Slaves notes:  “the Quran stipulated that female slaves might lawfully be enjoyed by their masters.” Mohammad himself owned many slaves, some of whom he captured in wars of conquest and some he purchased.  The names of forty slaves owned by Mohammad are recorded by Muslim chroniclers.  Islamic law (Sharia) contains elaborate regulations for slavery.  A slave had no right to be heard in court (testimony was forbidden by slaves), slaves had no right to property, could marry only with the permission of the owner, and were considered to be chattel, that is the movable property, of the slave owner.  Muslim slave owners were specifically entitled by Sharia law to sexually exploit their slaves,  including hiring them out as prostitutes.

One reason why very little has been written about the Arab involvement in slavery is that traditional Islamic culture still condones slavery.  The Sharia, the codified Islamic law which is based upon the teachings and example of Mohammad, contains explicit regulations for slavery.  One of the primary principles of Islam is following the example of Mohammad.  Whatever Mohammad did, we must do, what he forbade, we must forbid, what he did not forbid, we may not forbid. As Mohammad himself traded in slaves and owned slaves, accumulating multiple wives, even marrying a six year old, and having concubines – slavery and the sexual exploitation of women is deeply ingrained in Islamic tradition.  Muslim nations had engaged in the slave trade for over 600 years before Europe became involved in the Trans-Atlantic slave trade.


Slave – my true story

Almost 200 years after the British outlawed the slave trade in 1807, slave raids and the sale of slaves in Muslim markets continues in countries like Sudan.  The slave trade remained legal in Saudi Arabia until 1962, when under international pressure it was finally abolished.  However, there are persistent, credible reports, that slavery persists in Saudi Arabia, and even that slaves from Sudan are ending up in Saudi Arabia.

Recently, a former slave from the Nuba Mountains of Sudan, Mende Nazer, had her autobiography:  “Slave:  My True Story” published.  Mende was captured in 1992, she was first a slave to a rich Arab family in Khartoum, and then in 2002 to a Sudanese diplomat in London, from whom she escaped and sought political asylum.


“Anyone who kidnaps another and either sells him or still has him when he is caught must be put to death.”  Exodus 21:16

“.the Law is made not for the righteous but for Law breakers.for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for adulterers and perverts, for slave traders and liars and perjurers.” 1 Timothy 1:9-10

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free.for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28

“From one man He made every nation of men.” Acts 17:26

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your your neighbour as yourself.” Mark 12:30-31

“Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32

“.where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” 2 Cor. 3:17

“.proclaim liberty throughout the land.” Leviticus 25:10

Dr. Peter Hammond is the author of Faith Under Fire In Sudan and The Greatest Century of Missions.


A History of Christianity, by Kenneth Scott Latourette, Harper, 1953

Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters:  White Slavery in the Mediterranean; the Barbary Coast and Italy 1500 – 1800, by Robert Davis, Palgrave MacMillan, 2004

God’s Politician, by Garth Lean, Helmers and Howard, 1987

History of Slavery, by Suzanne Everett, Chartwell, 1997

Islam’s Black Slaves, by Ronald Segal, Farrar, New York, 2001

Missionary Travels and Researches in South Africa, by David Livingstone, London, 1857

Narrative of an Expedition to the Zambezi, by David Livingstone, London,1865

The Greatest Century of Missions, by Peter Hammond, CLB, 2002

The Slave Trade, by Hugh Thomas, 1997

Under the Influence – How Christianity Transformed Civilization, by Alvin Schmit, Zondervan, 2001…geofSlavery.htm

Slavery Lives on in Mauritania

Tradition Thrives Thanks to a Confluence of Cultures

Start streaming audio Listen to Ivan Watson’s report.

Aug. 28, 2001 — The government of Mauritania abolished slavery more than 20 years ago. But despite the government’s persistent denials, the practice continues in one form or another.

Slave girls carry water for their master.

A slave works in the fields.
Photo: The American Anti-Slavery Group

The former French colony is a meeting point of two very different cultures. For centuries, the light-skinned Moors have dominated people from the rim of sub-Saharan black Africa. That domination has often taken the form of enslavement. In his report for All Things Considered Ivan Watson talks to former slaves, activists and refugees to get a sense of what’s happening in Mauritania.

Slavery in the northwest African country is more of a private tradition than an public institution. The government isn’t directly involved, and it even refuses to publicly admit that slavery exists in Mauritania. Individuals and families have been practicing slavery for centuries. Some slaves are treated well by their masters, others are abused. “There are different levels to it,” says Franklin Graham, an American aid worker.

Some black Moors, he says, feel they simply can’t leave their masters. “They look at it as…’Well, if I lose my relationship with this family, what am I going to do?’ They do not have education, regretfully, and the opportunity to go off and do something else is just not provided for them.”

Map of Mauritania
Map: Erik Dunham, NPR

The government goes to great lengths to deny the problem. It has banned the word “slave” from use by the media, and foreign journalists risk arrest and deportation for investigating the issue.

Activists are quick to point out that slavery is not practiced only by Arab-Berber Muslims. Both blacks and the Moors continue to own slaves, they say, and some of Mauritania’s most powerful families are black. In fact, the president of the national senate — the country’s second-ranking leader — is a black Moor.

Still, the government has a history of instituting racist policies. In 1987, black officers were purged from the army and the police force. Two years later, more than 60,000 blacks were deported at gunpoint to neighboring Senegal. At least 20,000 black

Mauritanians still live in refugee camps in Senegal along Mauritania’s southern frontier.

Many black Mauritanians are convinced that the government is trying to consolidate power in the hands of the Arab-Berber elite. As evidence, they point to the decision to declare Arabic the country’s official language.

Some activists disagree. They say the current regime is a dictatorship that oppresses both blacks and whites. Last spring, the government arrested a popular white Moor opposition leader and presidential candidate on charges of sabotage and terrorism. He has since been sentenced to five years in prison. The group Human Rights Watch recently condemned what it calls the government’s ongoing repression of opposition political parties and rights activists.…mauritania.html

Born to be a slave in Niger

By Hilary Andersson
BBC Africa Correspondent, Niger

Slavery continues to blight the lives of many millions around the world. Although officially abolished in some countries two centuries ago, people trafficking, bonded labour and child labour still exist.

Niger nomads

Slaves come from the poorest communities in Niger

There are some places on earth that few outsiders visit or know about, vast empty sections of the earth where time has stood still for centuries.

Niger is one of those places. It is a country that you can drive through for hours without seeing a soul.

A nation of vast, barren and windswept landscapes, a country of people who live almost entirely off cattle, and off the labour of human slaves.

Slavery in Niger is not an obscure thing, nor a curious relic of the past, it is an intrinsic part of society today.

A Nigerian study has found that almost 8% of the population are slaves.

You wonder how this can be in the 21st Century and why people do not know about it?

We began a journey to find out more.


We drove for hundreds of miles north across the desert. There were no roads for much of the journey and our cars rattled and jarred across plains set with, what seemed like, solidified waves of sand every few feet.

We choked on the dust, hour after hour, wondering if we would ever see another human being at all in this desolate place, let alone a slave.

We were heading for a well, owned by a local nomadic leader and we had been told he, like many here, owned slaves.

We eventually found his tents and reversed our cars immediately, hoping to locate his slaves without his knowledge first, so that we could speak freely to them, without them being afraid of intimidation.

We found the slaves’ tents some way off, and there we met Fatima, a mother of seven children.

She lived in a scrawny brown tent that rose no higher than my elbow off the ground. Her children were all around and one of them had a face bloated with a terrible infection for which she had no medicine.

She seemed humiliated by her status, but seemed to have no greater expectations of her life

Fatima told us she had been working for her master for as long as she could remember.

She said her master did not pay her, but fed and clothed her.

“What can I do?” she said. “I have no money, I need food, I have children and so if I can work for a man who at least feeds me then that is good.”

When I asked her if she was a slave she looked at the ground, and said yes.

She seemed humiliated by her status, but seemed to have no greater expectations of her life.

Appalling abuse

When we spoke to her masters they denied owning slaves. The practice of slavery was outlawed in Niger last year.

Trading in slaves has been banned in Niger since the days of the French colonists in the last century, but ownership of slaves was never specifically banned.

Most slaves in Niger today are the descendent’s of slaves who were kidnapped in wars and raids centuries ago, and were simply born into their status.

Many slaves in Niger are appallingly abused by their masters.

Slave children are taken away from their parents before they are two-years-old, to break the bonds between parent and child and to eliminate any sense of identity.

The children grow up working in the house of the master.

Assibit, a former slave (Photo: Anti-Slavery International)
Assibit was born into slavery, as was her mother and her husband

The slave owners encourage the slaves to reproduce to increase their numbers, sometimes even determining when they have sexual intercourse.

They treat the slaves like their cattle.

Slaves are often beaten for small misdemeanours.

They work long hours and are sometimes deprived of food as punishment.

There are documented cases of slaves being stripped naked in front of their families to humiliate them, of female slaves being raped by their owners, and even of male slaves being castrated by their owners as punishment.

Hopes and fears

Assibit, another slave we met, could not bear the punishment any longer and ran away from her master last July, leaving her husband, also a slave, behind.

She undertook a traumatic journey back to her former owner with us and a human rights worker to see if, under Niger’s new laws, her husband could be freed.

When we got to his tents, she lowered herself in the seat so that she would not be seen.

The human rights activist confronted the owner, a lanky thin older man, surrounded by his tall sons.

They became aggressive and began to shout at us to turn off our cameras and leave.

They screamed that the human rights activist was a slave too, and that he deserved a beating.

An entire section of the population would have to be taught that they are not intrinsically inferior to others

We tried to retreat into the car, but our vehicle was stuck in the deep soft sand and would not move.

Eventually, with the sons banging on the windows the car began to plough forward slowly, and we fled.

When Assibit first ran away from her owners she was asked what it was like to be free, but she did not understand the question.

She did not understand the concept of freedom, or even the word.

When I arrived in Niger, I could barely believe that slavery exists in this century on such a scale, but when I left I could not see how it could end in our generation.

Ending slavery in Niger would require a social revolution.

An entire section of the population would have to be taught that they are not intrinsically inferior to others, but that is what they have believed for generations.

The slave owners, and the establishment, are reluctant to teach them.…ent/4250709.stm

Mauritania ‘still practising’ slavery.

Amadou Toure Mauritanian refugee camp leader in Dagana Senegal

Thousands of Mauritanians are exiled in Senegal

The Mauritanian Government has been accused of doing nothing to stop slavery even though the practice was outlawed there 20 years ago.

The human rights group, Amnesty International, said: “No concrete steps appear to have been taken to make the abolition a reality.”

Anti-slavery campaigner

In a new report, Amnesty singled out the governing Arab-Berber Moors for particular criticism, saying they maintained the system of discrimination to protect their own interests.

The Mauritanian authorities say only the last vestiges of slavery exist and that its critics are trying to tarnish its image.

The report also highlighted the difficulties encountered by anti-slavery campaigners, many of whom it said faced constant threats or imprisonment.

There are three main ethnic communities in Mauritania: Arab Berbers aka ‘white’ Moors, who hold political power; black Moors or Haratins, generally considered to be descendants of slaves, and blacks who come from the south of the country, the report says.

Slavery was only legally abolished in 1981 following public protests against the public sale of a woman.

Case studies

Amnesty suggests the least the authorities can do now is establish an independent enquiry looking at what has happened during the past 20 years and what should be done now.

Speaking at the launch of the report in Dakar in neighbouring Senegal, Boubacar Messaoud, a campaigner against slavery told the BBC’s Chris Simpson that slavery was a complex social phenomenon, existing at many different levels in Mauritania.

He said it went well beyond simple stereotypes of White Moors oppressing Black Moors.

“It’s not a racial problem, it’s not a cultural problem. It’s a problem of society, of traditions in our country and in others,” he said.

“There are black slaves and they may be more numerous. But blacks too had slaves. In the Moorish milieu you can be black and be a slave-owner and have never been a slave yourself. There is a long history of inter-marriage in that society”.

Amnesty’s representatives were barred from visiting to carry out research.

In January this year, the Action for Change opposition party, which campaigns for greater rights for blacks and the descendents of slaves, was banned.

Communications Minister Chyakh Ould Ely accused the party of being racist and violent.

In 1989, hundreds were killed and thousands deported to neighbouring Senegal after race riots in both countries followed a border conflict.

‘Slave party’ banned in Mauritania

Amadou Toure, Mauritanian refugee camp leader in Dagana, Senegal
Thousands still live in refugee camps in Senegal

Mauritania’s Government has ordered the dissolution of an opposition party which campaigns for greater rights for blacks and the descendents of slaves.

The party, Action for Change (AC), is considered radical in a country where political power has always been held by Arabs and Berbers.

Communications Minister Chyakh Ould Ely accused the party of being racist and violent.

In 1989, hundreds were killed and thousands deported to neighbouring Senegal after race riots in both countries followed a border conflict.

AC is the third party to be banned in recent years but Mr Ely said it would retain its four parliamentary seats.

‘Dictatorial regime’

Mr Ely accused AC of trying to undermine national unity and threatening good relations with Senegal.

But, speaking in a BBC interview, the leader of Action for Change, Messaoud Ould Belkheir, denied this, and strongly criticised the government decree.

Messaoud Ould Belkheir
Belkheir says the ban is ‘unjustified’

He called it “a typical example of the absence of democracy under a dictatorial regime that does not tolerate opinions opposed to its own.”

He also said it was a response to gains by his party in both legislative and municipal elections held last October.

According to some estimates, black-skinned Harratin account for around a third of Mauritania’s population.

Slavery has been outlawed three times but human rights groups say the practice still continues.

Lost land

Twelve years after the conflict with Senegal, thousands of black Mauritanian refugees still live in camps along the border, such as at Dagana.

The authorities say they are free to go back – if they can prove their citizenship.

Refugee kids at Mauritania camp in Senegal

The refugee children know only of life in camps

But they say their identity papers were confiscated when they were deported and their land has since been given to Arabs and Berbers.

In October 2000, another opposition party, the Union of Democratic Forces, was banned.

The pro-Iraqi Attalia party was outlawed in 1999 after protesting against the restoration of diplomatic ties with Israel by this Islamic state.

United Nations Commission on Human Rights

Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights
Working Group on Contemporary Forms of Slavery
27th Session

Forced labour in Mauritania

Despite the 1981 Decree which abolished slavery, the lack of positive action to secure the release of slaves living and working for their traditional masters has meant that many Mauritanians continue to provide forced labour.

Virtually all cases of slavery in Mauritania concern individuals whose ancestors were enslaved many generations ago. Birth continues to impose slave status on different ethnic groups, whereby they are viewed as slaves by some and as servants or family retainers by others. They typically work as herders of livestock, agricultural workers and domestic servants, but remain completely dependent on their traditional masters to whom they pass virtually all the money they earn or for whom they work directly in exchange for food and lodgings.

Caste distinctions see some families in different ethnic groups assigned to a “slave caste” whereby they are subjected to a range of discriminatory practices, such as depriving them of the right to leave their property to their children upon death – a practice which keeps them on the bottom rung of the economic ladder.

The authorities in Mauritania stress that slavery has been abolished. While this is the case it should be noted that there is no penal sanction for employing forced labour, as required by Article 25 of ILO Convention No.29 on Forced Labour, and the prohibition against forced labour under the Labour Code needs to be extended to cover all work relationships, even when they are not covered by a contract.

However, the central point of concern does not relate to the legal status of slavery in Mauritania, but to whether forced labour and servitude (what the Government refers to as “the vestiges of slavery”) have been abolished in practice.

Reports from an NGO based in Mauritania, SOS-Esclaves (SOS-Slaves), clearly show that individuals continue to be subjected to slavery and servitude. In its reports for 2000 and 2001, SOS-Esclaves cites several cases illustrating how difficult it is for people to escape from their traditional masters.

One case involved a 13-year-old girl who escaped from an encampment where she and her mother lived and worked for a camel herder in Tagant. She went to the town of Atar to stay with her grandmother, but the police detained the girl and eventually returned her to the encampment.

In May 2001, a human rights activist sent Anti-Slavery details of a case in which a traditional master seized money that was being sent to an enslaved family from abroad. When the family sought to challenge this they were beaten up by the police.

An article in the Washington Post in October 2001, refers to the case of Mohamed who moved to Senegal with his brother after his family was freed from slavery.1 They worked there for several years and saved money to start their own business. However, when they returned to Mauritania their former master tracked them down and forced them to hand over all the money they had saved, claiming that everything they had belonged to him. Their former master still exercised powers of ownership over them, even though they were supposed to be free.

The cases cited above indicate that traditional masters are sometimes able to count on the support of law enforcement agencies to assist them in recapturing former slaves, in spite of the 1981 Decree.

SOS-Esclaves stresses that the documented cases represent the tip of the iceberg as most people held in servitude will not overcome the internalised set of values which makes people of slave descent believe that they should remain living with, and working for, the families which enslaved their parents or ancestors. Others submit to their current exploitation because they see no alternative options in terms of where they would live or work. In these circumstances physical coercion is rarely needed to prevent people from leaving.

Pro-active work is also required on the part of the Government to end both the economic dependency of such people on their masters, and their psychological conditioning which may lead them to resign themselves to a life of servitude. Measures also need to be taken to prevent acts of discrimination against individuals or communities that are still categorised by many Mauritanians as having slave status.

Although the Government established the Commissariat for Human Rights, Poverty Alleviation and Integration in May 1999, this Commissariat is not known to have initiated any action focused specifically on slaves or people of slave descent. SOS-Esclaves has also noted that the Commissariat has not responded to or taken action on the complaints it has submitted relating to slavery.

Anti-Slavery is also very concerned by the Government’s decision, at the beginning of 2002, to ban the political party Action Pour le Changement (Action for Change). Action for Change has many Mauritanians descended from slaves among its members and supporters and fielded candidates for the first time in the 2001 parliamentary elections.

The head of Action for Change, Messaoud Boulkheir, was formerly the leader of El Hor (Freedom) which campaigned in the 1970s for an end to slavery in Mauritania, leading to its abolition in 1981. Messaoud Boulkheir has regularly spoken out about the continued existence of slavery in Mauritania and Action for Change’s party platform refers specifically to slavery and “condemns the Government for its silence and complicity in this phenomenon”. This follows the imprisonment in 1998 of four NGO workers, including the leader of SOS-Esclaves, who were active in fighting slavery.

The current ban on Action for Change has the unfortunate effect of reinforcing the impression that the Government is hostile to those working to eradicate forced labour in Mauritania and promote the interests of those descended from slaves.

In view of the above Anti-Slavery recommends that the Government of Mauritania:

1. Invite the ILO to send a mission to clarify the factual situation, as suggested by the Committee of Experts in their 2002 report.

2. Ensure that, subject to the exceptions admitted by ILO Convention No.29, any situation where an individual who is forced to provide a service for which they have not offered themselves of their own free will is illegal and punishable as a penal offence.
3. Develop a national action plan to release and rehabilitate all those held in conditions of forced labour or servitude. This plan should include public information campaigns regarding the law, access to education programmes and the provision of economic alternatives to the victims.

1 Douglas Farah, “Despite legal ban, slavery persists in Mauritania” Washington Post, 21 October 2001.…-mauritania.htm



The Commissariat aux Droits de l’Homme à la Lutte contre la Pauvreté et à l’Insertion [the Commission on Human Rights, the Fight Against Poverty and Social Inclusion] was created on July 2, 1998 by a decree issued by the prime minister. It is one of the most recent human rights commission to have been created in Francophone West Africa. It is also the commission with the broadest stated mandate in that it explicitly includes economic and social rights and social integration (insertion in French).

Mauritania is an Islamic Republic dominated by a strong presidency [aka dictator]. The 1991 constitution provides for a civilian government composed of a dominant executive branch, a senate and a national assembly. President Maaouya Ould Sid’Ahmed Taya has governed since 1984, for fourteen years as head of a miliary junta, and since a 1992 multiparty election as head of a civilian government. In December 1997, Taya was reelected president in an election widely regarded as fraudulent, receiving over 90 percent of the vote. Although there have been some improvements from the past, the government’s human rights record generally remains poor. State institutions are regularly subjected to interference from the executive branch. Reports of police brutality and press censorship continue, and prison conditions remain harsh. An amnesty bill was passed in 1993 exonerating those responsible for widespread extrajudicial killings, torture and abuse that occurred against members of southern ethnic groups between 1989 to 1991. Although officially outlawed, slavery and voluntary servitude persists, with many former slaves continuing to work for their former masters.

