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Slavery to-day page 3


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In Arabia there is a variant of this practice. Mr. Eldon Rutter says that there are numbers of very poor foreigners in Arabia who are unable to find the necessary means to procure and liberate a wife; these are able to obtain women upon the agreed basis that any child they 'produce,' being born into slavery, is handed over to the owner of the woman as a property to be disposed of by him in the markets. The breeding of slaves is a revolting practice, degrading to the women purchased for breeding purposes. It may break the hearts of the mothers to have their little children torn from them and their baby boys mutilated prior to sale in the market, but it is in trading and raiding that the more brutal atrocities are committed. There are some recognised markets for slaves, but the vast majority are sold by private dealers. In certain cities in China agents stand in the streets with children for sale - a straw plait indicating that the child awaits a purchaser.

Let us look at one slave market as described by Mr. Eldon Rutter in a letter to the author: The slave market in Mekka is a street leading to one of the gates of the Great Mosque. At certain hours of the day male and female slaves are made to sit on stone benches in front of the houses, so that the passers-by may inspect them. They are dressed in the gown worn by the poorer natives of the city, and the faces of the women are veiled. They lift their veils if requested to do so. Any closer inspection of a slave by a prospective purchaser takes place inside the slave-dealer's house. Young women at that time realised the equivalent of 60 to 70 each, according to youth, beauty, and efficiency in household duties. Male slaves were slightly less expensive.

But even in Mekka the open slave market is not the principal channel of the trade, for according to Mr. Rutter, in most towns other than Mekka 'the slaves are sold privately. In some places there are dealers who keep a definite stock of slaves; in others there are merely agents who dispose of any slave whom a private person may desire to sell.

In the Holy Cities of Arabia, Mr. Eldon Rutter recounts an extremely interesting conversation which he had with an eminent Mohammedan. This conversation confirms in several interesting particulars M. Kessel's evidence on the methods of supplying the slave markets of Arabia: 'Had I but two hundred or three hundred guineas,' said Shafig, between the whiffs of his shisha, 'I could profit much from slaves. I know a place of slaves.'

'Where is that?' I enquired.

'Above from El Gunfuda,' he replied, 'on the coast of the sea between Birk and El Hodayda, to the south.'

I was sitting with the cronies in Abdurrahman's mag'od. It was near the hour of the midday prayer, and without the iron-barred window the narrow lane was vivid with burning sunlight. But in this bottom room of the tall house the air was cool and dank. A dingy air-shaft, a foot in width, ran up to the roof, and iron gratings opened into it on every landing of the dark stairway.

'And those slaves - are they Yemenis or Habashis?' (Abyssinians) asked Abdul Fattah.

'Yemenis,' replied Shafig. 'They are said to be children stolen from their parents in the inner wilderness of the Yemen. And Allah is More Knowing. There are Habashis also.'

'But when they bring the Habashis from Africa, O my uncle,' I said, 'do they land them at El Gunfuda?'

'No,' said he, 'they land them more to southward near El Hodayda; for there the distance between Arabia and Africa is not great. Their desire is to pass the sea quickly.'

'They say that some of the people of the Yemen sell their own children,' said Hasan.

'I take refuge in God,' exclaimed Shaflg. 'But there are people who own men-slaves and women-slaves; so they let them breed, in order that they may profit by selling the children!'

The actual marketing of slaves is probably carried on to a greater extent in China than elsewhere. It was the late Archbishop of Canterbury who first drew public attention to this during a debate in the House of Lords. Dr. Davidson recounted a conversation which had just taken place between an eminent Chinaman and himself. He stated that in conversation he himself drew a very dark picture of the state of China as it appeared to him, and said that the picture seemed so dark that he hardly liked to put it to this eminent Chinaman as being true, but emphasised that he was speaking of Western China where slavery is rife, but he presumed that it was not possible to purchase slaves in the great cities of the East. His Chinese friend replied 'Oh, yes, it is. I could buy them in half an hour. There is not the slightest difficulty in buying girls; I could buy them anywhere.'

