Friday, October 27, 2006

Arab Empire

The Arab or Middle Eastern slave trade or trans-Saharan slavery was mostly centered around settlements and ports in East Africa. It is one of the oldest known slave trades, predating the European transatlantic slave trade by hundreds of years. Male slaves, after being transported and sold, were employed as servants, soldiers, or labourers by their owners. Female slaves, mostly from Africa, were long traded to Middle Eastern countries and kingdoms by Arab, Indian, or Oriental traders, some as female servants, others as sexual slaves. Arab, Indian, and Asian traders were often involved in the capture or purchase and transport of African slaves northward across the Sahara desert and the Indian Ocean region into Arabia and the Middle East, Persia, and the Indian subcontinent.

More African slaves may have crossed the Sahara Desert, the Red Sea, and the Indian Ocean than crossed the Atlantic. Some sources estimate that between 11 and 17 million slaves crossed the Red Sea, Indian Ocean, and Sahara Desert from 650 to 1900, compared to perhaps 11-12 million transported across the Atlantic from 1500 to the late 1860s. The Arab or Middle Eastern slave trade continued in some areas into the early 1900s. [7]

Slaves were also brought into the Arab world from Central Asia, Eastern Europe and the Caucasus mountains (Georgians, Armenians, etc.) White slaves were generally called Mamluks and black slaves referred to as zanji (it should be pointed out that the word zanji in Arabic simply means 'black' as it does zenci in Turkish).

Until the 10th century many black slaves could be found in the marshlands of Iraq, until the zanji/Khawarij revolt which turned the tide in the import of black slaves, after that many more white slaves than black were brought into the Arab world (see Tabari "Revolt of the zanj").

White slaves served in the army and formed an elite corp of troops eventually revolting in Egypt to form the Mamluk dynasty.

As in the Ottoman empire slavery had no racial connotations. During the Fatimid rule of Egypt at least one black slave rose to the position of ruler of Egypt. The white Mamluks ruled Egypt after the Ayyubids until the coming of the Ottomans