Bin Jelmood House: The Heartbreaking Story of Slavery

The second part of Msheireb Museum is Bin Jelmood House.

Who is Bin Jelmood?….He was a famous slave trader in Doha during the slavery era. He was often known as “The Rock”, referring to his convictions and stubbornness at the time.

This edition is more serious than Company House edition, friends….Be prepared to read more solemnly.

Come on, let’s got in!….It was hot outside, you know.

At the beginning of Bin Jelmood House exploration, I entered an audio-visual room which narrated the time of slave trading from Africa to Europe.

The shape of an ancient Doha house, the courtyard was in the middle.
It was told…Europe in the Middle Ages where slavery was supported by a social system called SERFDOM.

At that time, slaves wore special accessories in the form of bracelets called Manilla and it was a historical fact that one of four Athenians would become slaves and worked in the olive fields. In another part of the world, Syria, there were slavery contracts between the buyers and sellers of slaves.

The Indian Ocean World” Sessiom.

Civilizations in Africa and Asia, especially India, Middle East, and Sriwijaya (Indonesia) developed through the Indian Ocean.

In the maritime history of Indian Ocean, goods and slaves were traded between countries in Africa and the Gulf region. Meanwhile, between India and East Asia, goods and slaves were traded via the Silk Road (this route had two routes, land and sea). One of the pictures in the museum showed the export of oxen (oxen) from Madagascar to Mauritius.

Events in the eastern hemisphere were also depicted in black and white photographs, namely the activities of Dutch East Indies on the spices export at Jakarta Port in 1682, while in India, trading ships carried opium from Calcutta to China.

Slavery in The Indian Ocean World Session

The legendary slave story was here.

Slavery was very prevalent in the pre-Islamic period, where slaves from Egypt, the Eastern Mediterranean and Africa were sold to Mecca and Baghdad which were the main slave markets in the Middle East. One of stories was about a famous slave named Antarah bin Shaddad Al-Absi who was born by an Ethiopian slave with father who be a Bani Abas leader. Then the story of Abdullah Ibn Abi Quhafa (Abu Bakr Ash-Shidiq) who became an important figure in the history of slave liberation, one of the famous slaves freed by him was Bilal bin Rabah Al-Habashi. Then Islam came down in Middle East and forbade slavery between human beings.

Some of the methods of slavery around Indian Ocean were through war, punishment for crimes, invasions, kidnapping, selling family members and debt bondage.

Slaves’Status in The Indian Ocean World Session

Among the upper classes, slavery indicated the master’s level of influence and wealth.

During the Abassid Empire (Abasiy), the Mamluk Army (Mamluk Army) was formed from slaves of Balkans, Caucasus and Europe. This army was very famous during the rule of Ayyubid dynasty in Egypt in the 12th century. There was also the Janissaries Troop formed by the Ottoman Empire in Turkey consisting of youth from Christian families who were trained in religious and military principles.

In the mid-19th century, clove plantations were highly developed in East Africa. This resulted in the enslavement of 1.6 million people there. In this section, the museum displayed a sword belonging to a Zanzibar slave at that time.

There was also a story about Tippu Ti (Hamed bin Muhammed Al-Murjebi), the owner of seven clove plantations and 10,000 slaves. This businessman from Swahili-Zanzibari Ivory captured and sold slaves on the orders of King Leopold of Belgium who was the authority on Congo.

Another heart-wrenching story was about the Persian King Bahram Gur who stepped on his favorite slave girl named Azada from a horse, simply because she did not value his hunting abilities. In ancient times slaves would only be guaranteed their life if they were integrated into their master’s family, this could be done if slaves were able to communicate in thir master’s language and were willing to embrace their master’s religion.

Five Rooms Describing Slavery in Qatar.

Illustration of slave activity at Bin Jelmood House in the past.

At the beginning of the 20th century, Qatar’s population was only 27,000 and the fact was that one in six of its citizens was a slave. The ownership of slaves was a guarantee for pearl exporting businessmen as well as importers, that their goods would be safe in the harsh desert voyages and treacherous sea voyages.

