Slavery in Arab Countries

About half of the Saudi workforce are migrant workers

If you pay attention to the news media, you will often come across stories relating to the abuse and mistreatment of migrant workers in Islamic countries. In Saudi Arabia for instance, almost one half of the entire workforce is made up of foreign labourers and some them are treated worse than slaves.

Most often the company organising workers on behalf of individuals or companies will retain the individual's passport and documents which means that even in the country in which they work, they have no freedom.

Most of the men that go into these countries work in construction. They come to Saudi because there is not the work in their own country and they have a belief that they will be well paid. However the Arabs are not known for their promptness in paying wages, providing adequate accommodation and food. So thousands of these men end up living in squalid labour camps working long hours and only if they are lucky, they are able to send their salary home to their families.

The fate of woman is far more dire. The role they most commonly fulfil is that of housekeeper or other domestic servitude. They are often bullied, ridiculed, raped and beaten up. But like the men, those who actually get paid are the lucky ones because across the region many foreign woman are bullied and killed for displeasing or refusing sex to their Masters.

Not just the Arabs
the modern world is built on slavery

Slavery around the world has been common since we began keeping track of time and capitalism requires slaves to for capitalism to exist. Capitalism to our knowledge was pioneered by the Romans although it is probable that slavery also existed across the Middle East before the rise of the Greek and Roman empires.

The Arab slave trade in East and Central Africa began in the late 7th century but it existed long before with African slaves sold to into Babylon. We know this because there are records including some of slave revolts by Africans in the region.

Western pressure halted Arab slavery and the Royal Navy once patrolled the coasts of Arabia intercepting dhows carrying slaves. But slavery continued to exist in Muslim Arab countries well into the 20th century and was only banned in Mauritania in 1961.

Since then however, we have seen the rise of the Islamic state (Daesh) and a huge increase in the numbers of girls and women abducted and sold into sex slavery. There have been many reports of girls as young as four or five being ripped from their families and sold in open markets for a few dollars.

Reports indicate that most of the buyers of women and girls are Arabs. So you see there is a long tradition of slavery going back 3000 years and the stories in particular about domestic female workers forced into sexual slavery are very common and very true.

Due to the chequered history of the Middle East and the many generations of Arabs who have kept slaves, it remains a cultural habit that is unlikely to go away anytime soon, especially as it is described as a right within the Islamic doctrines that all Muslims are entitled to their own slaves.

Economics of Islamic slavery


Leave a Reply