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any etymologists believe that the word Slav, which stands for the nations of Central and Eastern Europe, is the origin of the word “slave”, and this is because this region, which stretched west to the Balkans and had access to the Mediterranean, was heavily exploited by the Arabs as a slave supply area throughout antiquity and the Middle Ages. 

The coast of Bosnia and the nearby City Republic of Dubrovnik (Ragusa) was the longest-used markets for slave export. From there, Slavs were shipped as slaves by Venetian and Arab merchants to new and old areas of the Islamic world, stretching as far as Spain. But as the Slavs gained military power and formed stronger kingdoms, the Arabs turned to East Africa and the Sahara, and in the 10th century, the trans-Saharan slave trade flourished.

The Arab-Muslim slave trade is the longest slave trade in history. It lasted more than 1,300 years and exploited, dehumanized, and killed at least nine million African women, children, and men. Scholars still argue about the exact number, and perhaps we are comforted by the fact that we will never know the exact extent of this still unacknowledged, veiled genocide.

The African slave trade became popular as early as the seventh century when Islam gained strength in North Africa

Arab traders regularly came to Zanzibar, where they bought raw materials such as cloves and ivory, which were then transported by black slaves from Sudan, Ethiopia, and Somalia across the Indian Ocean to the Persian Gulf or the Arabian Peninsula, where they were sold in Oman, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq. The only Africans to escape this fate were African Muslims, thanks to the Islamic conception of law.

The most popular and oldest slave route was the three-month Trans-Saharan journey, which followed the Trans-Saharan routes through the West African region via the Niger Valley to the Gulf of Guinea, ending in slave markets in the Maghreb and the Nile Basin. Scientists estimate the survival rate on the old Trans-Saharan route at 20 percent.

The Arabs had the greatest success in selling slaves to the harems, which is why they mainly kidnapped women and children at a ratio of three women to one man and doubled or tripled the price for women. There is a detailed account by the British adventurer David Livingstone in 1870, who wrote in his diary, and we bring it in full because of its immense importance:

“In less time than it takes me to speak of them, these unfortunate creatures – 84 in number – crept into the village where we were. Some of them, the oldest, were women aged 20 to 22, and there were youths aged 18 to 19, but the vast majority were boys and girls aged 7 to 14 or 15. I do not think I have ever seen a more horrific picture than these men, women, and children. To say that they were emaciated would not give you an idea of what people can go through in certain circumstances. 

Each of them carried a large forked stick on the back of their necks that weighed between 30 and 40 pounds and was five or six feet long, with a fork at the end where the branches of a tree spread out. The women were bound with bark straps, which are the cruelest of all shackles. Of course, they are soft and pliable when pulled from the trees, but after a few hours in the sun, they become as hard as iron packing boxes. The little children were tied to their mothers with ribbons. 

As we walked along the path these slaves had taken, I was shown a spot in the bushes where the previous day a poor woman, unable to continue the march and probably wanting to prevent it, had been killed by the axe of one of these slave drivers. We continued walking and were led to a place where a child lay. It had only recently been born and its mother was unable to carry it because of weakness and exhaustion; so the slave trader had grabbed the little infant by the feet, hurled its brains against one of the trees, and thrown it in there.

All Male Slaves Were Live Castrated

While female slaves mostly served to furnish the harems and rarely became wives who could prevent their babies from being killed at birth, male slaves and young boys were castrated and turned into eunuchs who guarded the harems or worked in the fields. Castration had a survival rate of only 10% and served to prevent reproduction and multiplication of the black population while the Arab masters continued to impregnate black harem women. It is also reported that most of the surviving castrated committed suicide.

Arab countries continued the slave trade well into the 20th century. It was not until 1909 that slavery was finally abolished in East Africa. In Malawi, slavery was officially criminalized in 2007, and in Sudan and Mauritania, Arab slave traders still trade successfully today.

It is estimated that almost 40 million people worldwide still live in slavery. Young people are enslaved against their will, forced to work, and sexually exploited.

It is also worth mentioning that the population of Europe and Asia increased year after year, while the population of Africa decreased drastically due to excessive poaching by Arab and European slave traders.

In 1600, the black African population was about 50 million people – about 30% of the total population of the New World, Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa. By 1800, the proportion had dropped to 20% of the total population. 

By 1900, the end of the slave trade, Africa’s population had declined even further to just over 10 % of the total – the population had now shrunk so much that this had a negative impact on the continent’s labor-intensive agricultural production. Today, Africa is still on her knees just trying to survive another day of ancient long injustice.

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