Arab slave trade
Arab slave trade was the practice of slavery in the Arab world, mainly in Western Asia, North Africa, Southeast Africa, the Horn of Africa and certain parts of Europe (such as Iberia and Sicily) beginning during the era of the Muslim conquests and continuing into the early second half of the 20th century. The trade was conducted through slave markets in the Middle East, North Africa and the Horn of Africa, with the slaves captured mostly from Africa’s interior.
During the 8th and 9th centuries of the Fatimid Caliphate, most of those enslaved were Saqaliba Europeans captured during wars and along European coastlines. Historians estimate that between 650 and the 1960s, 10 to 18 million people were enslaved by Arab slave traders and taken from Europe, Asia and Africa across the Red Sea, Indian Ocean, and Sahara desert.
The trade of slaves across the Sahara and across the Indian Ocean also has a long history, beginning with the control of sea routes by Arab and Swahili traders on the Swahili Coast during the ninth century (see Sultanate of Zanzibar). These traders captured Bantu peoples (Zanj) from the interior in present-day Kenya, Mozambique and Tanzania and brought them to the littoral.There, the slaves gradually assimilated in the rural areas, particularly on the Unguja and Pemba islands. The captives were sold throughout the Middle East. This trade accelerated as superior ships led to more trade and greater demand for labour on plantations in the region. Eventually, tens of thousands of captives were being taken every year.The Indian Ocean slave trade was multi-directional and changed over time. To meet the demand for menial labor, Bantu slaves bought by Arab slave traders from southeastern Africa were sold in cumulatively large numbers over the centuries to customers in Egypt, Arabia, the Persian Gulf, India, the Far East, the Indian Ocean islands, Ethiopia and Somalia.
Slave labor in East Africa was drawn from the Zanj, Bantu peoples that lived along the East African coast. The Zanj were for centuries shipped as slaves by Arab traders to all the countries bordering the Indian Ocean. The Umayyad and Abbasid caliphs recruited many Zanj slaves as soldiers and, as early as 696, we learn of slave revolts of the Zanj against their Arab enslavers in Iraq (see Zanj Rebellion). Ancient Chinese texts also mention ambassadors from Java presenting the Chinese emperor with two Seng Chi (Zanj) slaves as gifts, and Seng Chi slaves reaching China from the Hindu kingdom of Srivijaya in Java.[ The Zanj Rebellion, a series of uprisings that took place between 869 and 883 AD near the city of Basra (also known as Basara), situated in present-day Iraq, is believed to have involved enslaved Zanj that had originally been captured from the African Great Lakes region and areas further south in East Africa. It grew to involve over 500,000 slaves and free men who were imported from across the Muslim empire and claimed over “tens of thousands of lives in lower Iraq”.The Zanj who were taken as slaves to the Middle East were often used in strenuous agricultural work. As the plantation economy boomed and the Arabs became richer, agriculture and other manual labor work was thought to be demeaning. The resulting labor shortage led to an increased slave market.