Did Slavery Ever Stop in Arab Countries?

Executive Summary

  • Most of the focus on slavery and its end has been on the US.
  • Arabs were the most prolific slave traders, but it is little discussed when and if the practice ended.


There are many books and movies and overall coverage of the abolition of slavery in the US. However, the abolition of slavery in Arab countries, where most people are unaware that slavery persisted for over a thousand years, is nearly never discussed. This is true even though Arabs continue to practice slavery or borderline slavery to this day. In this article, you will learn about something which is very rarely the subject of media coverage, documentaries, etc.., which how Arab societies never rejected slavery.

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Arab Slave Trading after the British and US Abolition of Slavery

The following quotation explains that slavery continued as it had for over a thousand years after the war had been fought over slavery and after an enormous debate in European countries and the US about slavery.

“Where slavery had been abolished by the early 1870s, Arab dhows were furtively moving out of Zanzibar, Mombasa, and other East African ports, following the familiar Indian Ocean routes for consignment of “ebony.” The masters of these fast lateen-rigged ships, which were methodologically packed in sardine-line fashion with men, women and children, maneuvered skillfully in evading the small force of British sloops charged with the impossible mission of interdicting this illicit traffic. The blacks caught up in this trade were fated to be sold in the slave markets of Arabia, the Persian Gulf, the Ottoman Empire, and India.” – Slavery in the Arab World

The Indifference of Arabs and Arab Countries to Slavery

In addition to taking far more slaves than the Atlantic Slave Trade, Arab slavery essentially never ended. The Arab areas never went through any enlightenment where there was a consensus that slavery should end. Arab countries never started a war, which was at least in significant part based upon disagreements over the continuation of slavery.

“While Christian Reformers spearheaded the antislavery abolitionist movements in Europe and North America, and Great Britain mobilized her Navy, throughout most of the 19th Century, to intercept slave ships and set the captives free, there was no comparable opposition to slavery within the Muslim world.

And it is not at all clear that the vast majority of Muslims oppose slavery today.

Oddly, Christians would oppose slavery, as the Jewish Torah, the Koran, and the Christian Bible support slavery. Therefore, Christian “values” are much like Jewish or Islamic values — their original documents consider slavery entirely natural.

It is common to try to localize negative Muslim beliefs as held only by extremists. However, the Gulf countries are all firmly involved in slavery. And Muslims have done either nothing or so close to nothing as imperceptible to try to eliminate slavery. As with most criticism of Islam or Islamic societies, Muslims spend most of their time lying about the reality, threatening those who point out these issues, or accusing them of “Islamophobia.”

Even after Britain outlawed the slave trade in 1807 and Europe abolished the slave trade in 1815, Muslim slave traders enslaved a further 2 million Africans. This despite vigorous British Naval activity and military intervention to limit the Muslim slave trade.” – Original People

“By some calculations the number of victims of the 14 centuries of Muslim slave trade could exceed 180 million. Nearly 100 years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in America, and 130 years after all slaves within the British Empire were set free by parliamentary decree, Saudi Arabia and Yemen, in 1962, and Mauritania in 1980, begrudgingly removed legalized slavery from their statute books.” – Original People

“And this only after international pressure was brought to bear. Today numerous international organizations document that slavery still continues in some Muslim countries.

Reports on slavery in Sudan, Mauritania for instance needs looking into. Recently, a former slave from the Nuba Mountains of Sudan, Mende Nazer, had her autobiography: “Slave: My True Story” published. Mende Nazer was an alleged slave in Sudan. She was made famous by her transfer to England to serve a diplomatic family.” – Original People

Are Arab countries chastised in the international media for their stance on slavery?

Generally no.

Slavery is still taboo to Arabs, with many Arabs having no idea that their ancestors were history’s great slavers. This is explained in the following quotation.

The Reality of the Arab Slave Trade — That is Considered Islamophobic to Discuss

This video does a good job of explaining the 1300-year Arab slave trade that continues today. Most Arabs do not want either Arabs or non-Arabs to know about this history. 

“To many Arabs, the issue of slavery is a source of discomfort. To speak out against it would be to impugn the tenet of Koranic law; to condone slavery would give offense to Africans whose ancestors and not-too-distant relatives in recent times fell victim to Arab slave traders and their agents. As a result, they instinctively keep silent on the subject.” – Slavery in the Arab World

Often, Arabs will accuse people who discuss the history of Arab and Muslim slavery of racism. There is no coverage of this history in any Muslim country, and anyone who did do this would likely be imprisoned. I received a letter from the government of Pakistan threatening me and stating I had broken their laws of blasphemy by publishing my articles on Islam. If arrested in Pakistan, I would be imprisoned and tried and convicted of an offense against Islam.

Arab Slavery Continues to This Day

Dubai has mostly been built with Indian slave labor. These slaves or coolies are apparent from simply visiting construction sites in Dubai. The workers live in the buildings they are constructing. 

Furthermore, most Arabs support slavery, as slavery has been a historical aspect of Islam, and sex slavery, in particular, was central to how fighters were recruited. Islam supports the rape of non-Muslims. ISIS considers raping the infidel as a way of practicing Islam.

The current labor practices in Arab countries show that slavery or near-slavery is alive and well.

There are an estimated 1.8 million migrant workers already in Qatar, with 600,000 Indians and 500,000 Nepalese making up the largest number, followed by those from other south Asian countries. 2.1 million. Total number of migrant workers in Qatar. 60% of Qatar’s population live in labour camps, the overwhelming majority single men from south Asia

7,000 The number of migrant workers who will die on World Cup-related projects by the time the 2022 tournament gets under way, according to the International Trade Union Confederation. – The Guardian

Curiously, Qatar only has a population of 2.6 million; if the migrant workers are divided into the total population, over 80% of Qatar is migrant workers. Qatar only has 300,000 official citizens.

