Mention the word ‘slavery’, and it will immediately conjure up pictures of negroid cotton pickers and sad savages being marched in chains by Arab slave traders, but very little is ever said about the enslavement of white European Christians.
In this day and age slavery is usually associated with forced prostitution, with many gullible and unsuspecting Eastern Europeans eager for work and a better life in the EU, falling prey to unscrupulous human traffickers. But there is nothing new under the sun, and to this day, both white men and women are still to be found as slaves, not only in in SM studio’s and brothels of Europe paying off their ‘transport costs’, but also as genuine slaves in obscure places in north Africa and the middle east.
The enslavement of Christian women did not end with the Roman empire. For more than 1000 years the Islamic rulers of North Africa and the Near East regarded Christians as people of lesser status, only fit to be subjected and — if desired — to be enslaved.
It took Christians 1000 years more to realize that they should not enslave other Christians …). But the protection of the Quran does not extend to Jews or Christians.
One of the things that both the public and many scholars have tended to take as given is that slavery was always racial in nature – that only blacks have been slaves. But that is not true, We cannot think of slavery as something that only white people did to black people.”
ALSO it was religion and ethnicity, as much as race, that determined who became slaves.
Enslavement was a very real possibility for anyone who traveled in the Mediterranean, or who lived along the shores in places like Italy, France, Spain and Portugal, and even as far north as England and Iceland. The vast scope of slavery in North Africa has been ignored and minimized, in large part because it is on no one’s agenda to discuss what happened. The enslavement of Europeans doesn’t fit the general theme of European world conquest and colonialism that is central to scholarship on the early modern era.
Many of the countries that were victims of slavery, such as France and Spain, would later conquer and colonize the areas of North Africa where their citizens were once held as slaves. Maybe because of this history, Western scholars have thought of the Europeans primarily as “evil colonialists” and not as the victims they sometimes were.
It has been estimated that Arab pirates enslaved at least 1 million Europeans between 1530 and 1780, half of them female. The pirates not only attacked ships, but also raided coastal villages in the Mediterranean; but even the Atlantic coasts up Southern England were not safe from them. The male slaves were usually used for the galleys, the mines, or other hard work. Women, especially the beautiful ones, were put to other uses.
The palace at Makram was guarded around the clock. Armed guards manned the only entrance, and kept the huge doors closed and bolted, and opened only to allow known and authorized personnel to pass. At all hours, other guards patrolled atop the high perimeter walls. While making escape from the harem impossible, its real purpose was to keep out unwanted intruders.
Tartars raiding a Russian village and abducting a woman
Many years ago, during a mild sandstorm, bandits had scaled the walls of the old palace at Buraydah stealing precious jewelry and many slave girls. The ensuing sandstorm covered the abductor’s tracks and neither the jewelry nor the girls were recovered. After this loss, Ali’s father enforced the Turkish practice of marking by branding, to identify abducted or escaped slave girls should they be offered for sale in local markets or put to work in one of the well frequented brothels. All of Ali’s girls bore a mark—his, or that of a previous owner.
How valuable were slave girls that they were worth the risk of stealing? Blond haired European virgins less than sixteen years old were the most valuable and could be worth the price of twenty camels or more to those buyers who found them exceptionally attractive. A budding younger virgin, who showed good promise of things to come, could fetch the price of ten camels, her owner then putting her to work as a harem servant girl until her showings were full and regular. Girls who had lost their virginity varied widely in value depending on their age, color of skin and hair, and the fullness and firmness of that part of the female anatomy that most appealed to the buyer. Prices varied widely but were never less than the equivalent of three camels.
“The massacre at Chios”, referring to a massacre committed by Turkish troops against the population of the Greek island of Chios after the begining of the Greek war of independence; which the victorious Turks let the Greek women chose between death and slavery
Warring between nations and tribes had always been the main source of slaves throughout history. Spoils flowed to the victors, the vanquished taken as slaves, and sold along with their seized possessions. Tribal war and rivalries yielded black African men and women slaves who arrived in Arabia ports by ship and boat, and in the Far East, gold purchased Asian girls who came back overland along with silks and other goods in one of the many trade caravans traveling the great Silk Road.
Ali owned one Asian girl, Briar Rose, sold off by her poor family, supposedly for household service in a wealthy man’s home, as was common practice with female offspring in India and the Far East. Briar Rose, taken westwards and sold to Arab slavers, never saw household service.
Pirate bounty was a large source of European girls. Raids mounted from pirate lairs dotted along the coast of the Barbary States, on ships passing through the narrow Straits of Gibraltar or becalmed in quiet waters yielded many captives. Those captured who were of noble birth, or wealthy, commanded ransoms in gold, but the fate of the poor was slavery.
It was common for a raiding party to return with a hundred or more captives after looting undefended towns along the coasts of the Iberian Peninsula, Ireland and Scandinavia. Captains of pirate vessels were wealthy and respected citizens in their home ports and as such, were beyond reproach. There they dallied with impunity with the choicest of their captives before delivering them for ransom, or selling them on to eager buyers.