The government continues to constrain and harass the political opposition and human rights NGO community, including through the denial of official registration. In 1998, three prominent human rights activists were held incommunicado for four days for allegedly collaborating in the making of a French television network program to document allegations that slavery persists in Mauritania. Two of the three arrested were charged with acting on behalf of organizations not officially recognized by the government and convicted to thirteen months imprisonment. One of the defense lawyers, another leading human rights activist, was also arrested. Following widespread criticism of the sentences, the human rights activists were pardoned by President Taya.

The creation of the Commission on Human Rights, the Fight Against Poverty and Social Inclusion seems to have been motivated by the wish to address broad societal inequalities, including economic disparities. When asked to situate the creation of the commission in the Mauritanian context, Koita Bamariem, the director of human rights promotion in the commission, pointed to the country’s social and economic inequities as the key motivation in this decision. He also cited the absence of any other economic and social body in the government as a reason for the creation of the commission: “because it was necessary to adopt a more consolidated approach to economic and social issues, such as water policy or the need for universal education, in order to resolve the problems of poverty which is the most egregious of human rights violations.”150

Article 2 of the decree founding the Commission on Human Rights, the Fight Against Poverty and Social Inclusion has as its general mission “the conception, promotion, and implementation of a national policy on human rights, the fight against poverty, and social inclusion.”151 Article 3 specifies that the commission should develop research plans “in collaboration” or “in conjunction” with other government departments. The ties between the human rights commission and other government structures are further reinforced by the fact that under the law, the commissioner has “the rank and prerogatives of a Minister.”

More specifically, the commission is mandated to:

1) In matters of human rights:

117. take all appropriate measures to ensure the promotion and dissemination of human rights principles and values;

118. strengthen dialogue and collaboration with national human rights associations;

119. develop cooperation and exchange with regional and international organizations, as well as with international nongovernmental human rights groups; and

120. issue an annual report on the human rights situation.

2) With respect to fighting poverty and to promoting social inclusion:

121. promote, in collaboration with other departments, a national policy aimed at eradicating poverty through the use and equitable dissemination of basic social services;

122. ensure the integration of vulnerable groups in the process of development and promote individual and collective development approaches, fully using their human and material resources.152…mauritania.html


AI Index: AFR 38/005/2002 (Public)
News Service No: 188
7 November 2002

Embargo Date: 7 November 2002 08:00 GMT

Mauritania: A future free from slavery

Despite the legal abolition of slavery in Mauritania twenty years ago, the government is yet to take practical steps ensure its abolition in practice, Amnesty International said today in its report Mauritania: a future free from slavery.

The report, published on the eve of the 21st anniversary of the decree which officially abolished slavery, shows that human rights abuses related to slavery persist in Mauritania, although the government denies their existence.

“The Mauritanian government must stop violating its own laws and urgently end slavery, which is an abominable attack on human dignity and freedom,” Amnesty International said.

Mauritanian laws and international human rights obligations prohibit slavery, but anyone escaping slavery has no legal protection. There is considerable discrimination against former slaves. No government official is willing to take the necessary remedial action to fully eradicate slavery and put an end to impunity for the perpetrators.

In 2001,17-year-old M’bareck ould Bilal ould Braïkat escaped from alleged slavery, leaving behind three younger brothers, a young sister and his mother, all apparently enslaved by four nomadic brothers. According to him, he spent his life caring for animals. He said that he fled because of the constant verbal insults he received and the relentless work, although he apparently had been frequently beaten with a stick in the past. It seems that he has not received any formal education. After M’bareck approached the Regional Governor for protection and release of his family, the gendarmerie only questioned him and the person who had offered him shelter about their links with SOS Esclaves.

“Not only has the government denied the existence of slavery and slavery-like practices and failed to respond to cases brought to its attention, it has hampered the activities of organizations which are working on the issue, including by refusing to grant such organizations official recognition,” Amnesty International said.

Anti-slavery activists and other human rights defenders work under constant threat of arrest and imprisonment. In 1998, five human rights defenders, including Boubacar Messaoud, President of SOS Esclaves and Fatimata M’baye, Vice President of the Association Mauritanienne des droits de l’homme (AMDH, Mauritanian Association of Human Rights), were sentenced to 13 months’ imprisonment for running unauthorized human rights organizations which have campaigned against slavery.

“Action against slavery and continuing human rights abuses based on slavery is long overdue. It is time for the government to approach the problem proactively, rather than denying its importance and hoping that a focus in education, literacy and agrarian reforms will be enough to eradicate the vestiges of slavery and address its consequences,” the organization urged.

Amnesty International’s report contains a series of detailed recommendations for the real and effective abolition of slavery directed to the Mauritanian government and the international community. These include that the government must acknowledge that slavery remains a problem in Mauritania. Accordingly, the Mauritanian government should establish an independent and impartial enquiry to investigate practices over the past 20 years and to consider steps to take towards complete eradication of slavery, slavery-like practices and related abuses and discrimination in the country. Special emphasis must be given to awareness raising, support of NGOs and civil society working on the issue, legal change and development of means of redress.

Amnesty International is also urging the international community to encourage the Mauritanian government to confront the issue openly. It should also openly support the work of human rights organizations working on slavery and slavery-like practices in Mauritania.


The issue of slavery in 21st century Mauritania is contentious. In 1981 slavery was legally abolished following widespread public protests against the public sale of a woman. A period of optimism and relative openness towards dealing with the problem followed. Hopes that this signalled an imminent end to slavery proved unfounded, largely because of government inaction.

Slavery has been a long-standing social issue within all the ethnic communities of Mauritania. There are many shades of opinion even among those who acknowledge that slavery persists in Mauritania today. Often people deny that their own community practises slavery or discrimination, but believe that these problems exist in other communities. Others, such as the anti-slavery organization SOS Esclaves,believe that slavery is a problem across all of Mauritanian society. At the same time this community retains a substantial hold on political power which could be used to change the situation.

The government’s lack of response to Amnesty International’s numerous letters requesting dialogue and seeking permission to visit Mauritania in both 1998 and 2001 indicate how sensitive the issue of slavery remains in Mauritania. It also fits with the government’s continued refusal to legalize non-governmental human rights groups, whose activities include demanding an end to impunity for massive human rights violations committed against the black Mauritanian population in 1989/1990 and campaigning against slavery and slavery-like practices. The government has also banned opposition parties and sentenced their leaders to terms of imprisonment after unfair trials.

The report Mauritania: A future free from slavery is available at:!Open

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Voices of the African Liberation Forces of Mauritania (FLAM)

by Bill Weinberg

The Aug. 3 coup d’etat in Mauritania brought this West African nation briefly into the headlines. But the African Liberation Forces of Mauritania (FLAM) have been struggling for over a generation to bring democracy and equal rights for the Black African peoples of the country’s south, who are disenfranchised from power by the ruling Arab political class.

These peoples have been expropriated of their lands, forced into refugee camps, and even sold into slavery—a system which thrives with impunity. The situation mirrors that in Sudan, but has received far less media attention. Now, however, the stationing of a US Special Forces troops in Mauritania to counter supposed Islamic terrorist networks, as well as the recent discovery of oil, give this suffering nation a new strategic importance.

On Aug. 9, Bill Weinberg spoke with Mamadou Barry and Abdarahmane Wone, North American representatives of the FLAM, over the airwaves of WBAI Radio in New York City. They spoke about the long struggle in Mauritania, the prospects after the coup, and the urgent need to bring the situation there to the world’s attention.

Bill Weinberg (BW): Your country has been in the news recently because there was just a coup d’etat there, where the president who’d been in power more than twenty years, Maoya Sidi Ahmed Ould Taya, was overthrown exactly a week ago by an entity calling itself the Military Council for Justice and Democracy. And the new leader is apparently Col. Ely Ould Mohamed Vall. But the FLAM has been opposing the regime for more than twenty years now since it was founded in 1983. Can you tell us a little bit about your struggle and what the new developments in Mauritania might mean for it?

Mamadou Barry (MB): Good morning to everyone. My name is Mamadou Barry, general secretary of the FLAM. Yes, my organization was founded in March 1983, out of the need of answering the discrimination and slavery. It was targeted to fight the system of racial discrimination in Mauritania. Our country was colonized by France, but we got them out in 1960. But then the political and economic power was maintained by the Arab part of Mauritania. And the black population was subjected to racial discrimination. So from that time there was a need for blacks to do something to be liberated. Its not just one government but a system; we’ve had several governments from 1960 to today, but its almost the same people who are ruling the country. What the coup d’etat will mean for Blacks and really for all Mauritanians: it is the same situation as of today, because we have seen no signs to make us optimistic about what will happen in the new future.

BW: Are you at least guardedly optimistic about the change of government there?

MB: We are happy to see one of the most racist and dictatorial regimes gone, but there have been so many, its like a chain. But one gone may be a sign of hope for change. We’ll see, we’ll see…

BW: The new ruler, Col. Vall, seems to be from the same political elite class as the overthrown ruler Taya; they were very close until recently, in fact.

MB: What’s amusing is that the new president was the former head of state security under Taya, so everything happening in Mauritania had to go through him.

BW: Right. There’s been an awful lot in the news over the last year or so about Darfur, in Sudan, which is somewhat analogous, with an Arabized elite pushing the indigenous black Africans from their lands. Its been a similar dynamic in Mauritania, albeit in recent years perhaps with less violence. But there was a period in the late 1980s, I understand, when there where forced deportations, with over a 100,000 people displaced, villages burned…

Abdarahmane Wone (AR): There was a policy of building a system in which blacks would be second class citizens, since our independence in 1960 up to now, all the dictators have worked on building this system. And in 1989 what happened is in order to have fewer blacks in Mauritania and to keep the fertile land in the south, the racist government, helped by Saddam Hussein, decided to deport more than 120,000 people from Mauritania to Senegal and Mali. Those people, my people, are still living in refugee camps in those countries. And today we’re talking about a change of president, but those people still can not come home.

BW: So 15 years later there are still over 120,000 in refuge camps?

AR: Its hard to say if the number is still 120,000. Part of the program was to deprive them of food to make them move, to go back to Mauritania, without their lands, and accept being second-class citizens. So its very hard to say how many there are now. But there are many refugees in both Senegal and Mali.

BW: Still people living in camps?

AR: Still living in camps. Mauritania is facing three problems. The first is the deportations of native blacks from the south. The second is slavery. Thirty percent of our population are still slaves.

BW: Thirty percent!?

AR: Yes, thirty percent. They are descended from what we call Haratin. And nobody seems to care about it!

BW: Which means what?

AR: That is the Arab word—Haratin means you are a slave! And the further problem in Mauritania is dictatorship. How can you talk about democracy when a dictator like Taya has been in power since 1984? How can you talk about democracy when over 120,000 people cannot go back to their homes? Even, how can we talk about democracy when 30% of the population are enslaved?

BW: What were the actual mechanics of the deportations in the late 1980s?

MB: You talked earlier about Darfur and Sudan, there are many similarities. There is a general philosophy among certain Arabs, that they must be the masters of blacks. In 1968 or ’67 there was publicity in newspapers even in the Persian Gulf encouraging Arabs to go to Mauritania, because there is land there. Yes, there are blacks on that land, but the blacks there have no right to it. So its deep, its not just a Mauritanian philosophy but an idea going back to Arab nationalism and imported to Mauritania and Sudan. We can say that only Mauritania and Sudan are practicing slavery in all of Africa right now, and it is a system of Arab enslaving black. So that’s something deep.

You asked about the deportations. There were two reasons: political and economic. First the political reasons. It was in 1986 that FLAM published a manifesto that showed all the problems of Mauritania—racial issues, slavery issues—and we asked that the government dialogue with the people to find solutions to those issues. From then on our leaders were arrested, and some of them died in jail. In 1987, some black military officers were accused of attempting a coup d’etat and three were executed. In 1989 a conflict between Senegalese farmers and Mauritanian cattle-herders escalated and Mauritanian soldiers began shooting Senegalese; it became a real war. Now, if the problem was just between Mauritania and Senegal, black Mauritanians would not have been deported. But the Mauritanian government used this conflict, and began the deportations. When black farmers began to be arrested in the south along with FLAM members, the education of the people began, and people began to talk about the cultural, social, and economic problems in Mauritania. So the Mauritanian government used this conflict and started to deport black Mauritanians into Senegal.

BW: Yes, but with what justification? What was the rationale for this?

MB: The Mauritanian government claims it deported no one. They said that to protect the Senegalese population, they had to send them back to Senegal to be safe.

BW: So these were people originally from Senegal who came across the border and began colonizing land in Mauritania?

AR: All the people who were deported were from Mauritania! The conflict between Mauritania and Senegal could have been worked out peacefully, but the Mauritanian military regime was looking for an excuse to deport its own population. They took advantage of the war to deport over 120,000 of our own people, people who’d historically lived in Mauritania since before the 11th century, which is to say…

BW: Before the arrival of the Arabs, in other words.

AR: Yes, before the arrival of the Arabs. We inhabited Mauritania at least seven centuries before the arrival of the Arabs. We do not see ourselves as superior to Arabs, we do not favor black supremacy; we just want equality between all Mauritanians. But unfortunately, coming back to pan-Arabism and the international Baath party—they want to see Arabic become the first language in all the world.

BW: You mean the Baath party as in Iraq and Syria?

AR: Yes.

BW: So you’re using that as a sort of short hand for the ideology of Arab nationalism.

AR: Exactly. And Taya followed this ideology. They said everyone must speak Arabic and that everyone must be an Arab in Mauritania. That’s why they have—and continue to deport blacks in the south, and to destroy their culture and identity, to Arabize them.

BW: And most of those deported were of the Fulani, Wolof, Bambara ethnicites…

AR: And Soninke. Listen, we are not against Arabs, but we believe the Mauritanian government is using Arabic supremacy to isolate and deport blacks. And at one time this dirty war was helped and made possible by Saddam Hussein. He was the one who economically, financially, and militarily supported the regime to achieve it. He said, after helping deport 120,000; you know what he said to our president? “You know what we’d do if we were smart? We’d kill these people instead of deporting them, because once they’re deported they’ll continue to claim their rights.”

BW: Saddam Hussein said this?!

AR: Saddam Hussein said it. He said it in the 1990s when his ally was Taya. Taya was forced to switch because Saddam was defeated in the first Gulf War. That’s why Taya dropped him as an ally, and gave up his pan-Arabism and pan-Islamism.

BW: Yes, and became much closer with the United States and Israel.

AR: Yes, but he only did it to save his skin, certainly not because he believes in democracy, liberty or equality.

BW: So it was under Taya that the deportations began.

AR: Yes. He came to power on Dec. 12, 1984, and from 1984 until last week he was the one leading, or misleading, the country and creating division between Mauritanians.

BW: One of the bitterest ironies of the 1980s deportations was that some of it was done under the guise of land redistribution and agrarian reform.

MB: Yes, that was the economic motivation. Since 1973 we’ve had the drought. And because of it, only the south of Mauritania is fertile. You can grow corn, sorghum, or anything like that. These lands where owned by blacks. How do you get the lands? You deport the blacks and redistribute the land to Arabs. They have access to money from Arabic banks and they could use the money to improve the land.

BW: Apparently there was an order #83-127 which was given by the regime the year before Taya came to power that said that unused land could be redistributed. This of course is an old trick used in many countries to steal indigenous lands. A field is left fallow for a year to recover, so the government claims it’s unused. And I understand that that was the mechanism by which land was transferred from black Africans to Arabs. But what was the role of the banks? There were several prominent banks in North Africa that financed this transfer of land, but I don’t imagine that the people whose land was stolen were reimbursed. How were the banks involved?

MB: The banks financed the plan, the system itself. The government told black farmers to use all their land, but many didn’t have the resources to do so. Arab banks wouldn’t lend money to black farmers, but would lend it to the Arabs who took the land.

BW: So the money was going to Arab farmers to whom the land had been redistributed, for fertilizer, seed, irrigation, that sort of thing.

MB: Its not even accurate to say the Arabs are farmers. They use their money to buy slaves, workers, overseers; they don’t even see the farm, they just wait for the profits to come in.

AW: We don’t have a problem with that order, but that it’s been unequally applied. A black from the south can’t go to the north and just claim a piece of unused land, but an Arab can go to the south and do so with the help of foreign Arab banks. So they take our historical lands, and then the blacks are kept as workers.

Two or three years after that, the deportations began, and now we can’t even claim the land because it can only belong to those who can fully exploit it. And the blacks couldn’t get money from Arab banks to fully use the land. So its basically another form of apartheid.

BW: And much of that land is still worked by slave labor. How is it possible that in the early 21st century the economy of southern Mauritania is still based on slavery and most of the outside world doesn’t know anything about it?

MB: I think its difficult if you have no economic power in this world right now. Nobody sees an economical interest in helping the black farmers. I think foreign governments believe they don’t have to act against their self-interest, and the Mauritanian government has been advantageous to foreign powers. The multi-nationals do not care about moral issues but about the money in their pockets. It’s a shame, but that’s how it works.

AR: Mauritania is little known and plays a very small role in international affairs. Second, its French-speaking which removes it a little from the English-speaking world. Third, our government is doing everything possible to keep this from becoming known. The government says that Mauritania is a democracy and that we don’t want foreign intervention. And that’s why we are calling on all people who believe in justice, we are calling on all Americans to mobilize. We want the world to know that there are people in Mauritania in 2005 who still are slaves. And I believe the struggle against racism and slavery in Mauritania shouldn’t be left to Mauritanians alone. It must be an international struggle.

MB: The Mauritanian government has used bribes and threats to keep other governments silent on the issue. They have militarily threatened Senegal, and they have threatened Mali with support for the Tuareg rebellion there. Its difficult to go to the UN because usually you need a government to have your voice heard, and right now the other black African nations don’t say anything. And many government actively help the Mauritanian government at the UN—the other Arab nations, especially Morocco, and also China and France.

BW: China?

MB: China, yes. Why? Because they are violating human rights in Tibet.

BW: Ah, and they don’t want to set a precedent. So what is the structure of slavery in Mauritania? You speak of the Haratin; is this an historical slave caste which continues to exist?

AR: Yes, one could say that. They are black Africans who were captured by Arabs…

BW: We’re going back several centuries now?

AR: Yes, several centuries ago.

BW: So you have people today whose ancestors have been in slavery for hundreds of years.

AR: That’s the majority of the slave population. But the capturing of blacks is still going on today.

BW: Capturing by whom?

AR: By Arabs. They just come to villages and take people. Not the government exactly, but individual Arabs who believe they have the right to do this.

BW: So land-owners, local political bosses, what have you—and the government just tolerates it?

AR: They just tolerate it. When I was a child I was always warned to be very careful coming home so that I wouldn’t be captured by Arabs. In the West, people think its Muslims versus Muslims, so its not something they have to care about. But it is human beings being enslaved, and that every person must do what he or she can to try and free these people. Islam is used by the Arabs to enslave us. I am Muslim but I respect all religions. I am Muslim and I tolerate everybody. I am a Muslim and that’s why I am fighting for my freedom. There is a misuse of religion in Mauritania.

And I was very surprised to read that the Taya regime was collaborating with the American regime to fight against terrorism. The terrorist number-one in this world is Taya!

BW: This brings us to the final point which is the ongoing dictatorship. You know its very interesting—Taya started out with a very strong anti-West posture; he was very close to Saddam and Mommar Qadaffi in Libya. And then some time in the 1990s he flipped, he betrayed Saddam and got very close with the US and Israel, which was very unpopular with the Islamists. In fact, there has recently been a crackdown on Islamists in which several have been arrested, although I believe some of them were released by the new regime just last week. He also invited in a contingent from the US 10th Special Forces Group in 2003 to train the Mauritanian military to patrol the vast open spaces in the north, which is supposedly being used to infiltrate in terrorist groups from Algeria and so on. So its an interesting game he’s played to remain on top. It seems like it hasn’t worked out that well for him at the moment. But just yesterday he made a statement from Niger, where he’s in exile, asking the military to rise up and have a counter-coup, and put him back in power. And of course the African Union is refusing to recognize the new junta, and I don’t believe the US has recognized it either. So its going to be interesting to see what happens next.

MB: Everything Taya did was in response to the opposition. He held an election in 1991-2. Why? Because France said that Africa must become democratic and because FLAM was starting to influence people outside the country for reform. He said that FLAM was supported by Israel to discredit us; he had to stop saying that after he flipped and established diplomatic relations with Israel! After 9-11, Taya saw the opportunity to make friends with the US. Every US State Department report from 1990 on painted Mauritania as a slave state, so they knew they had do something to improve their image. I think they made up the terrorist threat in the north; it is a creation of the regime to win the support of the United States. I think if there is terrorism in Mauritania it’s sponsored by the government, because nothing can happen there without government approval. Its not a big country, it has about three million inhabitants.

