How Enslaved Africans Were Castrated by Arab Slavers During the Arabian Slave Trade

The Trans-Saharan aka Arabian slave trade was a significant chapter in the history of human exploitation, where countless Africans were captured and sold into slavery across the Sahara Desert to serve in various capacities in North Africa and the Middle East. Among the most horrifying practices during this era was the castration of some male slaves, often young boys, which not only inflicted severe physical and emotional pain but also claimed the lives of many victims.

The castration of African slaves became a common practice as early as the fifteenth century and continued for several centuries. These castrated slaves were highly sought after and considered the most expensive, primarily due to the belief that they would work better and pose no threat to the wives and concubines of their owners. This horrific practice was also meant to dehumanize the slaves, reinforcing the notion that they were mere commodities rather than human beings.

It’s important to note that Islam strictly forbade castration; however, slavers found ways to circumvent this prohibition. One approach was to purchase already castrated slaves, while another involved employing non-Muslims to perform the operation. The castration process typically involved the removal of just the testicles, although in some cases, it was more extreme, with the penis and testicles being removed. Boys were often subjected to this horrific procedure around the ages of eight or nine, as it was believed they could survive it more easily than adults or adolescents. Nevertheless, the mortality rate among eunuchs remained high, making them the most expensive and prized slaves due to the risk involved in their procurement.

The responsibilities of African eunuchs were diverse and varied depending on the society they served.
Black eunuchs played significant roles in court politics as Harem guards and palace courtiers due to their lack of sexual function.

Also, their inability to have children meant they were less likely to attempt to seize power and establish a dynasty, making them more reliable in the eyes of the ruling elite.

Their duties ranged from being guards and caretakers of mosques to administrators and dancers, known as köçeks. Young köçeks began their training around the age of seven or eight, following circumcision, and typically took about six years to become accomplished in their art. These dancers were described as “sensuous, attractive, and effeminate,” with their performances being “sexually provocative.”

The Trans-Saharan slave trade persisted for centuries, with Muslim traders exporting an estimated 17 million slaves to the Middle East, the Indian Ocean coast, and North Africa. However, as the abolitionist movement grew in the 19th century, prompted by both Muslim reformers and international pressure, several Muslim-majority countries began to ban slavery and the slave trade. Tunisia was the first to prohibit slavery in 1846, and in the following years, other countries like Egypt, Afghanistan, and Persia also abolished the practice.

Despite these legal bans, slavery persisted in some Muslim-majority countries in the Arabian peninsula and Africa well into the 20th century. Slavery was officially abolished in Saudi Arabia and Yemen in 1962, Oman in 1970, and Mauritania in 1981. However, the practice has still been documented in recent years, albeit illegally, in certain Muslim-majority countries in Africa, including Chad, Mauritania, Niger, Mali, and Sudan.

You might also want to read up on The East st Louis massacre that left 6000 African Americans homeless, The new york slave revolt of 1712 and Corbin race riot of 1919

Mr Madu
Mr Madu
Mr Madu is a freelance writer, a lover of Africa and a frequent hiker who loves long, vigorous walks, usually on hills or mountains.


  1. Enslaved is a word used in the book “The 1619 Project”. It has been adopted by the left wing ultra liberal press. The rest of the world uses the word “slave”.


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