In 1930 an appeal was issued in Europe, signed jointly by leading Chinese and well-known missionaries in China. This appeal was published for the purpose of securing funds to create Homes for Freed Slaves in China. In this appeal it was asserted that last month a Missionary coming from an inland city saw little girls carried on the backs of men who were driving pack-horses; they were being bargained for at different stopping places. In ordinary times little girls are brought to the cities, and even into other provinces, and sold by the hundreds, but in times of famine or calamity by the thousands.

Mrs. Dymond, a missionary of forty years' experience in China, states in her book (Yunnan) that 'during the terrible famine in her province 4,000 little girls were carried pack-saddle twelve days' journey to the capital city and sold.1

The principal overseas markets to-day are along the coasts of the Red Sea. This traffic takes two main forms - first, the transport and sale of slaves by Arab slave dhows; secondly - and this is probably more extensive - the inclusion in the retinues of Pilgrims to the Holy City of Mekka, of natives of Africa and the Far East for sale. The Commission of the League of Nations has drawn attention to this traffic and to the fact that it includes a feature hitherto unsuspected - namely, that this is a traffic not merely from the Continent of Africa but also from the Far East, carried on by the Mohammedan Pilgrims. Lady Simon, in her admirable book on slavery, quotes the statement of a British Naval Officer, Commander Woodward, that the total Red Sea traffic is not less than 5,000 men, women and children each year.

In the Kessel articles published in Le Matin it was pointed out that the importation is of a two-fold nature, the Pilgrim traffic and the ordinary Red Sea traffic. The Commission sent by Le Matin reported upon this dual traffic as follows: The pilgrim method of which the Scotch captain spoke and which was confirmed at Djeddah is less dangerous. The slaves are embarked well within all the regulations as pilgrims, but they never return. Then it also comes about that parents who have taken their whole family to the Sacred City are beggared by the exploitation of faith practised there, and sell their children in order to have money with which to return... the fact that men are bought and sold, when once the threshold of the Red Sea is passed, is not realised by those who cross it in the great liners full of comfort, pleasure and music. As for an ordinary merchandise dominated by the law of supply and demand, there is for the slave trade the region where raw material is found, exporters, intermediaries, consumers on the spot and outside. There are variable prices according to the abundance of the supply and the difficulties of transport.

While slave-owning is degrading and slave-marketing is both degrading and cruel, slave-raiding gathers to itself every form of bestiality, every form of atrocious cruelty, spreading terror far and wide over the areas raided and carrying with it fire and sword, bloodshed and death to the bravest of the men as well as to the women and children, sick and afflicted. The most authoritative description to-day of a modern slave raid is to be found in the written statement of the present Governor of Sierra Leone, Sir Arnold Hodson, who had previously spent many years in an official capacity in East Africa. His vivid description should stir to generous activity all those who value human life: The method of raiding is to surround a village in the dark, the raiders blowing trumpets and uttering bloodthirsty yells to stampede the inhabitants. The huts are then fired, and the old men and women are ruthlessly speared or shot down as they rush out panic-stricken, only the younger ones being of sufficient value to capture. (Sir Arnold Hodson. Where Lion Reign.)

Captain Yardley, another British official, who has been an eye-witness of these raids, emphasises the well-known fact that whilst most of the raids in Abyssinia are between kingdom and kingdom, many of the raiders carry their depredations into British administered territories. Captain Yardley in his book 'Parergon,' which contains an interesting preface by Field Marshal Lord Allenby, says: Of late years we have shirked responsibilities which are essentially our own. Free born people, men, women, and children, who are virtually our subjects, and who should look to us for protection, have been seized in their native villages from under our very noses, and carried off to lives of slavery. The soldiery of southern Abyssinia have been implicated in these expeditions in search of our people for more years than it is pleasant to count. Rape is part of the women's share of the misery. Their children have been taken from them, their menfolk mutilated, and their villages plundered by the troops of a so-called friendly State.

The number of raids into British administered territories is mounting up to a formidable figure. The officially recorded raids of recent years are now nearing a total of 200. The raiders are usually well-armed bands and generally employ anything up to a thousand rifles. It is true that the main object of these raids is often ivory and cattle, but the raiders with the blood lust upon them will murder or capture all who cross their pathway, and whatever will sell is carried off, whether it be ivory tusks, oxen, women or children.