BW: And yet several people have been jailed for ties to Islamic militancy recently…

AR: Those who were jailed were just his ex-comrades! He just picked a few of them to jail as terrorists in order to save his own skin. What I want to explain is that the government and those is jail were both against us. When it comes to protecting the slave system and depriving us of our land and rights, they are all together. We are struggling against them without violence. Why? Because they want FLAM to become violent, or to have a war with a neighboring country so they’ll have an excuse to exterminate all the blacks in Mauritania. That’s why we keep calling for a peaceful resolution.

BW: And it should be pointed out that there have been no terrorist attacks in Mauritania; what they’re claiming is that terrorist groups are recruiting for the insurgency in Iraq and so on. Why don’t you tell us about the history of FLAM. You were founded in 1983, correct?

AR: Exactly, in 1983. FLAM is a coalition of four political organizations that came together in 1983 to defend our agenda.

BW: What are the four political organizations?

AR: Movement des Eleves Noir, L’Organization Pour la Defence des Interets des Negro-Africans de Mauritanie or LODINAM, Organization Popular des Africans de Mauritanie, and Lignee Democratique de Mauritanie. They were all fighting against racism. I was only 10 years old. The FLAM manifesto was a call, a call not to violence but for a discussion, for all Mauritanians to talk about what’s happening. We believe Arabs and blacks must sit down together and discuss what kind of country must be built. Unfortunately, the regime responded by saying, “Wow, now blacks are claiming something in this country, they need to be jailed.” And that was the reaction, they sent our leaders to a bad prison named Walata and many of them died there. The best Mauritanian writer lost his life in prison. His name was Tene Youssouf Gueye, and he died in prison.

BW: Just due to the harsh conditions?

AR: The harsh conditions led to his death, as for many others.

BW: He was a poet?

AR: He was a poet, a writer, an educated man who loved his people, and who never talked about violence. The violence was always done to us. By the way, I should thank an American scholar whose named Samuel Cotton whose been to Mauritania and has written a good book about the slavery and racism. Sadly he’s passed on.

BW: Do you know the name of his book?

AR: Silent Terror. It’s a very interesting book. Unfortunately he died recently.

BW: In 1989 when the deportations began, what was FLAM doing in this period?

MB: At that time the main leaders were in jail, and it was the students who went to Senegal and began educating people about what was going on in Mauritania and using the deportations to demonstrate the nature of the Mauritanian government. In 1982 when we started, we were talking about how few blacks were in government, how language was used as a weapon against us. But after the land law was passed in 1983, the racist nature of the government was very obvious. That was the issue that brought our four constituent organizations together to fight racism and slavery. 1989 was just a further step in the same process. From then on if you said “apartheid in Mauritania” people understood what it was,

BW: So was there armed was resistance to the deportations in 1989?

MB: No, not in 1989. Maybe a year later, because the people were so desperate. The government said FLAM was an extremist organization calling for armed struggle. But it is a principle of morality and of international law that at some point if you cannot get your rights, you use whatever you can. Many of the deported left their cattle behind in Mauritania and wanted to go back to recuperate them, so at there were small confrontations. Some of the violence was used to discredit FLAM. But the armed resistance has been suspended.

AR: There is no way to discuss with the government. We kept asking them, but they never were willing to sit down and talk. So we said, Now its our duty to defend ourselves. The deportations were accompanied by human rights violations. You cant watch your wife or sister be raped by soldiers without doing anything. So the armed resistance was just to say, “No, enough is enough!”

Later, in 1992, when the regime began talking about democratization we said, “Good, we’re in favor of democratization!” Unfortunately the democratization was just another bait and switch so he could keep ruling the country, so that he wouldn’t have to address the real issues which are slavery, racism, deportation, and mass killing. The deportees can’t return to the country because all their identification documents were taken. We have no documents to take to court to reclaim our property. The regime just playing with us, and that’s what they did until last week.

As for this new regime, we don’t know yet. I always say that the situation in Mauritania is similar to the situation in South Africa. If Ely Ould Mohamed Vall is smart enough he will try to be the Mauritanian de Klerk and not the Mauritanian PW Botha. But I’m still very pessimistic because he didn’t call for the resolution of this matter. We still need all the deported to be able to come home, and to be paid.

BW: Paid meaning reparations.

AR: Yes, reparations for the deported, for the enslaved. And we want a discussion between all Mauritanians about what kind of country we want to build.

BW: Does FLAM have any presence within Mauritania, or is it mostly the exile community?

AR: We have an open presence in the exile community. Mauritania is our country, but we are underground there. But still today FLAM is the organization that has been fighting racism, slavery, and dictatorship the longest, and we will keep fighting through successive regimes until Mauritania accepts to build a democratic country. What is democracy? Complete equality between all Mauritanians.

And what we want is to have peace. I believe Africa is too tired. It is time to free our country and to go to work. We don’t want violence, we don’t want hunger—we have a lot of things to do. We are far, far, far behind! Our continent is far behind! It’s time to stop it!

BW: Another unfortunate reason that this area, the West African Sahel, has been in the headlines recently is the threat of mass starvation. It seems that Niger has been hit hardest, where crops were wiped out by locusts. Aid groups are also saying that assistance is urgently needed for Mali and Mauritania as well. I wonder what you’ve heard about how bad this is? I’m guessing its mostly in the arid region in the north, but how badly has the south been affected?

AR: I’ve just come from the refugee camps in Senegal where people are suffering. The agriculture throughout the region is still very primitive, and depends on the rain, and it hasn’t been raining. But I believe the problem of Africa in general is a problem of leadership. We have to have the leaders we deserve, leaders who will really be there for everybody and not just for themselves. There are many leaders who really don’t care about their people being hungry. We have lots of resources in Africa, these resources just need to be well-organized.

MB: As to the hunger, unfortunately people never hear about it until people are dying. And it is the refugees who suffer the most because they don’t have any help or any land. They have no means to get food. They used to get help from the UN, but ever since 1992 the governments of Mauritania and Senegal have been trying to cut off all outside help to the refugees, including food, medicine, education. They hope that if they cut the refugees off they’ll cross back into Mauritania.

The UN helped from 1989 to 1992. But then Mauritania promised democratic reforms and convinced the UN the refugees could return. That’s why we don’t know the exact number of refugees. They send people to the camps to do counts, but if you’re absent for five minutes your name will not be taken.

BW: So the regime was legitimized with an election in 1994?

MB: Yes, in 1992 they began to speak about democratic reforms, but they kept doing the same thing. This allowed the Western governments and other African countries to imagine there was some kind of close in this situation and that the refugees could return to Mauritania. But what wasn’t mentioned was that when elections were held FLAM wasn’t accepted as a party.

BW: FLAM was barred from running candidates.

MB: Yes, the excuse they gave was that FLAM was an extremist organization and only black people are members. And FLAM said that the elections weren’t acceptable before you address the question of the refugees, and give people their lands and their jobs back. Then the main opposition candidate, a former president, was arrested a few days before the election, on charges of plotting a coup. So of course Taya won.

To return to the famine, if there is starvation in the region the refugees will be the most affected. I think what the Senegalese are trying to do is to force the refugees to take citizenship, which is also what the Mauritanian government wants. But the refugees want to go home to Mauritania because that’s their home.

BW: We should also point out that this part of the world which hasn’t received very much media attention is become more strategic. In addition to the US military coming in, there’s also the oil that’s just been discovered off the coast of Mauritania, and foreign companies are bidding for rights in the offshore zone. And they say West Africa could become very strategic in the 21st century in terms of global oil resources.

AR: Yes, that’s right. The oil should be a way to help those who are starving and to keep our country safe, democratic, and rich. It shouldn’t be used to kill our people. Taya and his family, tribe and followers were very happy about the oil being discovered and thought it was another good reason to keep anyone else from power. he first priority of the president was always to save his skin, his family, and some of his friends.

BW: Any last words for people in America and New York City?

AR: We want people to help us organize, fighting peacefully without violence, against this regime. One day when we have a peaceful country, we will invite you to visit. But right now we have to struggle against racism, slavery, and dictatorship in Mauritania.

Transcription by Gavin Sewell.


African Liberation Forces of Mauritania (FLAM)

Dr. Samuel Cotton Memorial Fund to Abolish Slavery

See also our last update on Mauritania

Darfur slaughter rooted in Arab-African slavery


DAKAR, Senegal — The vacationing Senegalese businessman strolling on a summer evening in a North African resort town could have forgotten he was anything but a Muslim among Muslims, an African among Africans. But a shouted insult from an Arab policeman set the black man straight: “Son of a slave.”

Along ancient Saharan trade routes, 1,300 years of shared history that have mingled the faiths, cultures and skin tones of Arabs and Africans have left another, more vicious legacy: Arab-African slavery that has endured as long as the two peoples have been together, leaving black Africans fighting perceptions of themselves as lesser beings and of Arabs as the civilizing, conquering force.

Today, the old roles are playing out at their most extreme in Sudan’s Darfur region, with murderous results: Arab horseman clutching AK-47s raze non-Arab African villages and drive off and kill the villagers, in what rights groups call an ethnic-cleansing campaign backed by Sudan’s Arab-led government.

To Pape Thierno Ndiaye, the Senegalese businessman who spent the mid-1990s in Arab-dominated North Africa, the message was simply that he was a lesser being than Arabs and unwelcome among them.

“It was like that all the time,” Ndiaye, now back home in Senegal, said of his time on the Arab-dominated northern edge of the Sahara and of the policeman’s insult in the Morocco beach town of Agadir.

“It was insults all the time; all of a sudden, the problem of color had become an ordeal,” Ndiaye said.

In Sudan, experts said similar racism is the spark setting fire to Darfur. Up to 80,000 black African villagers are believed to have died, many slain by Arab Janjaweed nomads competing with them for a fertile zone shrinking under desertification and by a minority Arab government accustomed to keeping power by killing opponents.

U.S. officials said more than 1 million people are displaced and expect about 300,000 of Darfur’s non-Arab Africans will die by the end of the year.

“You, the black women, we will exterminate you,” Amnesty International quoted one 20-year-old black African woman as telling them, speaking of the Janjaweed who abducted the women of her village in September 2003 and raped them for days.

With power and land at issue, Sudan’s central government “is stoking racial and ethnic animus more than it ever has been in Darfur history,” said Eric Reeves, a professor at Smith College in Massachusetts and one of the leading academic experts on Sudan. “It’s the animating feature of the war … on African tribal groups,” Reeves said.

In southern Sudan, the common word for non-Arab Africans today among the Arab elite remains “abid,” or slave. In Darfur, in Western Sudan, non-Arab Africans often are referred to as “zurga,” which translates as “black,” but is thought of more as a slur, Reeves said.

Arabs and most Western academics agree the Arab form of African slavery, existing since at least the 6th-century Arab conquest, generally has been less brutal and more open to advancement by slaves than the Western version.

African slaves in Arab households largely have labored as servants in households rather than farmhands on plantations, making for easier lives and less submerging of identity. They often ate and slept side by side with their masters, sometimes married into their families — and occasionally came to rule a Muslim kingdom.

But slavery ended in the West more than 100 years ago. It persists in the Arab world, in the West African nation of Mauritania and in Sudan, human-rights groups and Western governments say.

Arab-African differences have boiled up in recent years in places other than Sudan.

In the 1990s, Mauritania’s current leader oversaw a bloody purge of black Africans from the Arab-dominated nation’s military.

Sudan long has been one of the anchors of the Arab-African slave trade. Its appetite for slaves remains such that a rebel group in neighboring Uganda that calls itself the Lord’s Resistance Army is alleged to trade African children to the Sudanese for an automatic weapon each.

In Darfur and elsewhere, intermarriage between Arab and non-Arab Africans over the centuries has become so common that physical differences have ebbed or disappeared. The skin of the Arab Janjaweed militiamen is as dark as the African villagers they hunt.

“Many generations of intermarriage have ensured there’s not really a physiological difference,” Reeves said. Often, however, the Janjaweed “clings to the notion of Arab racial identity. It’s racism where there is no racial difference.”
Associated Press reporter Nafi Diouf contributed to this report from Dakar.…_slavery02.html

The African Liberation Forces of Mauritania Speak on Slavery and Genocide in the Sahel

Written by Bill Weinberg,
Tuesday, 17 October 2006


At opposite ends of Africa’s Sahel, Sudan and Mauritania hold the distinction of being two nations where the practice of slavery remains intact at the dawn of the 21st century. Sudan is in the headlines now, due to the crisis in Darfur, and mounting calls for foreign intervention. Mauritania remains in the shadows—despite the fact it is still reckoning with the consequences of a Darfur-style wave of ethnic cleansing that began in 1989, with little note from the international community.

On Sept. 19, two days after the Save Darfur rally in New York’s Central Park, Bill Weinberg spoke with Mamadou Barry and Abdarahmane Wone, North American representatives of the African Liberation Forces of Mauritania (FLAM) over the airwaves of WBAI Radio in New York City. They spoke about the continuing struggle in Mauritania one year after a coup d’etat which promised to bring democratic rule to the impoverished nation, and about the ethics and politics of multinational military intervention in the Sahel region.

Bill Weinberg (BW): Abda, I ran into you on Sunday at the rally for Darfur in Central Park. And then yesterday, the African Liberation Forces of Mauritania held a rally of your own at the United Nations.

Abdarahmane Wone (AW): Yes, our rally was to let the world know what’s going on in Mauritania. Since many world leaders were at the UN yesterday, as a political movement we thought it would be a good idea to go to protest, and let them know that something ought to be done—not only to free Mauritanians from racism and slavery, but also to build a more democratic country. We came with our declaration, and we were covered by NY1 television. We had the chance to explain that we are not for Black supremacy, we just want to be respected in our country.

BW: The struggle in Mauritania very rarely makes headlines, while Darfur is in the headlines a lot at the moment—because of the calls for military intervention. But, for different reasons, people on both the left and right in this country are very wary of intervention in Darfur.

AW: What is happening in Darfur is mass killing, and something has to be done. But let me make clear that calling for the UN to intervene is not the same thing as calling for NATO to go there. I am against any kind of imperialism. But at the same time there must be an end to the killing. It is time to do something.

My brothers are suffering in Sudan as a consequence of the [1884] Berlin Conference to divide the continent of Africa. And they put together two groups who are not the same—Arabs from the northern part and Blacks from the southern part of Sudan. And that is exactly the situation in Mauritania. I am glad many Americas, many Westerners are now aware of what is going on in Sudan, and trying to do whatever they can to save people in Darfur. But nobody talks about Mauritania. It is our duty to inform the world about what is going on in Mauritania, and let them know that in both Mauritania and Sudan, Blacks are still treated as second-class citizens.

BW: The man who has been in power in your country for a little over a year now, Col. Ely Ould Mohamed Vall, actually failed to show up at the UN General Assembly debate that just opened.

AW: Yes, we let him know that where-ever he shows up, we will do our best to have justice. Since we cannot have justice in our own country, we will do our best to have justice in the United States or in Europe or elsewhere in Africa. When he first came to power in August of last year, I was really hoping he would be the Frederik de Klerk of Mauritania. Frederik de Klerk was the South African leader who understood that different races should talk in South Africa, and he agreed to talk with Mandela. But Vall failed to be the de Klerk of Mauritania. He never wanted to talk about what’s going on in Mauritania, and how to bring peace.

BW: In August of last year, he overthrew the PW Botha of Mauritania, so to speak, Ahmed Ould Taya, who had been in power since the 1980s. And despite your hopes at the time, you are saying that he has failed to initiate a national dialogue…

AW: Yes. And because he doesn’t want to bring justice, or talk about all the people still living in refugee camps, we will continue to struggle and let the world know what’s going on in our country. Because nobody is going to free Mauritania in our place. That’s what we know. We are convinced of this.

BW: There are two major issues that you’ve said need to be addressed. First is the more than 100,000 refugees who were pushed from their homes into the neighboring states of Senegal and Mali in a wave of so-called ethnic cleansing that began in 1989—fairly analogous to what’s happening in Darfur right now. And the other issue, which is also analogous to what we’ve seen in Sudan in recent years, is the system of slavery that persists in Mauritania.

AW: Exactly. More than 30% of Mauritanians are descendants of slaves. And among them, more than 500,000 people are still enslaved today.

BW: So there’s an hereditary slave caste in Mauritania that goes back hundreds of years.

AW: Yes. And among them, many are still enslaved by light-skinned Arabs. And nobody seems to care. In 2006, there are people who own other people. In this country, when children wake up, the first thing they do is have breakfast and go to school. In my country, when a young Haratin wakes up, the first thing that he or she has to do is to carry water for his or her master, to dedicate his or her day to his or her master.

BW: You use the word “Haratin.” This is the hereditary slave caste…

AW: Yes. They are the majority ethnic group in Mauritania, and 500,000 are still enslaved today.

BW: Out of a total population of…?

AW: We are some two-and-a-half to three million in Mauritania today.

BW: So, quite a large chunk of the population. And these 500,000 are completely excluded from education and political rights? Has there been some progress, at least, in recent years?

AW: There has been some progress, because the FLAM and some Haratin organizations have been fighting to bring justice. But the response has been very timid. We want a free country, where there are no slaves, so we can move on and try to build democracy. I think Africa as a continent has suffered enough. It is time to stop the mass killing, it is time to stop the dictatorship and build a more democratic and sustainable society.

BW: So the majority of these 500,000 are still in slavery as we understand the word, excluded from all political rights…?

AW: They are excluded because they vote for their masters. They are denied education. They belong to other people. They do what their masters want them to do.

BW: Not even rudimentary education?

AW: No. If they are slaves, they are slaves.

BW: The Haratin are a distinct ethnicity. What language do they speak?

AW: They speak Arabic. Let me make it clear. Some 20% of Mauritanians are light-skinned Arabs, and 30% are Haratin. So Arabic is the largest language in Mauritania. But that doesn’t mean that the majority is not Black in Mauritania. The majority is Black. And among the Black population you have Fulani, Soninke, Wolof, Bambara and Haratin.

BW: So the Haratin are a Black African people, but they’ve adopted the Arabic language.

AW: They’ve adopted the Arabic language because they are enslaved and have been forced to learn the language of their masters.

BW: Hundreds of years ago…

AW: Exactly.

BW: A year after Col. Vall’s coup, which was supposed to usher in a democratic transition, you are moving towards elections in Mauritania. There was a constitutional referendum in June which instated term limits for presidents, as a measure against another presidency-for-life situation such as existed under Taya. Parliamentary elections are scheduled for November, and presidential elections for January. And I understand the FLAM is participating in the elections.

AW: That’s actually FLAM-Renovation. They are our ancien comrades. We respect their point of view. They returned to Mauritania to try to participate in the democratic transition. They are trying to do their best. But Ely Ould Mohamed Vall is not welcoming them. We respect their view, but that is not our position. The Arab-dominated regime does not want to do anything to bring peace in Mauritania. We cannot really talk about democracy when 120,000 refugees are left behind, and we cannot talk about democracy when people are enslaved. Before organizing elections in Mauritania, we must free those who are still enslaved, and bring the refugees back. That is our position.

Mamadou Barry (MB): Since Ely Mohamed Vall came to power, we have been waiting for him to say something about racial discrimination and slavery in Mauritania. He just says he will surrender power in the elections. But the Haratin will vote however their masters tell them to under the current system. So we don’t believe voting is the way to tackle this. Even if slavery is not stopped right now, today, there has to be a decision taken on this issue, letting all of Mauritania know this issue needs to be addressed.

Similarly, the regime says any refugee can come back if he can prove he is Mauritanian. But they know that when these people were deported, all their papers were taken. So we say the burden of proof should be on the government, not on this weak population.

AW: Between 1948 and 1994, there were elections in South Africa. But the Black majority was excluded. So those elections were not free and fair. And that is the situation we face in Mauritania. In order to have a real democracy, we have to have a constitution that gives guarantees to everybody.

But the problem of Mauritania is not just the constitution or the written document. The problem, as in many African countries, is to make what is written apply. Slavery has been abolished three times in Mauritania. But it is still going on. It was abolished under the [French] colonial regime, then again in the ’60s, and the last time was in the ’80s.

BW: Before Taya came to power?

AW: Yes, before Taya. But he helped slavery to flourish, because he didn’t do anything to stop it. He encouraged it.

BW: And in the June constitutional reform the issue was not addressed at all?

AW: Not at all.

MB: We believe this constitutional reform was done just because Mohamed Vall wanted something to show after one year in power.