Qatar was still quiet at that time.

In 1868, Sheikh Mohammed bin Thani signed a protection treaty from British Government. Meanwhile in 1872, the Ottoman Empire established a military garrison in Doha until the end of World War I. After their departure in 1916, the British began to exert influence in Qatar through their base in Bahrain.

In the 18th century, Qatar had a positive impact on global economic developments. Mainly because of the increasing world demand for pearls. In order to increase the pearl catch, there was slavery of workers in the pearl catching industry in Qatar.

In the early 19th century, as many as 2,000-3,000 slaves were sent to Middle East, especially Oman, to be traded.

Meanwhile, at the end of the 19th century, slaves were employed in Qatar, taken from East Africa and the Red Sea, thousands more were imported from Zanzibar, slaves were brought by Dhow Boat across the Indian Ocean to Qatar. At the beginning of the 20th century, because of the opposition to slavery in East Africa, slaves began to be taken from Baluchistan.

The slave population in Qatar continued to be maintained by their masters by marrying their fellow slaves which of course would give birth to children as slaves as well.

The effects of the increased capture of slaves in Africa were disturbing to general community in the region. This was what causes endless wars in Africa.

At the time of slaves capturing, slaves would be chained and walked from Mozambique, Congo, Malawi and Zambia as far as 1,000 miles to Kilwa coast in Tanzania, sometimes before reaching the shore, they would be killed by the robbers, then slaves who survived then for weeks even months would sail for sale to Middle East and Yemen.

Illustration of slave abduction in Africa.

In Zanzibar’s slave market, female slaves would be dressed in fine clothes and jewelry so that they were sold at a high price. Buyers would usually check their physical health and beauty before buying them. Even slaves would be given new names such as Faida (profit), Baraka (blessing) and Mubaroka (blessed). To illustrate nominally, in 1926, a 24-year-old male slave diver in Qatar could be purchased for 1,210 Rupees.

Slaves in Doha and Al Wakra, some of whom lived together with their masters, ate the same food and wore the same clothes. Some of them separately live next to the house provided by the employer.

In daily life, slave girls would work to prepare food and took care of the children. While male slaves after the pearl shell hunting season was over, would work looking for firewood, breaking stones, transporting water, and being security guards for city officials.

Then there was social acculturation, slaves who initially were the majority of non-Muslims accepted the presence of Islam in their lives, then they embraced it. Likewise, the children of slaves will automatically become Muslims because of the religion of their parents.

Illustration of a slave with their daily work.

 But their origin culture remain attached and could not be abandoned. Slaves from West Africa, Ethiopia, Sudan, Somalia, Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco often performed the Zar Ritual when their master was asleep at night. This Zar ritual was considered to be able to give spirit and enthusiasm to get physical and mental health.

Over time, it turned out that the demand for slaves increased throughout Qatar when the pearl industry became booming and was needed by the world.

In practice, slave pearl divers would work from dawn to sunset. A small basket would be draped around their neck to store about 8-10 oysters they picked up from seabed. They would dive with an average time of 90 minutes and could dive up to 50 times per day.

Pearl diver’s slave.

Year after year, Qatar’s economic uncertainty caused its population to decrease from 27,000 to 16,000 and only 4,000 of them were still interested in working in pearl industry. Slaves began to be sent to oil fields to work and their wages would be shared with their masters.

The Richness of Diversity Session

Diversity in Qatar today.

The migration of slaves over hundreds years in Qatar contributed to the formation of Qatari culture in terms of cuisine, music and language. Qatar people then know Indian Biryani, Levantine Mansaf, Spanish Paella, and Balaleet. Other cultures which developed include playing Mancala and decorating the body with Qatari Henna.

Qatar had long been the meeting point of people migration who carried their respective cultures because it was located at the crossroads of Indian Ocean trade routes. In fact, many people who initially only stopped by ended up settling in Qatar.

Knowing Our Ancestors Session

From fossil and archaeological studies, it was known that the ancestors of Qatari people came from Africa.