Captain Yardley in a burst of indignant protest exclaims in his book: If the Imperial Government of Ethiopia cannot prevent these raids, invasions and seizure of human beings from territory which belongs to us, and not to them, the simplest remedy is for us to stop it....

The victims are the murdered men and women, stolen children, outraged women, mutilated men, and whole tribes and families dispossessed of their stock and personal belongings. That they should look towards our people for redress of their wrongs, and protection in the future, is perfectly reasonable and right.

Sir Arnold Hodson in his book (Sir Arnold Hodson. Where Lion Reign.) describes in considerable detail what actually happens during these raids. After surrounding a village the people are rounded up and the older men and women who are useless for the market are put to death, and he tells us that during his travels he met numbers of eye-witnesses of these raids who depicted to him the horrors they have seen: Enormous gangs of men, women and children have been taken from their particular villages and exposed to all the hardships of long treks through the wet and cold country, some of them in chains, and with very little food and no clothes, and when sick or exhausted they have been left to die on the road.

The chief difficulty in Abyssinia is that almost every king under the sovereignty of the King of Kings is a law to himself and in defiance of the Central Government will frequently undertake a raid on his own account. Sir Arnold Hodson quotes one such case in which the raiders captured no less than 8,000 slaves, the 'soldiers' being rewarded by being allowed to select one in every three slaves for themselves.

The raids between kingdom and kingdom of Abyssinia are doubtless on a much larger scale than those into the British territories of the Sudan, Kenya and Somaliland, but these are sometimes of a most serious character, more particularly when, as Captain Yardley points out, the result is the capture of British subjects and the murder of others. One of the latest of these raids was described to the House of Lords by Lord Hailsham, who pointed out that a serious double raid took place in March of last year, the raiders numbering 600 in all, that they attacked the Beir tribe and penetrated some fifty miles into the Upper Nile Province of the Sudan. As usual the men were put to death, the women and children carried off. Lord Hailsham said it was known that 27 men had been murdered, whilst 27 women and 50 children had been carried off. Lord Noel-Buxton, whose interesting report upon the situation in Abyssinia has created a deep impression in the Chancellories of Europe, says that slave-raiding takes place chiefly in the Western Lowlands of Abyssinia, which are inhabited by negro or negroid tribes, and that these tribes are powerless to defend themselves in the face of well-armed raiding parties: These gentry shoot up the villages at night, when short shrift is given to older men and women, and the young natives of both sexes are carried off. Caravans are made up, and the captives are taken north, travelling by night, either to be disposed of in Abyssinia or to be embarked for Arabia. Slaves with black skins are preferred, because they are more easily tracked down if they escape. The Emperor's edicts have served to make the traffic less open; business is driven from. the market-place into the dark corners of the wattle huts. The illiterate natives are unable to read the edicts, which are posted in the villages. Moreover, administration in the Lowlands is practically non-existent. The hot and unhealthy climate of these regions is disliked by the Abyssinians, and they make haste to line their pockets by the sale of slaves which they have captured and which they dispose of on the road to Addis Ababa.

Only a few years ago a swashbuckling slaver boasted that he had 'left the road pretty' - 'pretty' with the, blood and bones of murdered human beings. Slave routes are always left 'pretty' by the slave-trader.

But for the slave the march along that road is always and at all times the march of torture and death. Is there anywhere in modern history anything more poignant than the picture of a slave gang travelling along a slave route as seen recently and portrayed for us by the German scientist, Herr Max Gruhl?

We saw approaching a procession that defies the ablest pen to portray. Were they human? One could hardly believe it.... Men and woman practically naked chained to one another, leading naked children by the hand or carrying them like bundles on their backs, dragged themselves through the filth and were driven like cattle by their heartless captors. Slaves! A slave train in the twentieth century! No figment of an overheated fancy, but human beings that had been torn from their homes, and dragged away to meet an unknown fate. Often falling by the wayside like sick animals.... If I had been able, I would have shot the slave-dealers as I would mad dogs. For hours the slave-train continued to pass us. Now, as I write these lines, our camp is surrounded by that of the robbers with hundreds of their captives. The rain is pouring down. But they have neither shelter nor fires nor food. Every now and then the clanking of chains echoes through the darkness. (Max Gruhl, The Citadel of Ethiopia, 1932.)

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