BW: Well, European Union observers have just arrived. There does seem to be a possibility that Col. Vall will step down after these elections, no?

MB: He said he will not run. But we believe whoever wins will be his puppet. Whoever wins will not say anything about the past, about the deportations, about the exiles. They say the elections will be impartial and they are not helping anybody, but we don’t believe that.

BW: Is Taya’s party still around, or has it been disbanded?

MB: The people are still around, and they hold all the important positions in the government. They just changed the name.

AW: And even the name change was not that big. It used to be the PRDS. Now it is PRDR.

BW: Sounds very subtle. And what do these two acronyms stand for, respectively?

MB: It was the Democratic and Social Republican Party—they put all these nice things together. [Laughs]

BW: And now they’ve dropped the word “social,” very fashionably, to show they are post-socialist I suppose. So what is the new name?

AW: Parti Républicain pour la Démocratie et le Renouveau

BW: Some of the same international players are involved in both Sudan and Mauritania. The Chinese National Petroleum Company, which has come under great criticism for its investments in Sudan, is now beginning exploration in Mauritania. There’s more and more talk that West Africa is going to be very strategic in the coming century as a new source of global energy. And the Pentagon also has a presence—Taya had invited in a detachment of US Special Forces to train the Mauritanian army to stop supposed terrorist infiltration from the Sahara. And as far as we know, the Special Forces are still there. So it seems the new regime is playing ball with both sides.

AW: What matters for the new regime is to save their skin. Whoever can help them save their skin, they will go with. Everybody knows that during the first Gulf War in 1991, Mauritania was one of the few countries to support Saddam Hussein. And after Saddam was defeated, Taya just changed his position to save his skin…

BW: Rather completely. In fact, he became one of the few governments in the region to recognize Israel.

AW: Yes, he was the one who said he would never acknowledge Israel’s right to exist as a state, and he just changed his policy completely. That’s how they play the game in our country. Its time to stop it.

BW: So Vall didn’t show up for the General Assembly session, but sent his foreign minister. Do you have a sense of why?

AW: He wanted to come to show the world that he is the peacemaker and the man who brought democracy to Mauritania. But that is not true, he is just continuing what Taya started. We were hoping he would come so we could face him and let the world know who he really is. He is just a dictator who came to power by means of a coup. He is not a hero; if I were to speak French, I would say he is a zéro.

MB: My sources tell me that he wanted so bad to come, but when he heard we were organizing a demonstration he was worried and decided to send somebody else. You mentioned China earlier. In the UN, there are clubs. China, Sudan, Mauritania and all those countries which are practicing discrimination within their own borders form a club. China has their problem in Tibet, and they do not want any other country which doing this sort of thing to be sanctioned…

BW: …because it would set a precedent for them.

MB: Yes, so they don’t want Mauritania to be sanctioned in the UN and they always vote with the Mauritanian government.

BW: And economics apparently follow politics. It seems that China is trying to beat the US to the punch in securing the oil resources of the Sahel.

MB: Yes, world policy now is designed by economics. Soon, all the world will know about Mauritania because of our oil resources. And we want the regime to know that they have to take us into account. Even if we are not in power, we can make it difficult for people to get the oil…

BW: How so? Just by embarrassing the investors and protesting and so on?

MB: That’s one thing. But, well, everything is open…

BW: Oil seems to play a role in the Darfur conflict. Just as the Chinese National Petroleum Company has investments in Sudan, Exxon has signed a deal with Chad, the country immediately to the west, and the World Bank is funding a new pipeline to deliver Chad’s oil to the Atlantic Ocean. The conflict in Darfur began two years ago when guerilla groups emerged there. They felt Darfur had been left out of the peace deal that ended the north-south civil war in Sudan, and they took up arms to demand autonomy and local rights for the Fur and other Black African ethnicities in the region. There have been allegations that the government of Chad backed the guerillas. And it was in response to this guerilla uprising that the government of Sudan, in turn, began backing the so-called Janjaweed militias, which have now apparently been responsible for the deaths of some 200,000 people.

AW: My opinion is that in a situation like Darfur everybody must come together because its is human beings being killed. It is time to stop seeing Africans as people who are always manipulated by others, by the left or by the right. We have our own brains, we think, we are educated. Of course, whoever comes first to help us is the person with whom we will ally our forces.

BW: There are currently African Union troops in Darfur, but this has apparently been insufficient to stop the violence, so there are now calls for a UN force—and even NATO has had a hand in air support for the African Union force. So fears have been raised about the re-colonization of Africa. On the other hand, it is a lot easier to have your anti-imperialist or pacifist ideals intact when there aren’t any paramilitary troops coming to burn down your village. So I don’t feel like I’m in a position to be too judgmental of the people in Darfur who seem very eager for some kind of outside intervention.

MB: It is sad, but my feeling is that there will be resolution after resolution at the UN and nothing will change. Unless the conflict begins to affect Western governments, no-one will act.

BW: The world paid little note to what happened in your country in 1989. Perhaps it was carried out with less violence than in Darfur, but still, over 100,000 displaced…

MB: I think those two governments went to the same school—the school of Arabization. The professor was Saddam Hussein, and the doctrine was developed in Egypt by Nasser. They follow the pattern of Baathism and Nasserism. In the color of their skin they may not be Arabs, they may be Black. But they want to be Arab, and they follow this policy of Arabization in Mauritania and Sudan.

AW: The problems of Sudanese and Mauritanians shouldn’t be left to Sudanese and Mauritanians alone. My message to the left in this country is to stop asking who is behind us and assuming that Africans must be always manipulated. It is time to help Black Mauritanians who live in refugee camps to have a better life, and in the long run to help them go back to their country. It is time to stop slavery and mass killing in Africa.

The living legacy of jihad slavery
By Andrew G. Bostom

A public protest in Washington,  DC, April 5, 2005 highlighted the current (ongoing, for centuries) plight of black Mauritanians enslaved by Arab masters. The final two decades of the 20th century, moreover, witnessed a frank jihad genocide, including mass enslavement, perpetrated by the Arab Muslim Khartoum government against black Christians and animists in the Southern Sudan,  and the same governments continued massacres and enslavement of Animist—Muslim blacks in Darfur.  These tragic contemporary phenomena reflect the brutal living legacy of jihad slavery.

Jihad Slavery

The fixed linkage between  jihad— a permanent, uniquely Islamic institution— and enslavement, provides a very tenable explanation for the unparalleled scale and persistence of slavery in Muslim dominions, and societies. This general observation applies as well to ‘specialized’ forms of slavery, including the (procurement and) employment of eunuchs, slave soldiering (especially of adolescents), other forms of child slavery, and harem slavery. Jihad slavery, in its myriad manifestations, became a powerful instrument for both expansive Islamization, and the maintenance of Muslim societies.

Juridical Rationale and Role in ‘Islamization’

Patricia Crone, in her recent analysis of the origins and development of Islamic political thought, makes an important nexus between the mass captivity and enslavement of non—Muslims during jihad campaigns, and the prominent role of coercion in these major modalities of Islamization. Following a successful jihad, she notes:

Male captives might be killed or enslaved, whatever their religious affiliation. (People of the Book were not protected by Islamic law until they had accepted dhimma.) Captives might also be given the choice between Islam and death, or they might pronounce the confession of faith of their own accord to avoid execution: jurists ruled that their change of status was to be accepted even though they had only converted out of fear. Women and children captured in the course of the campaigns were usually enslaved, again regardless of their faith…Nor should the importance of captives be underestimated. Muslim warriors routinely took large numbers of them. Leaving aside those who converted to avoid execution, some were ransomed and the rest enslaved, usually for domestic use. Dispersed in Muslim households, slaves almost always converted, encouraged or pressurized by their masters, driven by a need to bond with others, or slowly, becoming accustomed to seeing things through Muslim eyes even if they tried to resist. Though neither the dhimmi nor the slave had been faced with a choice between Islam and death, it would be absurd to deny that force played a major role in their conversion. [1]

For the idolatrous Hindus, enslaved in vast numbers during the waves of  jihad conquests that ravaged the Indian subcontinent for well over a half millennium (beginning at the outset of the 8th century C.E.), the guiding principles of Islamic law regarding their fate were unequivocally coercive. Jihad slavery also contributed substantively to the growth of the Muslim population in India. K.S. Lal elucidates both of these points: [2]

The Hindus who naturally resisted Muslim occupation were considered to be rebels. Besides they were idolaters (mushrik) and could not be accorded the status of Kafirs, of the People of the Book — Christians and Jews… Muslim scriptures and treatises advocated jihad against idolaters for whom the law advocated only Islam or death… The fact was that the Muslim regime was giving [them] a choice between Islam and death only. Those who were killed in battle were dead and gone; but their dependents were made slaves. They ceased to be Hindus; they were made Musalmans in course of time if not immediately after captivity…slave taking in India was the most flourishing and successful [Muslim] missionary activity…Every Sultan, as [a] champion of Islam, considered it a political necessity to plant or raise [the] Muslim population all over India for the Islamization of the country and countering native resistance.

Vryonis describes how jihad slavery, as practiced by the Seljuks and early Ottomans, was an important modality of Islamization in Asia Minor during the 11th through the 14th century 3:

A further contributing factor to the decline in the numbers of Christian inhabitants was slavery…Since the beginning of the Arab razzias into the land of Rum, human booty had come to constitute a very important portion of the spoils. There is ample testimony in the contemporary accounts that this situation did not change when the Turks took over the direction of the djihad in Anatolia. They enslaved men, women, and children from all major urban centers and from the countryside where the populations were defenseless. In the earlier years before the Turkish settlements were permanently affected in Anatolia, the captives were sent off to Persia and elsewhere, but after the establishment of the Anatolian Turkish principalities, a portion of the enslaved were retained in Anatolia for the service of the conquerors

After characterizing the coercive, often brutal methods used to impose the devshirme child levy, and the resulting attrition of the native Christian populations (i.e., from both expropriation and flight), Papoulia concludes that this Ottoman institution, a method of Islamization  par excellence, also constituted a de facto state of war: [4]

…that the sources speak of piasimo (seizure) aichmalotos paidon (capture) and arpage paidon (grabbing of children) indicates that the children lost through the devşirme were understood as casualties of war. Of course, the question arises whether, according to Islamic law, it is possible to regard the devşirme as a form of the state of war, although the Ottoman historians during the empire’s golden age attempted to interpret this measure as a consequence of conquest by force be’anwa. It is true that the Greeks and the other peoples of the Balkan peninsula did not as a rule surrender without resistance, and therefore the fate of the conquered had to be determined according to the principles of the Koran regarding the Ahl—al—Qit�b: i.e. either to be exterminated or be compelled to convert to Islam or to enter the status of protection, of aman, by paying the taxes and particularly the cizye (poll—tax). The fact that the Ottomans, in the case of voluntary surrender, conceded certain privileges one of which was exemption from this heavy burden, indicates that its measure was understood as a penalization for the resistance of the population and the devshirme was an expression of the perpetuation of the state of war between the conqueror and the conquered… the sole existence of the institution of devshirme is sufficient to postulate the perpetuation of a state of war.

Under Shah Abbas I (1588—1626 C.E.), the Safavid Shi’ite theocracy of Iran expanded its earlier system of slave razzias into the Christian Georgian and Armenian areas of the Caucasus. Georgian, Armenian, and Circassian inhabitants of the Caucasus were enslaved in large numbers, and converted, thereby, to Shi’a Islam. The males were made to serve as (primarily) military or administrative slaves, while the females were forced into harems. A transition apparently took place between the 17th and 18th centuries such that fewer of the slaves came from the Caucasus, while greater numbers came via the Persian Gulf, originating from Africa. [5] Ricks notes that by the reign of Shah Sultan Husayn,

The size of the royal court had indeed expanded if the numbers of male and female slaves including white and black eunuchs are any indicators. According to a contemporary historian, Shah Sultan Husayn (d. 1722) made it a practice to arrive at Isfahan’s markets on the first days of the Iranian New Year (March 21) with his entire court in attendance. It was estimated by the contemporary recorder that 5,000 male and female black and white slaves including the 100 black eunuchs comprised the royal party. [6]

Clement Huart, writing in the early 20th century (1907), observed that slaves, continued to be the most important component of the booty acquired during jihad campaigns or razzias: [7]

Not too long ago several expeditions crossed Amo�—Dery�, i.e. the southern frontier of the steppes, and ravaged the eastern regions of Persia in order to procure slaves; other campaigns were launched into the very heart of unexplored Africa, setting fire to the inhabited areas and massacring the peaceful animist populations that lived there.

Willis characterizes the timeless Islamic rationale for the enslavement of such ‘barbarous’ African animists, as follows: [8]

…as the opposition of Islam to kufr erupted from every corner of malice and mistrust, the lands of the enslavable barbarian became the favorite hunting ground for the ‘people of reason and faith’—the parallels between slave and infidel began to fuse in the heat of jihad. Hence whether by capture or sale, it was as slave and not citizen that the kafir was destined to enter the Muslim domain. And since the condition of captives flowed from the status of their territories, the choice between freedom and servility came to rest on a single proof: the religion of a land is the religion of its amir (ruler); if he be Muslim, the land is a land of Islam (dar al—Islam);  if he be pagan, the land is a land of unbelief (dar al—kufr). Appended to this principle was the kindred notion that the religion of a land is the religion of its majority; if it be Muslim, the land is a land of Islam; if it be pagan, the land is a land of kufr, and its inhabitants can be reckoned within the categories of enslavement under Muslim law. Again, as slavery became a simile for infidelity, so too did freedom remain the signal feature of Islam…The servile estate was hewn out of the ravaged remains of heathen villages — from the women and children who submitted to Islam and awaited their redemption…[according to Muslim jurist] al—Wanshirisi (d.1508), slavery is an affliction upon those who profess no Prophecy, who bear no allegiance to religious law. Moreover, slavery is an humiliation — a subjection— which rises from infidelity.

Based on his study and observations of  Muslim slave razzias gleaned while serving in the Sudan during the Mahdist jihad at the close of the 19th century, Winston Churchill wrote this description (in 1899): [9]

all [of the Arab Muslim tribes in The Sudan], without exception, were hunters of men. To the great slave markets of Jeddah a continual stream of negro captives has flowed for hundreds of years. The invention of gunpowder and the adoption by the Arabs of firearms facilitated the traffic…Thus the situation in the Sudan for several centuries may be summed up as follows: The dominant race of Arab invaders was increasingly spreading its blood, religion, customs, and language among the black aboriginal population, and at the same time it harried and enslaved them…The warlike Arab tribes fought and brawled among themselves in ceaseless feud and strife. The negroes trembled in apprehension of capture, or rose locally against their oppressors.

All these elements of jihad slavery— its juridical rationale, employment as a method of forcible Islamization (for non—Muslims in general, and directed at Sub—Saharan African Animists, specifically), and its association with devshirme—like levies of adolescent males for slave soldiering— are apparent in the contemporary jihad being waged against the Animists and Christians of southern Sudan, by the Arab Muslim—dominated Khartoum regime. [10]

Extent and Persistence

The scale and scope of Islamic slavery in Africa are comparable to the Western trans—Atlantic slave trade to the Americas, and as Willis has observed (somewhat wryly), [11] the former ‘…out—distances the more popular subject in its length of duration.’ Quantitative estimates for the trans—Atlantic slave trade (16th through the end of the 19th century) of 10,500,000 (or somewhat higher [12]), are at least matched (if not exceeded by 50%) by a contemporary estimate for the Islamic slave trade out of Africa. Professor Ralph Austen’s working figure for this composite of the trans—Saharan, Red Sea, and Indian Ocean traffic generated by the Islamic slave trade from 650 through 1905 C.E., is 17,000,000. [13]  Moreover, the plight of those enslaved animist peoples drawn from the savannah and northern forest belts of western and central Africa for the trans—Saharan trade was comparable to the sufferings experienced by the unfortunate victims of the trans—Atlantic slave trade. [14]

In the Nineteenth Century, slaves reached the ports of Ottoman Tripoli by three main Saharan routes, all so harsh that the experience of slaves forced to travel them bore comparison with the horrors of the so—called ‘middle—passage’ of the Atlantic.

This illuminating comparison, important as it is, ignores other vast domains of jihad slavery: throughout Europe (Mediterranean and Western Europe, as well as Central and Eastern Europe, involving the Arabs [Western/Mediterranean], and later the Ottoman Turks and Tatars [Central and Eastern Europe]); Muscovite Russia (subjected to Tatar depredations); Asia Minor (under Seljuk and Ottoman domination); Persia, Armenia, and Georgia (subjected to the systematized jihad slavery campaigns waged by the Shi’ite Safavids, in particular); and the Indian subcontinent (razzias and jihad campaigns by the Arabs in the 7th and 8th centuries, and later depredations by the Ghaznavids, during the Delhi Sultanate, the Timurid jihad, and under the Mughals). As a cursory introduction to the extent of jihad slavery beyond the African continent, three brief examples are provided: the Seljuks in  Asia Minor (11th and 12th centuries); the Ottomans in the Balkans (15th century); and the Tatars in southern Poland and Muscovite Russia (mid—15th through 17th centuries).

The capture of Christians in Asia Minor by the Seljuk Turks was very extensive in the 11th and 12th centuries. [15] Following the seizure and pillage of Edessa, 16,000 were enslaved. [16]  Michael the Syrian reported that when the Turks of Nur al—Din were brought into Cilicia by Mleh the Armenian, they enslaved 16,000 Christians, whom they sold at Aleppo. [17]  A major series of razzias conducted in the Greek provinces of Western Asia Minor enslaved thousands of Greeks (Vryonis believes the figure of 100,000 cited in a contemporary account is exaggerated [18]), and according to Michael the Syrian, they were sold in slave markets as distant as Persia. [19]  During razzias conducted by the Turks in 1185 and over the next few years, 26,000 inhabitants from Cappadocia, Armenian, and Mesopotamia were captured and sent off to the slave markets. [20] Vryonis concludes: [21]

…these few sources seem to indicate that the slave trade was a flourishing one. In fact, Asia Minor continued to be a major source of slaves for the Islamic world through the 14th century.

The Ottoman Sultans, in accord with Shari’a prescriptions, promoted jihad slavery aggressively in the Balkans, especially during the 15th century reigns of Mehmed I (1402—1421), Murad II (1421—1451), and Mehmed II (1451—1481). [22]  Alexandrescu—Dersca summarizes the considerable extent of this enslavement, and suggests the importance of its demographic effect: [23]

The contemporary Turkish, Byzantine and Latin chroniclers are unanimous in recognizing that during the campaigns conducted on behalf of the unification of Greek and Latin Romania and the Slavic Balkans under the banner of Islam, as well as during their razzias on Christian territory, the Ottomans reduced masses of inhabitants to slavery.  The Ottoman chronicler A�ikpa�azade relates that during the expedition of Ali pasha Evrenosoghlu in Hungary (1437), as well as on the return from the campaign of Murad II against Belgrade (1438), the number of captives surpassed that of the combatants. The Byzantine chronicler Ducas states that the inhabitants of Smederevo, which was occupied by the Ottomans, were led off into bondage. The same thing happened when the Turks of Mente�e descended upon the islands of Rhodes and Cos and also during the expedition of the Ottoman fleet to Enos and Lesbos. Ducas even cites numbers:  70,000 inhabitants carried off into slavery during the campaign of Mehmed II in Mor�e (1460). The Italian Franciscan Bartholom� de Yano (Giano dell’Umbria) speaks about 60,000 to 70,000 slaves captured over the course of two expeditions of the akinğis in Transylvania (1438) and about 300,000 to 600,000 Hungarian captives. If these figures seem exaggerated, others seem more accurate:  forty inhabitants captured by the Turks of Mente�e during a razzia in Rhodes, 7,000 inhabitants reduced to slavery following the siege of Thessalonika (1430), according to John Anagnostes, and ten thousand inhabitants led off into captivity during the siege of Mytilene (1462), according to the Metropolitan of Lesbos, Leonard of Chios. Given the present state of the documentation available to us, we cannot calculate the scale on which slaves were introduced into Turkish Romania by this method.  According to Bartholom� de Yano, it would amount to 400,000 slaves captured in the four years from 1437 to 1443. Even allowing for a certain degree of exaggeration, we must acknowledge that slaves played an important demographic part during the fifteenth—century Ottoman expansion.