This means that the vast majority of people in Qatar are working in near-slave conditions.

Slavery in Qatar

Al Jazeera is based in Qatar and is entirely funded by the Qatari government. This video shows workers working in slum conditions and being paid $190 per month. These men have to send money home to families in India. The men cannot return home because they lack the funds; they often have their passports taken. Late payment by month is widespread in Qatar. Withholding wages is an enormously powerful control as workers cannot leave their employer in Qatar. They are sponsored by and, therefore, owned by their employer.

Slavery for the World Cup

They can’t leave Qatar without their employer’s permission, cannot switch companies, and then cannot do anything if the employer decides to pay them late or not pay them. There are ways to file a complaint with the Qatari government. Still, the Qatari government is primarily seen as not caring what happens to migrant workers, and the employer can further retaliate against the worker for doing this. 

While not technically slaves, they are slaves. 

You Can be Killed in Muslim Countries and Nothing Will Happen to the Muslim

It is totally normalized for non-Muslims to have no legal rights in Muslim countries.

Philippino maids are frequently raped without repercussions. Rape by Qataris of migrant labor is allowed by the government. Philippino maids can be murdered with impunity. The Qatari government does not consider migrants to have legal rights. 

This video questions whether Qatar should be allowed to host the World Cup. However, the World Cup. It is also well known that Qatar bribed the World Cup governing body. 

According to Muslims SouthEast Asians Make Good Slaves

Arab countries, particularly the Gulf countries with enormous wealth, put into place conditions that reinforce slavery. They often have laws that try to signal the outside world, but they don’t enforce those protections against slavery. 

The Only Slavery Western Society is Interested in Discussing

Hollywood is interested in making movies about slavery in the US, which fought a war to end slavery (although it continued in a modified even after the Civil War under a different name). Hollywood cannot greenlight a movie about slavery in the Gulf countries. 

Now let us compare Qatar’s rates against the Global Slavery Index.

zNotice that Qatar does not even rate as medium or high for the region. It counts only 520,000 people living in slavery (which is only 3.3 out of 1000 or .003.  

This indicates that the Global Slavery Index measures people who are technically slaves rather than slaves.

The Global Slavery Index states the following:

Globally there were 5.4 victims of modern slavery for every 1000 people in the world. Looking regionally, the prevelance of modern slavery was highest in Africa with 7.6 victims for every 1000 people..followed by Asia and the Pacific (6.1 victims) and Europe and Central Asia (3.9 victims). The prevalence in Arab states and Americas was lower, at 3.3 and 1.9 victims per 1000 people. – The Global Slavery Index

The issue just in the Arab states shows that this figure is entirely understated. By our estimate, at least 60% of Qatar are slaves.

Other Arab countries have the same issue.

According to Human Rights Watch, foreigners make up 88.5 per cent of United Arab Emirates citizens, with low-paid migrant workers being “subjected to abuses that about to forced labour”. While exact figures are not known, it is estimated that there are three million of these workers in the UAE alone. – News AU

Exploitation in Agencies

Before Indian (or Nepalese or Pakistani) workers even arrive in Arab countries to work as slaves, they are exploited by middlemen who lie to them about their pay and conditions in the Arab states. These middlemen are primarily based in their home countries.

Thapar demands £100 from each worker who secures a job through the agency he deals with in Jalandhar, which provides him with daily updates on the types of workers it requires. Village recruiters usually charge about £50. The main agencies demand between £400 and £800. The result is that workers can end up paying up to £1,000 or more in illegal commissions.

“I don’t care what happens to them once they get to Qatar,” Thapar says dismissively. “I just send them to the big agents in Jalandhar. I just feed the monster.”

In the village of Langroya, 10 minutes away from Nawanshahr, Arvinder Kumar, 25, is one of scores of young men eager to go to Qatar. He now earns £50 a month as a plumber and has been offered work by a recruitment agency promising him more than £350 a month. In return, it is demanding £500 commission.

Kumar is well aware of the pitfalls. His cousin Jaswinder recently returned after two years in Qatar. A qualified electrician, his contract said he would be paid £400 a month but he received just over half that. He stayed because he had a loan to pay off and because his salary was still six times more than what he earned in India.

Campaigners claim that one of the main reasons why south Asian governments are reluctant to enforce existing laws or complain about how their citizens are treated in Qatar is because they are desperate for them to find work due to high unemployment. Migrant workers also play a crucial role in the economy. According to World Bank figures, last year Indians sent home almost £55bn, the bulk from the Gulf region, while foreign remittances account for almost 30% of Nepal’s gross domestic product.

In response to mounting pressure, Qatar announced a number of reforms last December heralding that it had ended the kafala system. The government said at the time that it was committed “to the development of a labour system that is fair to employers and employees alike. These legislative changes, combined with ongoing enforcement and a commitment to systemic reform, not just in Qatar but also in countries of origin, will ensure workers’ rights are respected across the entire labour pathway.” – The Guardian


There are only a few books written on Arab slavery, and the slavery that occurs in Arab countries today is denied. The Arab countries are now slave states where vast numbers of heavy laborers from the poorest regions of Asia are treated as slaves, although they are paid for their work. However, the pay is so low. It is a little different from slavery.

If Arab countries can’t come to terms with the slave conditions of vast quantities of slaves that labor today in Arab countries, they will not come to terms with the Arab history of slavery. This is considered desirable by the majority of Arabs and Muslims who never agreed with ending slavery in the first place, and in Arab countries, slavery never stopped. However, Muslim governments will imprison anyone who points this out.