Included in this session were the subject of DNA and its inheritance, the anatomy taught by Avicenna, the human genome and the reading of DNA sequences that could help humans to treat certain diseases based on this information.

That genes also affected blood type, hair and eye color. In some studies it was said that genes would make humans become super tasters (tasting something bitter than normal people) and non-tasters (not sensitive to taste).

Back to slavery…

In the late 19th century, Britain began to initiate the reduction of slavery in Middle East. They often rescued slave ships and brought them to British territory. This was because, since the end of the 18th century, the people of Western Europe through their parliaments cast the opinion on the abolition of slavery.

The early days of the struggle to abolish slavery.

There was the right moment when British signed the Qatar protection agreement on November 3, 1916. This was used by British to ask Sheikh Abdullah Bin Jassim Al-Thani to stop the practice of slavery in Qatar as a condition. But Qataris objected to this abolition.

The success of slavery abolition was only effective when Qatar succeeded in exporting its oil abroad. With the profits from oil trading, Qatari government was able to pay compensation money to slave owners to free their respective slaves. And finally, in April 1952, the practice of slavery was officially banned in all of Qatar.

After the ban, many slaves were granted Qatari citizenship by the Emir and many of them were accepted to work with full salaries in Qatar’s oil companies.

Qatar, a Pioneer in Personalized Healthcare Session

Health achievements in Qatar.

Qatar was a country which was committed to genetic research and was a pioneer in personalized medicine, which was a management of patient care in the medicine world based on patient genotype information, so that an evaluation could be carried out to determine an appropriate treatment for disease type which patient were suffering from.

Qatar was making progress by establishing Qatar Biobank, a place to store health information and biological samples from its citizens. This biobank was very helpful in the Qatar Genome Program launched by the government. This program was funded by Qatar Foundation through Qatar National Research Fund and was also funded by the Ministry of Health.

Qatar was also home to research centers such as Qatar Biomedical Research Institute at Hamad bin Khalifa University, Qatar University Biomedical Research Center and Weill Cornell Medicine.

Qatar also had a National Diabetes Center, a National Premarital Screening and Counseling Program, and a Qatar Newborn Screening Program.

Modern Slavery Session

Example of Modern Slavery.

You need to know that around 27 million people have become victims of modern slavery around the world. This type of slavery was caused by rampant human trafficking.

Some surprising facts include:

  1. 2.5 million people were in forced labour, including sexual exploitation.
  2. Human trafficking was the most profitable international crime, along with drugs and arms trafficking.
  3. Profits from human trafficking per year reached 31.6 billion US Dollars.
  4. The majority of human trafficking victims were 18-24 years old.
  5. 1.2 million children were trafficked every year.
  6. From 190 countries in the world, 161 countries have a role in this human trafficking. Either as a source, destination or as a transit country.

Political and humanitarian crises often place vulnerable groups (women and children) from less developed areas in human trafficking risk.

Many children in the 1990s were employed in factories, fishing boats, mining, agricultural land and underage women were employed in sexual industry. They work more than normal hours, sometimes without pay, living only with minimal food and minimal housing.

Organizations Session

Qatar struggles to abolish slavery in the modern era.

Then many organizations have sprung up in the world which were moving to end human trafficking, they hold meetings with governments in countries which still have modern slavery practices, they meet labor agencies around the world to work together to fight the practice of modern slavery.

Qatari House for Lodging and Human Care was one of many organizations which protected human trafficking victims. This organization provided health services, psychiatric consultation, legal assistance, rehabilitation, as well as cooking and sewing courses.

Qatar was the first and largest financier in UN Global Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking. Qatar as also funding The Arab Initiative for Capacity Building in Combating Human Trafficking which was a collaboration between UNODC and the Arab League.

Finally…. I couldn’t believe I was at the end of this session at Bin Jelmood House. I took the time to entering the toilet, took pictures of the lobby and courtyard, then thanked all the staff at reception desk when I was about to leave the museum.

Corridor at the Bin Jelmood House.
Bin Jelmood House yard.

Hmmm….. What a great museum.

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