Fisher [24] has analyzed the slave razzias conducted by the Muslim Crimean Tatars against the Christian populations of southern Poland and Muscovite Russia during the mid—15th through late 17th century (1463—1794). Relying upon admittedly incomplete sources (‘…no doubt there are many more slave raids that the author has not uncovered’ [25]), his conservative tabulations [26] indicate that at least 3 million (3,000,000) persons — men, women, and children — were captured and enslaved during this so—called ‘harvesting of the steppe’. Fisher describes the plight of those enslaved: [27]

…the first ordeal [of the captive] was the long march to the Crimea. Often in chains and always on foot, many of the captives died en route. Since on many occasions the Tatar raiding party feared reprisals or, in the seventeenth century, attempts by Cossack bands to free the captives, the marches were hurried. Ill or wounded captives were usually killed rather than be allowed to slow the procession. Heberstein wrote… ‘the old and infirm men who will not fetch much as a sale, are given up to the Tatar youths either to be stoned, or thrown into the sea, or to be killed by any sort of death they might please.’ An Ottoman traveler in the mid—sixteenth century who witnessed one such march of captives from Galicia marveled that any would reach their destination — the slave markets of Kefe. He complained that their treatment was so bad that the mortality rate would unnecessarily drive their price up beyond the reach of potential buyers such as himself.

A Polish proverb stated: ‘Oh how much better to lie on one’s bier, than to be a captive on the way to Tartary’

The persistence of Islamic slavery is as impressive and unique as its extent. Slavery was openly practiced in both Ottoman Turkey [28], and Shi’ite (Qajar) Iran [29], through the first decade of the 20th century. As Toledano points out, [30] regarding Ottoman Turkey, kul (administrative)/ harem slavery,

…survived at the core of the Ottoman elite until the demise of the empire and the fall of the house of Osman in the second decade of the 20th century.

Moreover, Ricks [31] indicates that despite the modernizing pressures and reforms culminating in the Iranian Constitutional Movement of 1905—1911, which effectively eliminated military and agricultural slavery,

The presence of domestic slaves, however, in both the urban and rural regions of Southern Iran had not ceased as quickly. Some Iranians today attest to the continued presence of African and Indian slave girls…

Slavery on the Arabian peninsula was not abolished formally until 1962 in Saudi Arabia, 32 and 1970 in Yemen and Oman. 33 Writing in 1989, Gordon [34] observed that although Mauritania abolished slavery officially on July 15, 1980,

…as the government itself acknowledges, the practice is till alive and well. It is estimated that 200,000 men, women, and children are subject to being bought and sold like so many cattle in this North African country, toiling as domestics, shepherds, and farmhands.

Finally, as discussed earlier, there has been a recrudescence of jihad slavery, since 1983 in the Sudan. [35]

An Overview of Eunuch Slavery—the ‘Hideous Trade’

A eunuch of Cairo, nineteenth century lithograph
(reproduced in Richard Millant’s Les Eunuques à Travers les Ages, Paris: Vigot Frères, 1908, p. 210)

Eunuch slaves — males castrated usually between the ages of 4 and 12 (due to the high risk of death, preferentially, between ages 8 and 12), [36] were in considerable demand in Islamic societies. They served most notably as supervisors of women in the harems of the rulers and elites of the Ottoman Empire, its contemporary Muslim neighbors (such as Safavid Iran), and earlier Muslim dominions. The extent and persistence of eunuch slavery — becoming prominent within 200 years of the initial 7th century Arab jihad conquests [37], through the beginning of the 20th century [38] — are peculiar to the Islamic incarnation of this aptly named ‘hideous trade’. For example, Toledano documents that as late as 1903, the Ottoman imperial harem contained from 400 to 500 female slaves, supervised and guarded by 194 black African eunuchs. [39]

But an equally important and unique feature of Muslim eunuch slavery was the acquisition of eunuchs from foreign ‘slave producing areas’ [40] , i.e., non—Muslim frontier zones subjected to razzias. As David Ayalon observed, [41]

…the overwhelming majority of the eunuchs, like the overwhelming majority of all other slaves in Islam, had been brought over from outside the borders of Muslim lands.

Eunuch slaves in China, in stark contrast, were almost exclusively Chinese procured locally. [42]

Hogendorn [43] has identified the three main slave producing regions, as they evolved in importance over time, from the 8th through the late 19th centuries:

These areas were the forested parts of central and eastern Europe called by Muslims the ‘Bild as—Saqaliba’ (‘slave country’), the word saqlab meaning slave in Arabic (and related to the ethnic designation ‘Slav’); the steppes of central Asia called the ‘Bilad al—Atrak’ (‘Turks’ country’ or Turkestan); and eventually most important, the savanna and the fringes of the wooded territory south of the Sahara called the country of the blacks or ‘Bilad as—Sudan’.

Lastly, given the crudeness of available surgical methods and absence of sterile techniques, the human gelding procedure by which eunuchs were ‘manufactured’ was associated with extraordinary rates of morbidity and mortality. Hogendorn describes the severity of the operation, and provides mortality information from West and East Africa: [44]

Castration can be partial (removal of the testicles only or removal of the penis only), or total (removal of both). In the later period of the trade, that is, after Africa became the most important source for Mediterranean Islam, it appears that most eunuchs sold to the markets underwent total removal. This version of the operation, though considered most appropriate for slaves in constant proximity to harem members, posed a very high danger of death for two reasons. First was the extensive hemorrhaging, with the consequent possibility of almost immediate death. The hemorrhaging could not be stopped by traditional cauterization because that would close the urethra leading to eventual death because of inability to pass urine. The second danger lay in infection of the urethra, with the formation of pus blocking it and so causing death in a few days.

…when the castration was carried out in sub—Saharan West and West—Central Africa…a figure of 90% [is] often mentioned. Even higher death rates were occasionally reported, unsurprising in tropical areas where the danger of infection of wounds was especially high. At least one contemporary price quotation supports a figure of over 90% mortality: Turkish merchants are said to have been willing to pay 250 to 300 (Maria Theresa) dollars each for eunuchs in Borno (northeast Nigeria) at a time when the local price of young male slaves does not seem to have exceeded about 20 dollars…Many sources indicate very high death rates from the operation in eastern Africa.. Richard Millant’s [1908] general figure for the Sudan and Ethiopia is 90%


Contemporary manifestations of Islamic slavery—certainly the razzias (raids) waged by Arab Muslim militias against their black Christian, animist, and animist—Muslim prey in both the southern Sudan and Darfur—and even in its own context, the persistence of slavery in Mauritania (again, black slaves, Arab masters)—reflect the pernicious impact of jihad slavery as an enduring Muslim institution. Even Ottoman society, arguably the most progressive in Muslim history, and upheld just recently at a United Nations conference as a paragon of Islamic ecumenism,  never produced a William Wilberforce, much less a broad, religiously—based slavery abolition movement spearheaded by committed Muslim ulema. Indeed, it is only modern Muslim freethinkers, anachronistically referred to as ‘apostates,’ who have had the courage and intellectual integrity to renounce the jihad,  including jihad slavery, unequivocally, and based upon an honest acknowledgement of its devastating military and social history. When the voices of these Muslim freethinkers are silenced in the Islamic world—by imprisonment and torture, or execution—the outcome is tragic, but hardly unexpected. That such insightful and courageous voices have been marginalized or ignored altogether in the West is equally tragic and reflects the distressing ignorance of Western policymaking elites.

Dr. Bostom is an Associate Professor of Medicine and author of the forthcoming, The Legacy of Jihad on Prometheus Books

1. Patricia Crone. God’s Rule. Government and Islam. New York: Columbia University Press, 2004, pp. 371—72
2. K.S. Lal, Muslim Slave System India, New Delhi, Aditya Prakashan, 1994, pp. 46, 69.
3. Speros Vryonis, Jr. The Decline of Medieval Hellenism and the Islamization of Asia Minor, 11th Through 15th Century, 1971, Berkeley: University of California Press, pp. 174—175.
4. Vasiliki Papoulia. ‘The impact of devshirme on Greek society’ in East Central European society and war in the prerevolutionary eighteenth century. Gunther E. Rothenberg, B�la K. Kir�ly and Peter F. Sugar, editors. Boulder : Social Science Monographs ; New York : Distributed by Columbia University Press, 1982,  pp. 555—556.
5. Thomas Ricks. ‘Slaves and Slave Trading in Shi’i Iran, AD 1500—1900’, Journal of Asian and African Studies, 2001, Vol. 36, pp. 407—418.
6. Ricks, ‘Slaves and Slave Trading in Shi’i Iran’, pp. 411—412.
7. Clement Huart. ‘Le droit de la guerre’ Revue du monde musulman, 1907, p. 337. English translation by Michael J. Miller.
8. John Ralph Willis. “Jihad and the ideology of enslavement”, in Slaves and slavery in Muslim Africa— vol. 1. Islam and the ideology of enslavement, London, England; Totowa, N.J.: Frank Cass, 1985, pp. 17—18; 4.
9. Winston Churchill. The River War, Vol. II , London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1899, pp. 248—50.
10. John Eibner. ‘My career redeeming slaves’, Middle East Quarterly, December, 1999, Vol. 4, Number 4, . Eibner notes:

…based on the pattern of slave raiding over the past fifteen years and the observations of Western and Arab travelers in southern Darfur and Kordofan, conservatively puts the number of chattel slaves close to or over 100,000. There are many more in state—owned concentration camps, euphemistically called “peace camps” by the government of Sudan, and in militant Qur’anic schools, where boys train to become mujahidun (warriors of jihad).

11. John Ralph Willis. Slaves and slavery in Muslim Africa, Preface, p. vii.
12. This controversial topic is discussed here: Philip D. Curtin, Roger Antsey, J.E. Inikori. The Journal of African History, 1976, Vol. 17, pp. 595—627.
13. John Ralph Willis. Slaves and slavery in Muslim Africa, Preface, p. x.
14. John Wright. ‘The Mediterranean Middle Passage: The Nineteenth Century Slave Trade Between Triploi and the Levant’, The Journal of North African Studies, 1996, Vol. 1, p. 44.
15. Vryonis, The Decline of Medieval Hellenism, p.175, note 245.
16. Bar Hebraeus. The chronography of Gregory Ab�’l Faraj, the son of Aaron, the Hebrew physician, commonly known as Bar Hebraeus; being the first part of his political history of the world, translated from the Syriac by Ernest A. Wallis Budge, Oxford University Press, 1932, Vol. 1, pp. 268—273; Michael the Syrian, Chronique de Michel le Syrien, Patriarche Jacobite d’Antioche (1166—1199), translated by J—B Chabot, 1895, Vol. 3, p. 331.

17. Michael the Syrian, Chronique, Vol. 3, p. 331.
18. Vryonis, The Decline of Medieval Hellenism, p.175, note 245.
19. Michael the Syrian, Chronique, Vol. 3, p. 369.
20. Michael the Syrian, Chronique, Vol. 3, pp. 401—402; Bar Hebraeus, The Chronography, Vol. 1, p. 321.
21. Vryonis, The Decline of Medieval Hellenism, p.175, note 245.
22. M—M Alexandrescu—Dersca Bulgaru. ‘Le role des escalves en Romanie turque au XVe siecle’ Byzantinische Forschungen, vol. 11, 1987, p. 15.
23. Alexandrescu—Dersca Bulgaru, ‘Le role des escalves en Romanie turque au XVe siecle’, pp. 16—17.
24. Alan Fisher ‘Muscovy and the Black Sea Slave Trade’, Canadian American Slavic Studies, 1972, Vol. 6, pp. 575—594.
25. Fisher ‘Muscovy and the Black Sea Slave Trade’, p. 579, note 17.
26. Fisher ‘Muscovy and the Black Sea Slave Trade’, pp. 580—582.
27. Fisher ‘Muscovy and the Black Sea Slave Trade’, pp. 582—583.
28. Reuben Levy, The Social Structure of Islam, Cambridge University Press, 1957, p. 88.
29. Ricks, ‘Slaves and Slave Trading in Shi’i Iran’, p. 408.
30. Ehud Toledano. Slavery and Abolition in the Ottoman Middle East, Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1998, p. 53.
31. Ricks, ‘Slaves and Slave Trading in Shi’i Iran’, p. 415.
32. Murray Gordon. Slavery in the Arab World, New York: New Amsterdam, 1989, p. 232.
33. Gordon. Slavery in the Arab World, p. 234.
34. Gordon. Slavery in the Arab World, Preface, second page (pages not numbered).
35. Eibner, ‘My career redeeming slaves’.
36. Jan Hogendorn. ‘The Hideous Trade. Economic Aspects of the ‘Manufacture’ and Sale of Eunuchs’, Paideuma, 1999, Vol. 45, p. 143, especially, note 25.
37. Hogendorn. ‘The Hideous Trade’, p. 137.
38. Ehud Toledano. ‘The Imperial Eunuchs of Istanbul: From Africa to the Heart of Islam’, Middle Eastern Studies, 1984, Vol. 20, pp. 379—390.
39. Toledano. ‘The Imperial Eunuchs of Istanbul’, pp. 380—381.
40. Hogendorn. ‘The Hideous Trade’, p. 138.
41. David Ayalon. ‘On the Eunuchs in Islam’, Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam, 1979, Vol. 1, pp. 69—70.
42. Hogendorn. ‘The Hideous Trade’, p. 139, note 5.
43. Hogendorn. ‘The Hideous Trade’, p. 139.
44. Hogendorn. ‘The Hideous Trade’, pp. 143, 145—146.…_jihad_sla.html

Muslims Taking Christians As Slaves

Christian Solidarity International Helps Free Christians Enslaved by Muslim Raiders

By Dave Hinz – Publisher


The systematic rape, murder and enslavement of the black Christian Sudanese African tribes by Muslim raiders from the north have been going on now, for decades, if not centuries. But finally something has changed. A Christian group Christian Solidarity International is buying back the freedom of some of those slaves.

Last week, 96 Black Sudanese were liberated and returned to their home areas in Southern Sudan. This action, supported by Christian Solidarity International (CSI), was undertaken by the Arab-Dinka peace committees at the Warawar and Manger Ater markets, just South of war-torn Darfur.

This latest slave liberation action coincides with U.S. Congressman Chris Smith’s preparations to reintroduce a bill to establish an independent Commission to Monitor Slavery and its Eradication in Sudan.

Rep Smith, R-NJ first introduced the legislation, HR-5911 into the 109th Congress in 2006 but it was never acted upon. The CSI has long been calling for the US Congress to set up such a Commission. In February, following the release by the Sudanese government of 273 slaves, CSI appealed to President George W. Bush to establish an independent commission to monitor the eradication of slavery in Sudan.

At that time, in a CSI Press Release it was noted:

Last week, CSI provided survival kits and food to 273 recently freed Black Sudanese slaves. The slaves were liberated and returned from Northern Sudan to three locations in the South – Malwal Kon, Turalei and Gok Machar – by the Sudanese Government’s Committee for the Eradication of the Abduction of Women and Children (CEAWC).

The freed slaves were mainly women and children who had been captured by Sudanese government-backed Muslim militias during two decades of civil war. While in bondage many of the slaves were subjected to rape, frequent beatings, racial insults and forced conversions to Islam.

The slave repatriations took place between 31 January and 4 February. Sudanese government officials crammed the freed slaves into open-topped, seat-less trucks for a two-day drive in 100°F-plus heat. This small-scale repatriation was the first undertaken by the Sudanese government since last spring when more than 400 slaves were reportedly transported south.

CEAWC has recorded the names and locations of over 8,000 slaves who are waiting in Northern Sudan for repatriation. But CEAWC officials informed CSI that the Sudanese government had not yet released funds for further repatriations, and reported that the authorities in Khartoum seemed to have lost interest in the country’s slavery problem since the signing of the peace agreement with the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) in January 2005.

The existence of slavery in Islam today is well documented. Yet western governments and the press are hesitant, for some reason to admit that fact. Whether they fear to confront Islamic regimes that still condone this barbaric practice, or are merely indifferent to the plight of black slaves, organizations such as CSI have found it difficult to recruiting official recognition of the practice.

Reports from African tribal villages tell a sordid tale. Muslims from the North sweep into their village, killing the men and raping the women and children. They then take many of the children to act as sex slaves or to work on their farms.

All of the freed slaves were males, mainly boys and young men. They were enslaved after being captured by the Arab/Muslim militias, supported by the Government of Sudan, during its war against the Southern Sudan-based Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) from 1983 to 2005.

All of the freed slaves worked for masters in the cattle camps in Darfur and neighboring Kordofan.

  The majority of those freed said they had been subjected to severe psychological and physical abuse while in captivity:

• 100% claimed forced labor, without pay, under the threat of violence

• 99% said they experienced frequent beatings

• 98% said they were racially insulted.

• 86% said they were forced to convert to Islam

• 51% said they witnessed the gruesome execution of other slaves

Six of the 96 males who were freed said they had been raped by their masters, while in captivity.

The peaceful religion of Islam, as practiced by the Janjaweed and the Murahaleen in Sudan, routinely take black slaves as children, forcing them to convert to Islam.

Among those who said they were sexual abused, is one who also said his master slashed his face with a knife and frequently beat him. He said he was enslaved at age 10, forced to convert to Islam and renamed Ali.

Tens of thousands of Southern Sudanese slaves remain in bondage in Northern Sudan, notwithstanding the January 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the Government of Sudan and the SPLA. The UN reports that Black Sudanese are enslaved by Arab militias in Darfur, especially for sexual purposes.

Further information about the CSI can be obtained by contacting:
M. Sliwa Public Relations

VIDEO: Sudan’s secret slaves:
Phone:973-272-2861, 212-202-4453 of

Sudan jihad forces Islam on Christians

Women refusing to convert gang-raped, mutilated, says relief worker

Posted: March 4, 2002
1:00 a.m. Eastern

By Art Moore
© 2002

Sudan’s militant Muslim regime is slaughtering Christians who refuse to convert to Islam, according to the head of an aid group who recently returned from the African nation.

The forced conversions are just one aspect of the Khartoum government’s self-declared jihad on the mostly Christian and animist south, Dennis Bennett, executive director of Seattle-based Servant’s Heart told WorldNetDaily.

Villagers in several areas of the northeast Upper Nile region say that when women are captured by government forces they are asked: “Are you Christian or Muslim?”

Women who answer “Muslim” are set free, but typically soldiers gang-rape those who answer “Christian” then cut off their breasts and leave them to die as an example for others.

Bennett says these stories are corroborated by witnesses from several tribes in the region. Upon returning to the U.S., he wrote a letter to influential members of Congress and activists.

“After witnessing once again the situation on the ground there,” Bennett wrote, “I must ask ‘How long will the United States government allow the Government of Sudan to continue its jihad against the Black African Christians of South Sudan?'”

Backed by Muslim clerics, the National Islamic Front regime in the Arab and Muslim north declared a jihad, or holy war, on the south in 1989. Since 1983, an estimated 2 million people have died from war and related famine. About 4.5 million have become refugees.

Sudan’s holy war against the south was reaffirmed in October by First Vice President Ali Osman Taha.

“The jihad is our way, and we will not abandon it and will keep its banner high,” he said to a brigade of mujahedin fighters heading for the war front, according to Sudan’s official SUNA news agency. “We will never sell out our faith and will never betray the oath to our martyrs.”

The U.S. House of Representatives adopted a resolution finding that Khartoum is “systematically committing genocide,” but current legislation that would impose sanctions has been stalled. The Sudan Peace Act is opposed by both the White House and Wall Street.

Sanctions in the House version of the bill target oil revenues that Khartoum is using to fuel its war effort. Bennett, with 20 years experience in international risk management and banking, said he was the first to probe the link between oil and jihad that is now documented and publicized by human rights groups. His research began in 1996 when he asked: If you’re the government of Sudan and you’re broke, how are you paying for your war?

In his letter urging action by the U.S., he points out that Sudan’s military continues to decorate and promote known war criminals such as Commander Taib Musba, who in the mid-1980s killed an estimated 15,000 unarmed, civilian, ethnic Uduk Christians.

In 1986, Musba entered the Uduk tribal capital of Chali and declared to its Christians: “You are all going to convert from Christianity to Islam today, because here is what’s going to happen to you if you don’t.”

Musba then killed five church leaders in front of the gathered villagers. When they refused to convert, he began killing unarmed men, women and children. Some were herded at gunpoint into a hut then run over by a 50-ton, Soviet-made tank.

He also herded groups of about a dozen people into a hut, where he asked the first person “Do you renounce Jesus Christ?” Anyone who refused was killed by a three-inch nail driven into the top of the head.

The U.N. high commissioner for refugees granted the Uduks international refugee status in 1992 after investigating the atrocities, but almost as many died during the six years they waited for the declaration.

Islam also is forced on Sudanese in the Muslim north. Security police in Khartoum are pursuing a local convert to Christianity who went into hiding three weeks ago to escape arrest and possible death, the Compass Direct news service reports. Aladin Omer Agabni Mohammed, who left Islam 11 years ago to become a Christian, is subject to the death penalty under Sudanese criminal law for “apostasy.” According to a church leader, two other converts face a similar situation.

Forced starvation

Bennett says that in addition to the more immediate, readily apparent atrocities taking place, there is a slower, less perceptive persecution that is equally deadly.

Forced starvation is one of the primary tools of the Khartoum regime, he says. When government forces attack a Christian village, they kill everyone they catch, but those who flee lose everything necessary for survival.

“The government comes in and burns the crops, burns grain stored if there was any excess, burns houses down,” Bennett said. “Now you have only the clothes on your back, no tools, no cooking pots, no buckets for water, and you have to run two days through the bush in 115-degree temperatures in order to escape.”

In the arid wilderness, escapees try to survive on tree leaves and stagnant, dysentery-infested water. If a women is breastfeeding, her milk dries up, Bennett said, and the baby starts dying. Small children, just weaned, also start dying.

“But all the family has to do is change their name to Muhammad or Ramadan, convert to Islam and walk the two days back to the government of Sudan who will care for them,” he said.

Last year, the government of Sudan burned all the crops in the area where Bennett’s group works.

“There wasn’t anything to harvest,” he said. “Literally we saw people eating roots and tree leaves. It’s like eating the nutritional properties of cardboard. It’s enough to put something in your stomach but not enough to feed you.”

A food drop came from the U.N. World Food Program, he said, “but they never came in to do an assessment; they just dropped it from the air.”

As the “hungry season” approaches – the rainy period of June, July and early August – emergency food supplies become critical. Servant’s Heart believes it will need to feed 50,000 people in its area during that time.

Slavery as tool of terror

Slavery is another tool of the National Islamic Front regime, though Bennett says it is not known in the northeast Upper Nile region, mainly because of lack of transportation.

Western Bahr El Ghazal is one location where it persists because the railroad line allows captured men, women and children to be taken to slave markets in the north.

“If you want to end systematic slavery, blow up the train line and keep it blown up,” Bennett said.

The ongoing controversy surrounding slave redemption – the practice of buying freedom promoted by some humanitarian groups – arose again in the past week when the Irish Times and Washington Post published exposes acknowledging the existence of slavery in Sudan but alleging that fake slave redemption is taking place.

Bennett respects the work of groups buying back the slaves, but he believes it is inevitable that some will be conned. Engaging in the practice is a matter of individual conscience, he says.

“Anytime you have tens of thousands of American dollars coming into an area you’ve got potential problems of corruption,” Bennett said.

He says the “jury is still out” on whether it fuels the market by increasing demand.

“Slave-taking would still be happening even if nobody was buying back slaves,” he said. “Maybe not to the full extent.”

But he believes it’s important to keep in mind that taking slaves is “just one more facet of the jihad against the civilian population” in southern Sudan. The methods may vary in different parts of the country, but the aim is the same.

“In the Uduk tribe, Taib Musba drove three-inch nails into people’s heads,” he said. “In northeast Upper Nile, they are gang-raping women and cutting off their breasts; in western Bahr El Ghazal, they are capturing women and selling them as slaves.”….RTICLE_ID=26672

Should The Islamic World Apologize For Slavery?
Source: The Family Security Foundation, Inc.
Date: March 30, 2007 By Adrian Morgan For members of Britain’s politically correct establishment, this week has been one of hand wringing and embarrassing gestures of self-abasement. On Saturday, March 24, a procession took place through London, led by the two most senior figures in the Anglican Church, the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, and Archbishop of York, John Sentamu. The event, called the “Walk of Witness” was part of the bicentennial commemoration of Britain’s abolishment of slavery. Among the procession was a group that had marched 250 miles from Hull in shackles and chains (pictured). They were released from their anacles by the Archbishop of the West Indies.
On Tuesday March 27, the Queen and Tony Blair took part in a commemorative service at Westminster Abbey. It was exactly 200 years previously that William Wilberforce, (born in Hull on August 24, 1759) had succeeded in passing an act to abolish the trade in slaves, which did not come into force until January 1, 1808. This act did not see the end of slavery in Britain and its colonies. It was not until August 29, 1833 that the Slavery Abolition Act was passed. Wilberforce had died a month before, on July 29 . He had retired from politics in 1825. Wilberforce is celebrated in Michael Apted’s new movie “Amazing Grace”.
Tuesday’s ceremony at Westminster Abbey was interrupted by a man in an African batik shirt, Toyin Agbetu, who shouted his objections to the service. As Archbishop John Sentamu, an African, wryly noted: “I hope the depth of anger he expressed is matched by that he should have towards those African chiefs who grew fat through the capture and sale of their kith and kin for trinkets.”
No one is asking for the descendants of the Oba of Ife or the King of Dahomey to make apologies for their part in slavery. An estimated 10 to 25 million Africans were sent across the Atlantic, shackled together in appalling conditions, destined to lead terrible and squalid lives as slaves. From London alone, 2,704 ships left to pick up slaves and transport them to the New World.
America’s slavery officially ended in 1865, even though it led to Civil War. Eight years earlier, the US Supreme Court ruled in the case of Dred Scott that black people could never become citizens of the United States. In February 2007, Virginia officially apologized for its part in slavery, and on Monday this week, Maryland followed suit.
Modern Western nations’ involvement in the black slave trade lasted little more than 350 years, yet Islam has been involved in the black slave trade for more than 14 centuries, from the time of its founder. Mohammed owned black slaves, and in countries like the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, the black slave trade continues. According to Murray Gordon, the amount of black slaves taken by Muslims amounted to 11 million, though this figure is probably an underestimate. While white (and Arab) slave merchants bought and sold black people from the west coast of Africa, Muslim slavers in North Africa also engaged in a trade of white Christians, a trade that politically correct history books conveniently ignore.
There is a line in the Marine Corps Hymn that goes “From the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli”. The last part of this line refers directly to naval engagements from 1804 and 1815, which sought to end the trade in white slaves. Though most of the Christian slaves in North Africa were Europeans, a sizable number were Americans, captured at sea by the notorious Barbary pirates, or corsairs.
For the Barbary corsairs, named after the Barbary (“Berber”) coast, trade in white slaves began in earnest in the late 16th century. They came from Tripoli, Tunis, Algiers and Morocco, all vassal states under the Ottoman Empire, which is why most contemporary accounts refer to the corsairs as “Turks” or “Janissaries” (a type of soldier in the Ottoman empire).
The corsairs first came to prominence in the early 16th century, led by the brothers Barbarossa, who had assumed powers as the first pashas of Algiers. Uruj was beheaded by the Spanish in 1518, but his brother Khair ad-Din (died 1546) succeeded him. Khair ad-Din took control of Nice in southern France in 1543. The Barbarossa brothers led raids on shipping throughout the Mediterranean and their successors would lead raids far beyond the confines of the Mediterranean coastlines.
One of the most famous individuals captured by the Barbary corsairs was Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, the author of Don Quixote. In 1575, his ship, the Sol, was captured by corsairs and for five years he was a captive in Algiers; on numerous occasions he had tried to escape. Cervantes avoided severe punishment as he bore a letter of recommendation from Don John of Austria, illegitimate brother of the King of Spain. A ransom was made for him, his captors assuming he was of the nobility. This was paid and he was released in 1580.
The southwest of England had been subjected to the predations of Barbary corsairs from the end of the 16th century. In 1617, a fishing fleet from Poole in Dorset had set off for Newfoundland. There, they were besieged by pirates described by survivors as “Turkish”, and the majority of the crews were abducted. By 1619, more than 300 ships had been captured off the south coast of Britain. The majority of sailors who had been captured by Barbary pirates were never heard from again.
On March 24, 1620, Owen Phippen (also called Owen Fitzpen) was captured by corsairs and held as a slave for seven years until his escape. A memorial stands in St Mary’s Church in Truro, Cornwall, erected by the rector, Owen’s brother.
By the time Owen Phippen was captured, the population of white slaves in Algiers alone numbered more than 20,000, according to Paul Baepler of the University of Minnesota. A decade later, the figure had risen to 30,000 men and 2,000 women. Sailors were not the only victims of the Barbary slave raiders.
In July 1625, a raiding party of corsairs landed at Mount’s Bay in Cornwall, and swept into the parish church where the locals were worshipping. Sixty men, women and children were abducted and carried onto the corsairs’ boats. Looe, a small Cornish port, was also attacked, though its inhabitants had tried to hide or flee. Eighty men were taken and the village was burned. The mayor of Plymouth reported that “27 ships and 200 persons (were) taken”. A second fleet of corsairs arrived soon after the first. The mayor of Plymouth would later record that 1,000 vessels had been destroyed in that summer’s raids, and the same number of villagers had been abducted into slavery.
On a moonlit June night in 1631, the inhabitants of the coastal village of Baltimore in County Cork, southwestern Ireland, were asleep, unaware that by daybreak their lives would be changed forever. A small flotilla of boats had sailed into the bay unnoticed. These boats, called xebec by their crews, had sailed from Sale in Morocco. They bore 230 musketeers, Muslims to a man, and they had come looking for slaves to sell in Algiers. They had no mercy for any of the town’s inhabitants as they burst into homes, setting the crofts alight. When one villager, Thomas Curlew tried to resist, he was hacked to death, and his wife was carried off. All of the elderly villagers were murdered, and by morning, the Barbary corsairs sailed off, carrying with them 130 men, women and children.
The leader of the abductors at Baltimore was himself a former slave. He went under the name of Murad Reis, but originally he came from Harlem in the Netherlands, where he had been known as Jan Jansen or Jan Jansz. After being captured at Lanzarotte in 1618 he became a convert to Islam, and married a Moroccan woman, even though he had left a wife and daughter behind in Harlem. His raids took him far from the Barbary coast; he even raided Iceland in 1627, taking 400 captives into slavery. He became governor of Oualidia in 1640. Many of those who became slaves opted to convert to Islam, though this was no guarantee of freedom from servitude.

According to Robert C. Davis of Ohio State University, author of Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters (2004), in 1544, 7,000 captives were seized by Algerian corsairs in the Bay of Naples. In 1554, Vieste in Calabria, Italy, was raided and 6,000 people were carried off. In Granada, Spain, 4,000 men, women and children were taken into slavery in 1566.
The traffic in Christian slaves had actually decreased in the 17th century, partly because inhabitants of Mediterranean coastal regions had fled, and partly because the Turkish Ottomans, made cautious after the Battle of Lepanto, were no longer providing support to the corsairs. The Battle of Lepanto took place in 1571 (Cervantes suffered a hand injury in this naval battle) between Ottomans and allied Christian forces. The Ottoman fleet was crushed in this engagement.
In 1645 in what is now Morocco, one man was born into the Alawite dynasty whose sheer brutality and megalomania would demand more and more slaves to achieve his grandiose plans. This man (pictured) was Moulay Ismail Ibn Sharif, a direct ancestor of the current King Mohammed VI of Morocco. In 1672, Moulay Ismail had succeeded as ruler after his brother Moulay al-Rashid had fallen from his horse and dashed his brains out. At the time he ascended the throne, 26-year old Moulay Ismail was the governor of Meknes in the north of the country. He decided to remain in Meknes, and to embark on a massive building project, to create the largest and most opulent citadel ever seen. And to fulfill these ambitions, Moulay Ismail needed manpower. His lack of care for his slaves’ well-being led to a need for their continual replenishment, and thus he sponsored his own corsairs in their piracy and kidnapping.
The experiences of those who became Muslim slaves are best described by those who later managed to escape. One such individual was Joseph Pitts of Exeter, Devon. In 1678 when he was 15 years of age, he was captured as his boat left the estuary of the river Exe. Sold at Algiers, he spent 15 years as a slave. His first master was violent and cruel, but he later was sold to a more benign patron.  Pitts had taken the route of conversion to Islam, and after accompanying his second owner on a trip to Mecca, he was freed.  In 1704, his account of his experiences was published, under the title: A true and faithful account of the religion and manners of the Mahommetans.  An edition from 1731 included an early illustration of the Ka’aba at Mecca.

In 1662, an account of life as a slave in Algiers came from a Flemish captive, Emanuel d’Aranda. He wrote that on September 12, 1640 he had been sold in an Algiers slave market which was customarily used to sell Christians.  Aranda became a galley slave of the pasha or dey of Algiers. He described Algiers as the place “where the miseries of Slavery have consum’d the lives of six hundred thousand Christians, since the year 1536, at which time Cheredin Barberossa brought it under his own power.”

In the year that Aranda’s account was published, an outbreak of plague killed off at least a third of the 30,000 inhabitants of the slave pens of Algiers.  Plague continued to break out in the cities every few years – killing half the 750 slaves of Tripoli in 1675.

European governments sought to buy off the rulers of Morocco, Algiers, Tunis and Tripoli, and thus encouraged continuation of the trade. In 1640, a group of 3,000 British seamen who were slaves in Algiers sent a petition to the British government, which described their conditions, “withal suffering much hunger, with many blows on our bare bodies with which their cruelty many (not being able to undergo) have been forced to turn to their Mahomotest sect and devilish paganism.”

In 1643, the British parliament ruled that “collections should be made in the several churches within the City of London and Westminster and the borough of Southwark.”  Three years later, Britain sent Edmund Cason to ransom back slaves in Algiers.  Cason found at least 750 British slaves, but claimed that far more had “turned Turkes through beatings and hard usage”.  Cason could afford to ransom only 244 slaves.

Parishes around Britain raised money to pay for hostages – Burford, Oxfordshire raised 8 pounds and 2 shillings in March 1680.  Other parishes in the same county raised funds  In the same year, Begbroke parish raised seven shillings and eight pence “For the release of Mary Ackland, Margaret Courtney, Andrew Malpas and Thomas Owsley.”  Parish records from Eynsham, Oxfordshire, state that in August 1680, 108 villagers gathered the sum of one pound and 12 shillings “towards the African Brief”.

Though European governments paid ransoms and made treaties with the leaders of the Barbary regencies, the treaties were rarely honored, and the predations did not stop.  In the second half of the 17th century, plundering of coastal villages lessened, but ships continued to be targets.  In 1645, the first ship from the American colonies was captured by xebec, a fourteen-gun vessel from Massachusetts.

Slaves were subjected to cruel punishments, such as the widely practiced bastinado.  Here an individual was held upside down, while the soles of his bare feet were beaten till raw.  In February 1661, Samuel Pepys recorded tales of this punishment in Algiers, which he had heard from sea captains in a London tavern.  Bastinado was a common punishment under the Ottomans, officially disappearing only with the demise of their Empire in 1924.  Slaves would be beaten as an inducement to become Muslim.  Some slaves were forcibly circumcised, even if they had not converted.  Converts were subjected to this operation publicly, though conversion did not guarantee freedom.  As Joseph Pitts noted: “I have known some that have continued slaves many years after they have turned Turks, nay, some even to their dying day.”

When Moulay Ismail came to power in Morocco in 1672, the country was still a regency of the Ottoman Empire.  In 1679, 1682 and from 1695 – 1696 Moulay Ismail fought the Ottomans, finally gaining official independence.  From the port of Salé, his corsairs would travel far and wide, looking for captives and booty.

Moulay Ismail embarked on ever more complex building plans at Meknes.  He was inspired by tales of the palace at Versailles, constructed since 1668 by Louis XIV of France. The French king had good relations with the sultan, based on their common enmity with Spain.  Louis sent military instructors to Morocco, but this did not prevent Moulay Ismail filling his slave-pens with Frenchmen caught at sea.  These joined Dutch, Norwegian, English, colonial American, Spanish and Irish captives.

The sultan ruled through fear.  Francois Pidou de Saint-Olon was a French ambassador at Meknes. He wrote in 1694 that during his 21-day stay, he counted up to 47 people who had been slaughtered on Moulay Ismail’s orders.  Pidou said that in the first two decades of his reign, the sultan had killed 20,000 people.

Moulay Ismail constructed massive stables, held up by sandstone columns, designed to house 12,000 horses.  Pidou wrote: “He did not even have the decency to present himself before me at the last audience that he granted me, being seated on a horse at the gate of his stables and having his sleeves still bearing the blood of his two principal blacks, whom he had just executed with sword blows.”

Moulay Ismail had a personal guard made up of black slaves, who had been taken from sub-Saharan Africa when aged about 11.  These were called bukhari, as they were made to swear their allegiance to the sultan over a copy of the Hadiths of Sahih Bukhari.  His slave-soldiers were raised to be fiercely loyal.  In later years, as Moulay Ismail became toothless and dribbling, his falling sputum was caught in handkerchiefs by these black courtiers.

The tradition of allowing slaves to gain some status while remaining in servitude was a common practice of the Ottomans.  Janissaries were soldier-slaves who had some power and rank, but were not free.  The Ottomans had inherited this tradition from the earlier Abbasid Empire, where slave-soldiers were called Mamluks.  In the 9th century these had been soldiers captured in Central Asia, but eventually these were drawn from captive or bought children aged 12 to 14. Mamluks ruled Egypt from 1250 until their conquest by the Ottomans in the 16th century.  Moulay Ismail’s elite bukhari were inheritors of a long Islamic tradition.

It was customary for the Ottomans and their predecessors to have eunuchs who guarded the harems.  These too held some status within court hierarchy.  Often these were black slaves who had been bought or captured before puberty.  For the most part, these had all of their genitals removed while children.  Moulay Ismail, like other sultans, had an extensive harem to maintain. According to Francois Pidou, the harem contained 500 concubines.

In 1715, an eleven-year old boy from Penryn in Cornwall made his first sea voyage on the Francis, where his uncle was captain.  The small vessel with a crew of only six was bound for Genoa, Italy  Near the Straits of Gibraltar the boat was attacked by corsairs, and 11-year old Thomas Pellow and the crew were taken to Salé .  Moulay Ismail was seventy when the crew of the Francis was captured.  His age did not prevent him from being able to lop off the head of a courtier or a stable hand with a single stroke of his scimitar.  If the sultan woke up in a murderous mood, he would wear yellow clothing.  Courtiers would become especially obsequious when Moulay Ismail appeared in yellow robes. At least two people were sawn in two on the sultan’s orders.
The Extraordinary Story of Thomas Pellow and Islam’s One Million White Slaves (Hardcover) Thomas Pellow’s experiences have been documented by Giles Milton in White Gold: The Extraordinary Story of Thomas Pellow and North Africa’s One Million European Slaves.  Pellow was separated from his uncle and set to work polishing armor in the underground arsenal at Meknes, before becoming a slave of Moulay es-Sfa.  This man, a favored son of the sultan, tried to get the boy to convert and, when that failed, he ordered young Pellow to undergo bastinado and beatings.  The treatment was repeated for months until Pellow broke and “turned Turk”.

Pellow was young enough to learn Arabic fluently, and this ability would lead him to become of value to the sultan, as a translator when ambassadors and emissaries arrived to negotiate captives.  He became a guard of the outer harem and even a slave-soldier.  He was given a wife, by whom he had a daughter.  Moulay Ismail died in 1727, and the power struggle for succession led to national strife.  Pellow’s wife and daughter died, and he remained a slave.  Strangely, one of his last duties was to act as a slaver, bringing Africans from Senegal to Morocco.  Pellow was not to escape until 1737, after 23 years of being a slave.

Moulay Ismail’s building works were extensive.  Walled gardens with mosques surrounded his ever-growing palace complex.  Ornate gateways faced travelers to Meknes, and the castellated ramparts encircled the city, all built with slave labor.  During his reign, numerous treaties to release slaves were made with European governments, but Moulay Ismail took their bribes and rarely delivered slaves.

Thomas Pellow had been fortunate compared to those who were forced to work on the buildings of Meknes.  These were fed insufficient rations, with moldy flour used to create bread.  As well as being worked to exhaustion, they were forced to sleep in quarters which would flood in winter. Safety for workers was not a consideration for Moulay Ismail and many were crushed in accidents.  In 1755, much of the building work of the sultan was destroyed in a massive earthquake.  Two years later a new leader, Sidi Mohammed, ascended to the Moroccan throne. This ruler appeared more conciliatory to Western demands, and the Salé corsairs gradually went out of business.

In the late 18th century, numerous peace treaties were made between Morocco and governments from Europe, with the US signing such a treaty in 1786.  In 1784 the US Congress had appropriated $80,000 to send as a tribute to the Barbary corsairs, who still operated from Tunis, Tripoli and Algiers.  Thomas Jefferson, US minister to France, was outraged that money should be paid to brigands, arguing that paying off pirates would only encourage more piracy.…ary/barmenu.htm
In 1801, Tripoli demanded that the US pay a tribute of $225,000, followed by an annual payment of $25,000.  Jefferson had been inaugurated as president on March 4.  He refused to pay.  In May, the pasha of Tripoli declared war.  In late October 1803, the US frigate Philadelphia was taken in Tripoli harbor, with its captain and crew held as hostages.  Such state-sponsored terrorism, which had gone on for centuries, drew a fierce response.  Between 1803 and 1804, Commodore Edward Preble bombarded Tripoli five times.  Lieutenant Stephen Decatur led a bold enterprise on February 16, 1804.  The USS Philadelphia was captured and burned, and though fired upon, not a man was lost from the US side.  On June 4, 1805, Tripoli signed a peace treaty with the US.…ar/burn-phl.htm
The dey of Algiers was still demanding that the US pay $60,000 for each of its American hostages.  The payments continued until 1815, when Stephen Decatur and William Bainbridge led naval attacks against Algiers.  In May 1815, Decatur succeeded in the freeing of US captives at Algiers, Tunis and Tripoli.

Finally in 1816 the British, who like other European nations had paid ransoms to Barbary “terrorists” for centuries, formed a coalition with the Netherlands.  Under the leadership of Lord Exmouth, a fleet arrived at Algiers in late August.  They launched a full-scale attack on Algiers harbor and city.  Within 24 hours, cannon fire had destroyed most of the Algerian fleet and much of the city.  Omar Bashaw, the dey of Algiers, capitulated.  The remaining 1,642 slaves were freed, and soon Tunis, Tripoli and Morocco announced that they too had officially abandoned slavery.  Lord Exmouth was from the same family that had sired Thomas Pellow a century earlier.
The rule of the Barbary corsairs was finally over.  But the proponents of Islamic slavery, which had lasted since the time of Mohammed, had no intentions of going away quietly. Contributing Editor Adrian Morgan is a British based writer and artist who has written for Western Resistance since its inception. He also writes for Spero News. He has previously contributed to various publications, including the Guardian and New Scientist and is a former Fellow of the Royal Anthropological Society.

In 1801, Tripoli demanded that the US pay a tribute of $225,000, followed by an annual payment of $25,000.  Jefferson had been inaugurated as president on March 4.  He refused to pay.  In May, the pasha of Tripoli declared war.  In late October 1803, the US frigate Philadelphia was taken in Tripoli harbor, with its captain and crew held as hostages.  Such state-sponsored terrorism, which had gone on for centuries, drew a fierce response.  Between 1803 and 1804, Commodore Edward Preble bombarded Tripoli five times.  Lieutenant Stephen Decatur led a bold enterprise on February 16, 1804.  The USS Philadelphia was captured and burned, and though fired upon, not a man was lost from the US side.  On June 4, 1805, Tripoli signed a peace treaty with the US.

Burning of the Frigate Philadelphia, 16 February 1804
The capture of USS Philadelphia by the Tripolitans at the end of October 1803 seriously reduced the U.S. Navy’s Mediterranean force and potentially increased the enemy’s seagoing offensive power. Though it turned out that Tripoli lacked the resources needed to operate the captured frigate, this was by no means clear at the time, and Commodore Edward Preble began planning to eliminate the problem. The idea of recapturing the Philadelphia in Tripoli’s well-fortified harbor offered little chance of success, but her destruction appeared feasible, if heavy losses by the raiding party were accepted.
There was no shortage of volunteers for this hazardous mission. Lieutenant Stephen Decatur, Commanding Officer of the schooner Enterprise, was appointed to lead the operation, which would be conducted using a recently captured local ketch that was appropriately renamed Intrepid. With a crew taken from Enterprise and the flagship Constitution, plus a Sicilian pilot who was familiar with Tripoli harbor, Decatur sailed from Syracuse on 3 February 1804. Storms kept Intrepid at sea for nearly two weeks, with her people enduring much from crowded circumstances, poor food and the generally filthy condition of their vessel.
US marines charge onto  – The Shores of Tripoli
On 16 February Decatur approached Tripoli, keeping all but a few of his men below decks to maintain Intrepid’s appearance as a local trading vessel. That night, navigating by moonlight, he sailed into the harbor and, claiming to have lost his anchors, requested permission to tie up alongside the Philadelphia. This was granted, but the disguise was discovered as the two came close and an alarm cry rang out. Decatur immediately ordered his men to board, which they did so swiftly that the frigate’s guards had no time to organize resistance. Most jumped overboard and swam ashore, while the Americans rapidly prepared to burn their prize. Less than twenty minutes later the Philadelphia was blazing brightly. Casting off just ahead of the flames, the Intrepid’s men rowed out of the now well-lighted harbor, pursued by gunfire.
The operation was a complete success: Philadelphia burned to the waterline and sank, while none of the raiders were killed and only one injured. In the words of British Admiral Horatio Nelson, this was “the most bold and daring act of the age”
“Thomas Jefferson, United States minister to France, opposed the payment of tribute, as he later testified in words that have a particular resonance today. In his autobiography Jefferson wrote that in 1785 and 1786 he unsuccessfully “endeavored to form an association of the powers subject to habitual depredation from them. I accordingly prepared, and proposed to their ministers at Paris, for consultation with their governments, articles of a special confederation.” Jefferson argued that “The object of the convention shall be to compel the piratical States to perpetual peace.” Jefferson prepared a detailed plan for the interested states. “Portugal, Naples, the two Sicilies, Venice, Malta, Denmark and Sweden were favorably disposed to such an association,” Jefferson remembered, but there were “apprehensions” that England and France would follow their own paths, “and so it fell through.”
Paying the ransom would only lead to further demands, Jefferson argued in letters to future presidents John Adams, then America’s minister to Great Britain, and James Monroe, then a member of Congress. As Jefferson wrote to Adams in a July 11, 1786, letter, “I acknowledged very early that it would be best to effect a peace thro’ the medium of war.” Paying tribute will merely invite more demands, and even if a coalition proves workable, the only solution is a strong navy that can reach the pirates, Jefferson argued in an August 18, 1786, letter to James Monroe: “The states must see the rod; perhaps it must be felt by some one of them. . . . Every national citizen must wish to see an effective instrument of coercion, and should fear to see it on any other element than the water. A naval force can never endanger our liberties, nor occasion bloodshed; a land force would do both.” “From what I learn from the temper of my countrymen and their tenaciousness of their money,” Jefferson added in a December 26, 1786, letter to the president of Yale College, Ezra Stiles, “it will be more easy to raise ships and men to fight these pirates into reason, than money to bribe them.”
Jefferson’s plan for an international coalition foundered on the shoals of indifference and a belief that it was cheaper to pay the tribute than fight a war. ”…ml?id=110008313
When Tripoli’s leader Yusuf Karamanli, fearing his days were numbered, accepted an offer of $60m for the release of the American prisoners, and signed a new treaty which did not call for future tribute payments. Europeans chose appeasesment while the US chose “to effect a peace thro’ the medium of war.” In contemporary terms, was it really all that surprising that the French, Germans, and Russians stymied our efforts to go after Iraq at the United Nations?  Disclosure: I’m against war!

Victory in Tripoli: Lessons for the War on Terrorism

Heritage Foundation Lecture #940 ^ | May 4, 2006 | Joshua E. London

Victory in Tripoli: Lessons for the War on Terrorism by Joshua E. London May 4, 2006 Heritage Lecture #940

Over two centuries ago, the United States was dragged into the affairs of the Islamic world by an escalating series of unprovoked attacks on Americans by Muslim pirates, the terrorists of the era. These pirates preyed on unsuspecting trade ships. The hulk­ing merchant vessels of the period were no match for the Muslim pirate ships, which were built for speed and lightning strikes. It was simply a fact of life that— over the centuries—took its toll on countless mer­chant ships and their crews.

Contemporary scholars estimate that over 1 million white Christians from France and Italy to Spain, Hol­land, Great Britain, the Americas, and even Iceland were captured between 1500 and 1800. The blood­curdling tales of brutality and horror that awaited Christians unlucky enough to fall victim to the Bar­bary Pirates were widely known, although sometimes wildly exaggerated.

The reality was often much more prosaic, although no less cruel. After seizing the cargo and scuttling the vessel, the pirates would strip the crew of anything deemed remotely valuable. The shaken, naked, terri­fied crewmen would then be dragged back to North Africa. There, they would be imprisoned and enslaved or, if they were lucky, ransomed back to their sover­eign or their family or the company they worked for.

Often enough, however, the victims of these mari­time hijackings would languish in fetid prisons, unsure of when, or even if, they would ever be redeemed. Many perished or simply disappeared in the White Slave trade. The only other escape was conversion. Embracing Islam—“turning Turk”—instantly changed one’s status and prospects. Indeed, from time to time, some of these victims would prove rather able-bodied adventurers and mercenaries, considering their national identity, their religion, and their foreskins a small price to pay as compared with life as a Muslim pirate in North Africa.

Rogue States: The Maghrib

Known as the Barbary Pirates, these Muslim ter­rorists operated under the protection and sponsor­ship of rogue Arab states. The Barbary States— modern-day Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Lib­ya—are collectively known to the Arab world as the Maghrib (“Land of Sunset”), denoting Islam’s territorial holdings west of Egypt.

With the advance of Mohammed’s armies in the Christian Levant in the seventh century, the Medi­terranean was slowly transformed into the backwa­ter frontier of the battles between Crescent and Cross. Battles raged on both land and sea, and reli­gious piracy flourished. It was also a lucrative busi­ness, one that yielded great riches to the pirates and to the regimes that gave them refuge.

In contemporary terms, this system of piracy was simply state-sponsored terrorism, an extortion racket in which the pirates and the petty North African states were all complicit—as was the Otto­man Empire, to which three of the four states owed at least nominal allegiance.

The European states disapproved of all this, despite their own robust tradition of piracy and pri­vateering. After all, such practices were increasing­ly considered incompatible with a globalized world that was increasingly dependent on overseas com­merce. Nonetheless, these mercantilist nations remained more or less content to pay the extortion and appease the pirates, deciding that it was cheap­er and easier than trying to defeat them. Also, the stronger nations of Europe quickly realized the benefits of manipulating the pirates to stave off commercial competition.

Pursuing Peace Through Appeasement

America’s struggle with the terrorism of Muslim piracy from the Barbary States began soon after the 13 colonies declared their independence from Britain in 1776 and continued for roughly four decades.

After the War of Independence, America lost British protection in the Mediterranean and began worrying about Barbary depredations. In very short order, the precariousness of American interests abroad was brought into sharp focus when the American merchant vessel Betsey was taken by Morocco in October 1784.

Soon thereafter, two ships with a combined crew of 24 men fell to the pirates of Algiers—the Maria of Boston was captured on July 25, 1785, and five days later the Dauphin of Philadelphia was taken. The hostage crisis was significant, and Congress became greatly alarmed. Destitute of finances and military might, however, the United States pursued a multilateral diplomatic effort at peace. Conse­quently, between 1785 and 1793, a total of 13 ships and 119 men were taken by Algiers.

Obviously, the way forward was deemed to be the pursuit of peace treaties—appeasing terrorism. In 1792, for instance, Congress hoped for a peace trea­ty with Algiers that was to cost upwards of $40,000, with up to $25,000 to be paid in annual tribute. Ransoming enslaved Americans, it was thought, would cost an extra $40,000. Unsurprisingly, these terms were unacceptable to the pirates—why, after all, should they settle so cheaply?

The peace treaty was finally concluded with Alg­iers only in 1796, and the terms were far from appealing—$642,500 in cash up front, followed by a pledge of healthy annual tribute and sundry naval stores. The total cost of this transaction, Congress later determined, was $992,463.25, or about $14,300,000 in today’s terms: By way of compari­son, the entire federal budget for FY 1796 was $5.7 million.

Washington Warns Congress: Be Ready for War

Then, as would happen with some frequency, the situation in Barbary changed as new rulers came to power, resulting in new realities and forcing new deals. President Washington warned Congress in December 1793: “If we desire to avoid insult, we must be able to repel it; if we desire to secure peace…it must be known that we are at all times ready for war.”

Suitably moved, the House of Representatives on March 10, 1794, passed, and on March 19 the Sen­ate ratified, a bill that gave birth to the United States Navy. As the legislation states: “Whereas the depredations committed by Algerine corsairs on the commerce of the United States render it neces­sary that a naval force should be provided for its protection….” Six ships were authorized at a cost of just under $700,000. Unfortunately, the birth of the U.S. Navy was no more exempt from the laws of politics than are mortals from the laws of physics. Thus, in an early example of pork-barrel politics, the ships were to be built in six different states.

As is the case today, party politics played a role in devising a national defense policy. The Federalists, led by John Adams and Alexander Hamilton, were pro-Navy, while the Democratic Republicans, led by Thomas Jefferson, were anti-Navy. The pro-Navy party wanted to castigate the pirates, protect U.S. commerce and foreign interests, and assert American strength abroad to secure international respect and influence. Their opponents preferred spending money on westward expansion rather than on ships and distant enemies in foreign lands.

This was somewhat ironic, as Jefferson was oth­erwise a hawk when it came to the pirates and had previously argued at great length for a robust naval and military response. Jefferson even envisioned an international force, somewhat like what NATO is supposed to be today, that would be called into being expressly to deal with the Muslim pirates. No one ever took this idea particularly seriously.

Before long, however, national politics gave Jefferson his chance for hawkishness. Soon after he became President, the situation in Barbary degenerated.

The Coming of War with Tripoli

President Adams, before him, had been con­strained by the early peace efforts, and so was forced to comply with treaty obligations. These included the establishment of American consulates in the Barbary States and sending those regimes cash, armaments, warships, and naval supplies as well as sundry bribes. As the demands of the Bar­bary Nations increased, the inevitability of war loomed ever larger. This was particularly so with the Regency of Tripoli.

In late May 1801, Jefferson, using his executive powers, sent a squadron under Commodore Richard Dale to deal with Tripoli’s ruler, Pasha Yusuf Qara­manli. Attempts to pacify him with money and bribes had already failed. Indeed, unbeknownst to the Administration, a couple of weeks earlier Qara­manli had beaten Jefferson to the punch. On Thurs­day, May 14, 1801, Qaramanli sent word to the American consulate that he was sending men over to chop down the American flagpole—the traditional method of declaring war in Tripoli.

Congress didn’t respond to Qaramanli’s actions until February 1802, when it empowered Jefferson to use the Navy in any way he deemed fit to protect “the commerce and seamen of the United States against Tripolitan cruisers.” Jefferson’s instructions to naval officers were explicit: “subdue, seize and make prizes of all vessels, goods and effects belong­ing to the Dey of Tripoli” and proceed with whatev­er measures “the state of war will justify.” Note, however, that war had not been officially declared.

Barbary naval warfare was to prove as frustrating as the earlier diplomatic dealings with its perfidi­ous tyrants. So frustrated was Commodore Dale that upon returning home from the Mediterranean in April 1802, he resigned his commission and, glad to be rid of the burden of Barbary, retired to Philadelphia.

Jefferson then sent another squadron under Com­modore Richard Morris. This effort proved even more ineffectual, however, and Morris demonstrat­ed a rather thorough incompetence. He was relieved of command in August 1803. For his exertions, such as they were, Morris was rewarded with a court of inquiry into his conduct. Adjudged “not competent to the command of a squadron,” Morris was dis­missed from service in the United States Navy.

“The Most Bold and Daring Act of the Age”

Another squadron was dispatched under Com­modore Edward Preble. Though he too would end up frustrated, the fighting officer from Maine believed naval force was the answer to Barbary maritime terrorism and was determined to chastise Tripoli.

Preble’s chief frustration was the loss, early in his tenure, of the USS Philadelphia under the command of Captain William Bainbridge. While chasing a small, insignificant pirate vessel on October 31, 1803, Bainbridge grounded the mighty frigate on an uncharted reef. This blunder was compounded by the fact that Bainbridge failed to destroy his per­sonal papers after surrendering and abandoning his ship—without a fight—just outside of the harbor of Tripoli.

Consequently, Yusuf Qaramanli now had a mag­nificent warship—renamed the “Gift of Allah” — 307 American hostages, and invaluable intelligence about the American squadron and Preble’s inten­tions. As the news quickly spread, American pres­tige plummeted to new depths.

While maintaining the naval blockade of Tripoli, Preble set aside his plans for a robust campaign and pondered his only two options for the Philadelphia: to recapture her or destroy her. The impracticabili­ty of retaking the mighty frigate forced the latter option. The plan called for Lieutenant Stephen Decatur to sail into the fortified harbor of Tripoli aboard the USS Intrepid, a captured enemy ketch, and come alongside the Philadelphia. At his signal, the nighttime raid would commence and his men, hidden below-deck, would swarm aboard Philadel­phia and burn her.

On the night of February 16, 1803, the Intrepid came alongside the Philadelphia. As enemy guards, suddenly suspicious, raised the alarm, Decatur yelled “Board!” while leaping over the side. His men rushed the ship and overwhelmed the guards with their sabers and tomahawks. Combustibles were placed at key spots around the ship and ignit­ed at Decatur’s command. The fire spread rapidly and uncontrollably.

Just then, the enemy’s gunboats and shore batter­ies came alive. Waiting until all his men were safely back aboard the Intrepid, Decatur leapt into her rig­ging as she pulled away. The successful 20-minute mission was over, and Decatur suddenly became an American naval hero. The mission had been styled “the most bold and daring act of the age” by Admiral Horatio Nelson. Indeed, Pope Pius VII said the Americans by this action “had done more for the cause of Christianity than the most powerful nations of Christendom have done for ages.”

Preble also launched several attacks against Tri­poli, but to no great effect. Frustrated with the lack of positive results and the growing costs of the war, Jefferson replaced Preble with Commodore John Barron.

“General” William Eaton and the Fall of Derna

In an historic and unconventional move, Jeffer­son also sent an odd, obsessed, and self-destructive man to the Mediterranean to lead what amounted to the nation’s first covert operation. William Eaton, formerly America’s consular agent in Tunis, had developed a pet scheme to overthrow Yusuf Qaramanli. Named Naval Agent for the Barbary Regencies in 1804, Eaton, a veteran of the Revolu­tionary War and Indian fighter, sailed with Com­modore Barron’s squadron to Barbary.

The scheme was ridiculous. Eaton was to find Yusuf’s exiled brother Ahmad, raise an army, march to Derna (the second largest city in the Regency of Tripoli), capture it, secure its harbor, foment rebel­lion, and then proceed to Benghazi and then on to the city of Tripoli. There, Yusuf was to be ousted and replaced by the U.S.-friendly Ahmad.

Eaton had managed to convince Jefferson that the mission was worth a shot and that it could be done cheaply. That was more than enough for Jef­ferson, but almost from the moment Jefferson gave Eaton the green light, he started to have his own doubts about it.

The expedition began on November 26, 1804, when Eaton landed in Alexandria, Egypt. Accom­panying him was a small detachment of United States Marines led by Lieutenant Neville Presley O’Bannon.

Eaton steamrolled ahead to Cairo, picking up Ahmad and assorted “warriors,” and then embarked on a roughly 500-mile march westward across the desert. The newly self-appointed “Gen­eral” Eaton was able to muster a roughly 400-man army of European mercenaries and disaffected Arab fighters. Due principally to religious tension and mistrust, this motley army nearly collapsed into mutiny and bloodshed at nearly every turn. The only binding element was Eaton and his Marines.

William Eaton overcame odds that might have stopped a saner man. At the fortified city of Derna, in April 1805, Eaton confronted a force much larg­er than his own. His strategy was to lead a charge straight into the enemy’s guns and, with the sup­port of U.S. Navy gunboats offshore, capture the city. The effort was a smashing success. When Eaton’s Marines flew the Stars and Stripes at Derna, it was the first time a U.S. flag had been raised in conquest in a foreign land.

It is this action, and the valor and conduct of the Marines, that is forevermore enshrined in the open­ing lines of the Marine Corps hymn: “From the halls of Montezuma, to the shores of Tripoli.” The action at Derna also gave us the Mameluke sword that is worn on parade and formal occasions by Marine commissioned and warrant officers. The sword is patterned after the sword worn by Ahmad Qaramanli, which he carried while a refugee with the Mameluke in Egypt. Ahmad presented his jew­eled sword to Lieutenant Neville Presley O’Bannon as a tribute to the Marine’s bravery and valor. It is also the oldest weapon in continuous use by the United States Armed Forces.

The fall of Derna shook Pasha Qaramanli to his core. It also gave Eaton the momentum he had hoped for. The Pasha envisioned the forthcoming reckoning, Eaton the vindication and glory.

Unknown to Eaton, however, Jefferson had authorized U.S. diplomat Tobias Lear to negotiate a peace treaty at the same time that Eaton was under­taking his daring and dangerous mission. It was Jef­ferson’s way of hedging his bets. Whichever effort succeeded first, the President would be able to declare victory.

While Eaton planned his westward advance in his head, an enormously relieved Pasha Qaramanli was busy cutting a sweet deal to end the conflict and retain his position. Consul General Tobias Lear negotiated a peace treaty with Tripoli. The United States agreed to pay $60,000 for all American pris­oners; agreed to withdraw all U.S. forces and sup­port from Derna; and granted a secret stipulation that the Pasha be allowed to keep Ahmad’s family hostage to prevent future mischief. The Americans were freed, peace was declared, and Ahmad Qara­manli was betrayed without a moment’s hesitation.

An Elusive “Peace”

Jefferson declared “victory,” but the “peace” proved rather political. The Senate ratified the peace treaty with Tripoli, and it was proclaimed on April 22, 1806. The Federalists did not manage to derail the peace treaty, although they did manage to embarrass and, at junctures, discredit President Thomas Jefferson and forever tarnish the career of Tobias Lear. Five years later, the now alcoholic, 47-year-old William Eaton died in anonymity. For what it is worth, Thomas Jefferson and James Mad­ison saw to it that Lear continued in government employ until his death. He committed suicide in 1816 and left no note.

The piracy didn’t actually end there, however. America simply chose to ignore it as more pressing matters took center stage.

Finally, in 1815, Barbary piracy once again emerged atop the country’s national priorities. The War of 1812 finally over and the Treaty of Ghent ratified, President James Madison was at last able to concentrate on the situation in the Mediterranean. Once again, diplomacy had failed. Again, bribery had also failed—the money was never enough.

Unlike Thomas Jefferson, Madison was eager to pursue the war against the Barbary terrorism with real gusto. On March 2, 1815, Madison secured a declaration of war from Congress. He sent two squadrons under Commodores William Bainbridge and Stephen Decatur to deal with the Barbary tyrants.

Decatur reached Barbary first. He quickly defeat­ed the enemy at sea and forced tough new peace treaties on American terms, “dictated at the mouths of our cannon.” These new terms finally spelled victory. This was the first time any nation had suc­cessfully stood up to the Barbary Pirates. It was suf­ficient to ignite the imagination of the European powers to rise up against Barbary and take action.

In late August 1816, a combined British and Dutch fleet under the command of Lord Exmouth unleashed hell upon Algiers, effectually ending pira­cy against most of Europe—excepting France. The French eventually grew tired of Barbary as well and sent an invasion force in May 1830. France con­quered the city and regency of Algiers and remained there until they were finally chased out in 1962.

Lessons for the War on Terrorism

Although there is much in the history of Ameri­ca’s wars with the Barbary pirates that is of direct relevance to the current global war on terrorism, one aspect seems particularly instructive to inform­ing our understanding of contemporary affairs. Very simply put, the Barbary pirates were commit­ted, militant Muslims who meant to do exactly what they said.

Take, for example, the 1786 meeting in London of Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Sidi Haji Abdul Rahman Adja, the Tripolitan ambassador to Britain. As American ambassadors to France and Britain, respectively, Jefferson and Adams met with Ambassador Adja to negotiate a peace treaty and protect the United States from the threat of Barbary piracy.

These future United States Presidents questioned the ambassador as to why his government was so hostile to the new American republic even though America had done nothing to provoke any such animosity. Ambassador Adja answered them, as they reported to the Continental Congress,

That it was founded on the Laws of their Prophet, that it was written in their Koran, that all nations who should not have acknowledged their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as Prisoners, and that every Musselman [Muslim] who should be slain in Battle was sure to go to Paradise. Sound familiar?

Note that America’s Barbary experience took place well before colonialism entered the lands of Islam, before there were any oil interests dragging the U.S. into the fray, and long before the founding of the state of Israel.[/b]

America became entangled in the Islamic world and was dragged into a war with the Barbary States simply because of the religious obligation within Islam to bring belief to those who do not share it. This is not something limited to “radical” or “fun­damentalist” Muslims—which is not to say that such obligations lead inevitably to physical con­flict, at least not in principle. After all, peaceful proselytizing among various religious groups con­tinues apace throughout the world; but within the teachings of Islam, and the history of Muslims, this is a well-established militant thread.

The Islamic basis for piracy in the Mediterranean was an old doctrine relating to the physical or armed jihad, or struggle. To Muslims in the heyday of Barbary piracy, there were, at least in principle, only two forces at play in the world: the Dar al-Islam, or House of Islam, and the Dar al-Harb, or House of War. The House of Islam meant Muslim governance and the unrivaled authority of the shar­ia, Islam’s complex system of holy law. The House of War was simply everything that fell outside of the House of Islam—that area of the globe not under Muslim authority, where the infidel ruled. For Muslims, these two houses were perpetually at war—at least until mankind should finally embrace Allah and his teachings as revealed through his prophet, Mohammed.

The point of jihad is not to convert by force, but to remove the obstacles to the infidels’ conversion so that they shall either convert or become a dhimmi (a non-Muslim who accepts Islamic dominion) and pay the jizya, or poll tax. The goal is to bring all of the Dar al-Harb into the peace of the Dar al-Islam and to erad­icate unbelief. The Koran also promises rewards to those who fight in the jihad: plunder and glory in this world and the delights of paradise in the next.

Although the piratical activities of Barbary genu­inely degenerated over the centuries from pure con­siderations of the glory of jihad to less grandiose visions of booty and state revenues, it is important to remember that the religious foundations of the insti­tution of piracy remained central. Even after it became commonplace for the pirate captains or their crews to be renegade Europeans, it was essential that these former Christians “turn Turk” and convert to Islam before they could be accorded the honor of engagement in al-jihad fil-bahr, the holy war at sea.

In fact, the peoples of Barbary continued to con­sider the pirates as holy warriors even after the Bar­bary rulers began to allow non-religious commit­ments to command their strategic use of piracy. The changes that the religious institution of piracy under­went were natural, if pathological. Just as the concept of jihad is invoked by Muslim terrorists today to legit­imize suicide bombings of noncombatants for politi­cal gain, so too al-jihad fil-bahr, the holy war at sea, served as the cornerstone of the Barbary States’ inter­action with Christendom.

The Barbary pirates were not a “radical” or “fun­damentalist” sect that had twisted religious doctrine for power and politics, or that came to recast aspects of their faith out of some form of insanity. They were simply a North African warrior caste involved in an armed jihad—a mainstream Muslim doctrine. This is how the Muslims understood Barbary piracy and armed jihad at the time—and, indeed, how the phys­ical jihad has been understood since Mohammed revealed it as the prophecy of Allah.


Obviously, and thankfully, not every Muslim is obligated, or even really inclined, to take up this jihad. Indeed, many Muslims are loath to personal­ly embrace this physical struggle. But that does not mean they are all opposed to such a struggle any more than the choice of many Westerners not to join the police force or the armed services means they do not support those institutions.

It is very easy to chalk it all up to regional squab­bles, economic depression, racism, or post-colonial nationalistic self-determinism. Such explanations undoubtedly enter into part of the equation: They are already part of the propaganda that clouds con­temporary analysis. But as Thomas Jefferson and John Adams came to learn back in 1786, the situa­tion becomes a lot clearer when you listen to the stated intentions and motivations of the terrorists and take them at face value.

To purchase a copy of “Victory in Tripoli: How America’s War with the Barbary Pirates Established the U.S. Navy and Shaped a Nation” click on this link:…5Fencoding=UTF8

In 1783, Muslim pirates – the sea-faring terrorists of their day – began attacking American merchant vessels in the Mediterranean, and the following year, the Moroccans captured a brig called Betsey and enslaved its crew. Soon afterwards, the ruler of Algiers declared war on the US, a declaration backed up by marauding corsairs.

The situation worsened with each coming year, but for the life of them, the Americans could not figure out what they did to make themselves so hated.

In May 1786, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, then both diplomats in Europe, met with Tripoli’s ambassador to London. Why did the North Africans attack ships of a country that had done nothing to provoke such hostility, the two asked him.

The response was unnerving. As Adams and Jefferson later reported to the Continental Congress, the ambassador said the raids were a jihad against infidels. Muslim privateers felt “it was their duty to make war upon them [non-Muslims] wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could as Prisoners, and that every Mussleman [Muslim] who should be slain in Battle was sure to go to Paradise.”

The Americans now had two choices: pay tribute or fight the pirates.

The Barbary States comprise what is now modern-day North Africa. The name comes from the word barbari (“barbarian”), what the Arabs called the native Imazighen population. The rough-and-tumble Imazighen (or Berbers) began to convert to Islam following the Arab invasion in the seventh-century CE and, some 70 years later, helped conquer much of Christian Spain when the jihad spread to Europe.

Centuries later, in 1492, the Christians eliminated the last of Muslim stronghold in Spain, but the religious conflict did not end there; the North African Muslims simply took the war to the Mediterranean. “Piracy was deemed an acceptable and important component of the al-jihad fi’l-bahr, or the holy war at sea, and the ta’ifa, or community, of seamen became integral to the Muslim struggle with Christendom,” writes London.

Eventually, this holy piracy evolved into a nice money-making scheme. European powers would pay bribes to the Barbary rulers to avoid having their ships raided and crews enslaved. The British also participated in this protection racket, so vessels from America did not have to worry about Muslim pirates – that is, until the United States declared its independence from England.

And then, in 1783, the attacks on American shipping began.

Diplomacy on the part of the Spanish helped free the crew of the Betsey captured by Morocco in October 1784, but other American vessels were plundered by Algiers in the coming months. Thomas Jefferson, then US minister to France (later, third president), would have preferred to fight the pirates then, but the republic lacked the funds to build a navy. So the Americans traded arms and money for hostages.

Of course, once it set down that path, the US had to pay tribute to other Barbary States. In 1800, Pasha Yusef Qaramanli of Tripoli sent a message to President John Adams that war would be forthcoming if the Americans did not pay up. Tunis was also itching for a fight, and with Portuguese and Sicilian forces no longer blocking the Straits of Gibraltar, its pirates had a clear run of the Atlantic.

In 1801, Tripoli declared war on the US, which in response instituted an utterly ineffective naval blockade that only managed to rile up other Barbary States. “The American war against Tripoli was understood in light of the infidel’s encroachment against the Dar al-Islam [House of Islam],” notes the author. “The fact that Tripoli seemed to be winning only spurred” on the pirate rulers.

Two years later, President Thomas Jefferson redoubled war efforts, building more ships and jettisoning an incompetent commodore, but he never thought the Barbary pirates could be completely tamed. Finally, in November 1804, with the blockade still dragging on, US consul to Algiers William Eaton went to Egypt to find a claimant to the throne who would lead a coup against the troublesome Tripolitan.

Eaton’s mixed Arab, Greek and American force marched all the way from Egypt, and backed up by naval guns, took the port city of Derna. An alarmed Pasha Yusef Qaramanli agreed to a peace treaty in June 1805, and Jefferson declared victory over Tripoli. As for the Arab claimant to the throne, he was betrayed by the Americans when deemed no longer useful; Eaton never forgave the president and died an alcoholic.

Though covering a neglected chapter of history, Victory in Tripoli comes alive thanks to a host of colorful personalities. The reader learns that, for example, the politically connected but incompetent Captain Richard Morris spent more time on port calls than securing the blockade of Tripoli, and that the Ottoman sultan in Constantinople first imagined the Americans were quasi-Muslim because the stars on their flag were, like the crescent moon, a heavenly body. […]

What Thomas Jefferson learned from the Muslim book of jihad
By Ted Sampley
U.S. Veteran Dispatch
January 2007


The Quran Ellison used was no ordinary book. It once belonged to Thomas Jefferson, third president of the United States and one of America’s founding fathers. Ellison borrowed it from the Rare Book Section of the Library of Congress. It was one of the 6,500 Jefferson books archived in the library.

There is no doubt Ellison was right about Jefferson believing wisdom could be “gleaned” from the Muslim Quran. At the time Jefferson owned the book, he needed to know everything possible about Muslims because he was about to advocate war against the Islamic “Barbary” states of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Tripoli.

Ellison’s use of Jefferson’s Quran as a prop illuminates a subject once well-known in the history of the United States, but, which today, is mostly forgotten – the Muslim pirate slavers who over many centuries enslaved millions of Africans and tens of thousands of Christian Europeans and Americans in the Islamic “Barbary” states.

Over the course of 10 centuries, Muslim pirates cruised the African and Mediterranean coastline, pillaging villages and seizing slaves.

The taking of slaves in pre-dawn raids on unsuspecting coastal villages had a high casualty rate. It was typical of Muslim raiders to kill off as many of the “non-Muslim” older men and women as possible so the preferred “booty” of only young women and children could be collected.

Young non-Muslim women were targeted because of their value as concubines in Islamic markets. Islamic law provides for the sexual interests of Muslim men by allowing them to take as many as four wives at one time and to have as many concubines as their fortunes allow.

Boys, as young as 9 or 10 years old, were often mutilated to create eunuchs who would bring higher prices in the slave markets of the Middle East. Muslim slave traders created “eunuch stations” along major African slave routes so the necessary surgery could be performed. It was estimated that only a small number of the boys subjected to the mutilation survived after the surgery.

When American colonists rebelled against British rule in 1776, American merchant ships lost Royal Navy protection. With no American Navy for protection, American ships were attacked and their Christian crews enslaved by Muslim pirates operating under the control of the “Dey of Algiers”–an Islamist warlord ruling Algeria.

Because American commerce in the Mediterranean was being destroyed by the pirates, the Continental Congress agreed in 1784 to negotiate treaties with the four Barbary States. Congress appointed a special commission consisting of John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin, to oversee the negotiations.

Lacking the ability to protect its merchant ships in the Mediterranean, the new America government tried to appease the Muslim slavers by agreeing to pay tribute and ransoms in order to retrieve seized American ships and buy the freedom of enslaved sailors.

Adams argued in favor of paying tribute as the cheapest way to get American commerce in the Mediterranean moving again. Jefferson was opposed. He believed there would be no end to the demands for tribute and wanted matters settled “through the medium of war.” He proposed a league of trading nations to force an end to Muslim piracy.

In 1786, Jefferson, then the American ambassador to France, and Adams, then the American ambassador to Britain, met in London with Sidi Haji Abdul Rahman Adja, the “Dey of Algiers” ambassador to Britain.

The Americans wanted to negotiate a peace treaty based on Congress’ vote to appease.

During the meeting Jefferson and Adams asked the Dey’s ambassador why Muslims held so much hostility towards America, a nation with which they had no previous contacts.

In a later meeting with the American Congress, the two future presidents reported that Ambassador Sidi Haji Abdul Rahman Adja had answered that Islam “was founded on the Laws of their Prophet, that it was written in their Quran, that all nations who should not have acknowledged their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as Prisoners, and that every Musselman (Muslim) who should be slain in Battle was sure to go to Paradise.”

For the following 15 years, the American government paid the Muslims millions of dollars for the safe passage of American ships or the return of American hostages. The payments in ransom and tribute amounted to 20 percent of United States government annual revenues in 1800.

Not long after Jefferson’s inauguration as president in 1801, he dispatched a group of frigates to defend American interests in the Mediterranean, and informed Congress.

Declaring that America was going to spend “millions for defense but not one cent for tribute,” Jefferson pressed the issue by deploying American Marines and many of America’s best warships to the Muslim Barbary Coast.

The USS Constitution, USS Constellation, USS Philadelphia, USS Chesapeake, USS Argus, USS Syren and USS Intrepid all saw action.

In 1805, American Marines marched across the dessert from Egypt into Tripolitania, forcing the surrender of Tripoli and the freeing of all American slaves.

During the Jefferson administration, the Muslim Barbary States, crumbling as a result of intense American naval bombardment and on shore raids by Marines, finally officially agreed to abandon slavery and piracy.

Jefferson’s victory over the Muslims lives on today in the Marine Hymn, with the line, “From the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli, we will fight our country’s battles on the land as on the sea.”

It wasn’t until 1815 that the problem was fully settled by the total defeat of all the Muslim slave trading pirates.

Jefferson had been right. The “medium of war” was the only way to put and end to the Muslim problem. Mr. Ellison was right about Jefferson. He was a “visionary” wise enough to read and learn about the enemy from their own Muslim book of jihad.…roupID=BB006ZUB

Sudan slave ‘crucified by master’

Christian teen rescued, redeemed, still lives with scars
Posted: April 7, 2004
1:00 a.m. Eastern

After being nailed to a board by his master and left for dead – the last in a series of torturous acts – a Sudanese Dinka boy escaped from his bondage and lived to tell his horrific story.

The story of “Joseph,” a Christian, is told in a recent newsletter of the Persecution Project Foundation, an organization that monitors Christian persecution in Africa.

PPF’s Brad Phillips recently returned from visiting Joseph, who originally was sold into slavery at age 7 in 1987.

“I had the privilege of spending a day with this amazing boy who is now called Joseph,” Phillips wrote. “I spoke with him, I interviewed him, I saw his scars, and I saw his eyes. What I saw moved me, and still haunts me.”

Joseph (photos: Persecution Project Foundation)

Phillips explains that since the 1980s, the Muslim National Islamic Front government has sanctioned the taking of Christians and animists from the south part of the nation to be sold to Muslims as slaves in the north. The two sides have been engaged in a civil war for several years.

As a 7-year-old, Joseph, then called Santino Garang, was sold to his master, Ibrahim. Though Joseph was given an Arab name, Ibrahim referred to him only by the pejorative “Abid,” which means black slave, writes Phillips. For ten years, Joseph remained in bondage to his master.

“During his enslavement …,” Phillips wrote, “he was often beaten, tortured and abused by his Arab master. African slaves, especially Christians, are viewed as lower than animals.

“Joseph was raised Christian. His desire to worship was mocked by his master, who told him every day for 10 years that he had no business worshipping since he was of no more value than a donkey.”

One Sunday morning, Joseph heard the hymn singing of a Christian service. He joined into the worship, remembering church services from when he was a young boy.

While Joseph was at church, some of the camels he was in charge of escaped, and his master flew into a rage. Ibrahim, Phillips writes, “swore he would kill Joseph and do to him what had been done to Jesus … he would crucify him.

Joseph’s scarred legs

“After brutally beating Joseph on the head and all over his body, the master laid him out on a wooden plank. He then nailed Joseph to the plank by driving nine-inch nails through his hands, knees and feet. He then poured acid on Joseph’s legs to inflict even greater pain, and finally left him for dead.”

Miraculously, Joseph did not die, even though he lay on the plank for seven days. He survived through the kindness of his master’s son, who brought him food and water, and eventually took him to a medical facility.

“In case you are wondering,” wrote Phillips, “no criminal charges were brought against Joseph’s master, because he acted within his ‘rights’ under currently practiced ‘sharia law.’ To say that Christians are second-class citizens in much of the Islamic world (not just the Sudan) is a cruel understatement.”

After Joseph returned from the hospital, his master saw little value in him since he was crippled from the nails being driven through his knees. Joseph was “redeemed” by Christian slave redeemers who arranged his return home to his village in Bahr el Gazal.

When he arrived back in his home village, the elders thought he should have a new name, so they named him after Joseph of the Bible, who was sold into slavery but later was used mightily by God.

Wrote Phillips: “Joseph still desperately needs your prayers. By God’s grace Joseph survived kidnapping, the loss of his parents, ten years of enslavement, and near death by crucifixion. But while Joseph is free in body, he is still in great pain physically and emotionally. He bears the marks of his crucifixion in his body and the scars of his torment in his soul. He is wounded and broken in his spirit. And his is haunted by the memories of hundreds of other children from his community who perished or remained enslaved in the north.

“Joseph is one of a small number of people in the 21st century who knows what it means to be crucified because of his Christian faith. But the reality is that hundreds of thousands of our fellow Christians in the Sudan have been enslaved, driven from their homes, hunted and murdered by devoted followers of Islam. This war of Islamic cruelty has raged for centuries in the Sudan. Please remember our Sudanese brethren in your prayers, and do all you can to aid us in the relief of their suffering.”….RTICLE_ID=37913

There are no words….yet it continues – just as the ethnic cleansing of Christians continue in the Islamic world.

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One Response to The Persistence of Islamic Slavery

  1. Pingback: Four young Christians beheaded in Iraq, Turkey’s PM tells pope Islamophbia to blame for ISIS | mediachecker

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